Thirty-seven-year-old Lebanese-North African expat Mouna El Khoury went from 104kg to 60kg over two years with her Keto diet.
Now the 174cm self-confessed food lover is 18 weeks pregnant with her second child and weighs 62kg. This is her story in her words - edited for brevity and house-style:
My weight-loss journey started when I was 13. I gained a lot of weight and then from there, I just got into cycle diets – I would go into strict diet, lose weight, and then I would eat and gain it back.
Later, I faced health challenges; I had insulin resistance, I had Diabetes Type 2 when I was 18. I had a lot of hormonal issues after that – I developed polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in my early 20s. So all of that contributed to my weight gain/weight loss. I just got confused in an unhealthy world, because it’s not so easy to find something that works for you and just maintain it as a lifestyle. That was really the thing – whatever I was trying was not easy for me to sustain [it].
'It affected my mood'
Each time I would gain [the pounds], my weight would fluctuate from 74 to 89. Each time, I would go into a strict diet for a year, work out 5 days a week, no carbs, no sugar, no fat. Basically boiled chicken and broccoli. And you feel depressed, because you look around and say, 'this is not possible'. I tried also meal plans. And after a month or two I got fed up, because I always felt constrained.
Then in my late 20s I also had something called prolactinoma tumor on my pituatery gland – it’s located close to the nerve and was pressing my gland. Then I started putting on weight as well.
I was young, I didn’t care to take my pills seriously. And of course I don’t recommend that – but the only thing that I felt that made a huge difference was when I decided that I needed to focus on my food. At the time, for a year-and-a-half – yes, I was on treatment but also no carbs, no sugar and all of that – and my acute PCOS, it completely disappeared; my Diabetes, I was off pills; everything went back to normal. The reason I don’t think I kept it as a lifestyle, I didn’t have the maturity at the time to understand that when you find something that works for your health or your body, you can’t just go back to your old habits.
The other thing is I didn’t know yet about Keto, so I didn’t know I could enjoy it – like have a small piece of butter on my steak or avocados as much as I want – like things like that that make it more enjoyable as a lifestyle.
Post baby weight
Fast-track, surgery of the tumour done, I went through two miscarriages and then I got pregnant – and like many women, sometimes we have post-partum, we are tired, it’s [often overwhelming] as a new mum, so I picked up a lot of weight. Through my pregnancy I think I gained 18-20kg, but then after delivery, I kept on gaining weight. I reached 104kg.
One year post-partum, at 104kg, I was in really a bad place, and I felt depressed. I was tired, just taking my son to playground was a hassle; I couldn’t play with him…. I was lethargic, I was exhausted. I just felt I couldn’t go on.
The thing is, at the time, I was also tired of dieting.
One day I just broke down; I was washing my face I just fell down in the bathroom. It was that breaking moment of me just saying things out to myself and recognizing that I was not in a good place that made me want to find something that would transform my life. I was like I need inspiration, so I went to YouTube and I wrote weight loss, life-changing, and I came across Keto, [a high fat, less protein, low-carb diet].
It led me to Dr Eric Berg [who is one of one of the top ketogenic diet experts in the world]. I started watching his videos about PCOS, insulin resistance, big tummies and it was an eye opener for me – everything that he was saying was something I had gone through.
Starting on Keto
I love food. So when I saw Keto food, I was like, 'where have you been all my life?'
At the beginning, I was not thinking healthy Keto, I was addicted to all the fast-food. I was like there’s a solution for me to still enjoy these foods and lose weight – I’m in. I think it’s important that people realise that when you are at 104 or 140kg, and you are addicted to junk food and sugar and carbs. You cannot expect someone to have a piece of grilled salmon, and a bit of lettuce and go on with it.
2. You cannot know everything from day one, so it’s a journey, step one is finding ways that are low-carb, that are keto in your mind so you don’t feel deprived
3. Then you change it into a healthier version – build up your choices
4. This doesn’t happen in a day or two – this is a journey.
My keto journey, I can break it down very easily for you:
The first month was about Keto. Finding the thing that satisfied what I liked at the time and what I was craving. And that was mainly junk food. I lost 20kg the first 3 months.
Then I added intermittent fasting. [This] is amazing tool for weight loss, but good for so many other things [as well]. It resets your metabolism, it's good for your health. I did it one month within Keto - why? Because it’s easier to fast when you are fat adapted. You don’t get as hungry as if you are running on carbs. When I started it I was having two meals a day. Big meals, and then I built it up, until I was able within three months to go into one meal a day – and I was into one meal a day for over a year and a half. But that works for me, because I’m not the kind of girl who’ll eat a little bit. When I eat, I eat. I enjoy big meals. I think it’s the combination of both Keto and fasting that gave me this amazing results.
Third month was about creating habits. The key point here is because on a keto diet, you start running on fat, you don’t get cravings, that hunger, you don’t feel that need to snack, if you do it properly, with time, your cravings go, completely.
[In the first three months I was down by 20kg]. 10 kg down next three months. Then another 14kg down in a year.
It became such a lifestyle that I wasn’t really looking at the scale – I knew that this is the right lifestyle for me.
Now, with my pregnancy I have incorporated a little bit of carbs into my diet – so sometimes I’ll eat a little bit of banana. Because with pregnancy your carbs need to be a little higher, but I don’t go for donuts or anything. First I talked to my doctor. He said: rice, potatoes, pasta – bring nothing to your kid, they just make you fat. He’s like, if you have a strong craving for it and you want a portion, go for it, but will it add any nutritional value to you? No. he said: eat as much as you want healthy stuff and you’ll have a healthy baby.
And that’s what I’m doing.