The reason Salpie Kechichian decided to try Keto was the hype. “Everyone was talking about it,” she says, recalling the time two years ago after she’d given birth to her second child and was looking for a way to get fit. After researching for a few months, she was finally ready to say goodbye to those kilos once and for all.
It was something that she’d accumulated over the years; starting with university eat-outs and helped along by pregnancy cravings. At 38 years old, the 165cm Armenian Lebanese expat weighed 105kg.
But while Kechichian was happy by the 5kg weight loss that first month in 2018, she was also questioning her diet plan because it had resulted in a dip in her milk production. “At the time, I joined the Facebook group Keto Nation UAE and I asked them if anyone has a coach that can follow me with what I need [and offer], like, a customised, personalised programme,” she says. They put her in touch with Shirley D’Souza, a Keto coach based in UAE. “I started nutritional Keto with Shirley, and she taught me how to eat, what to eat and how much to eat,” she says. Lactation ceased to be a problem even though the inches began to shift. “I stayed with her on and off for almost one year. I was able to breastfeed for 2 years. And I lost in the first 11 months 35kg,” she says.
Too much Information
Kechichian explains that one of the things that stumped her in the beginning was just the overwhelming amount of information there is on the internet about the diet. And yet, there are basic pointers that are tough to suss out. “There’s so much information out there. Where to start? What are macros? Those are the questions you ask yourself. And how much should I be eating? Those are the questions you ask yourself. What foods are healthy and what foods are not healthy? Because you know you see these photos of bacon and cheese and cream. And you know deep down inside - should I really be having all of that? There’s so much information out there but you really don’t know where to start,” she says.
The mum-of-two is a full-time IT manager, who, when the pandemic hit had to not only contend with her job, homeschooling and entertainment for her kids but also keep on top of her food game. “The biggest challenge was being prepared. You have to do meal prep on the weekends. You have to pack your lunch box every day. You need to calculate your food. I used to weigh everything - I used carb manager to calculate everything,” she explains.
And if she hadn’t taken her lunchbox and had to order, there was another troubling issue to contend with. “Eating out is a challenge. Like, is the food clean? Does it have any hidden carbs? You have to ask and maybe ask 2-3 times before you get an answer about what’s inside a dish,” she says.
To micromanage your meals requires great effort, but Kechichian was determined; it’s just who she is. “I am a very goal-oriented person and I knew what number I wanted to see on the scale from the first day I started. And I did not stop until I reached this number. After I reached my target weight, maintenance is a whole other story,” she laughs.
“I have been on Keto for a little less than 2 years. I do experiment a little bit. Like, I went to France, I had my baguette, croissants, but then I always get back to Keto. It’s such a do-able, sustainable lifestyle for me,” she says, admitting that she’s considering a low carb diet because it offers a more flexible eating schedule.
Ask for help
Kechichian read up on the diet she was embarking on and she looked up recipes. She counted her macros and weighed her food. But this isn’t the only secret to her success, she says. “If I was alone, I would probably have said I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t know why I’m plateauing, but when I reached those frustration points and yes, there were frustration points, she’d [her coach would] always give me an exit strategy,” she says.
And that’s her biggest tip for new mum’s wanting to get back into shape. “Get someone to help. Because the most important thing is your milk supply, because your child relies on you. You have to do it and you have to be informed. You have to hit your targets with greens, your vitamins and minerals have to be on point. Having someone to guide you was key for me. Get support, no matter if it’s a coach or a group, or it’s a friend, but it’s so important at a time like this.”
Today, Kechichian loves her body; she maintains her weight at between 69 and 71kg, she can play with her children without feeling exhausted and can shop without the fear that they won’t have her size.
She may have tried Keto because it was in fashion, but the lifestyle change it brought is here to stay.
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