Earlier this year, Manuela Fung had a scary doctor's visit. She learned she weighed her absolute heaviest and her "health was declining at an alarming rate." That was when she decided to research different diets she could potentially adopt in order to gain her life back. "I decided on the keto lifestyle to face a lifetime of food addictions, and being a stay-at-home mom to three small kids time is precious," Manuela, also known as ketomammaofthree on Instagram, told POPSUGAR. Little did she know the keto diet would be this transformative for her.
"My keto journey began on May 19, 2017, and to date, I've lost 80.8 pounds," she shared. "When I started, I was bursting out of a size-18 jeans. I'm now enjoying life in a size six, and I'm the smallest I've ever been in my adult life." Although these numbers are wildly impressive, Manuela gained so much more than weight loss and a smaller dress size.
"After five months, I achieved my dream goal of 149 pounds."
Her 40th birthday is just around the corner, and she knows she's going to approach her 40s being in the best shape of her life. She's happier and healthier than ever, and she's thrilled that her three kids get the best version of their mother.
Manuela explained what the keto diet is and why it worked so well for her. "Keto is basically transitioning your body into using fat as fuel instead of carbs. This is done through reducing your carb consumption," she said. She followed the advice of Dr. Eric Westman (professor of medicine at Duke University, author, and expert on the keto diet) and kept her daily carb intake below 20 grams and ate moderate amounts of protein and fat. She only ate when she was "physically hungry," and she found that the fewer carbs she ate, the less hungry she felt all the time.
"In a fat-adapted state, it's like keeping the fire going with a nice oak log that burns long and slow," she told POPSUGAR. "I didn't require as much food, as I carried a vast amount of fat — fuel — on my body. My body was using my fat reserves as fuel and not the solely the food I was consuming." She tracked everything she ate and only consumed the keto-friendly foods recommended by Dr. Westman.
"By virtue of waking up early and hitting the gym at 4 a.m., I'm given the opportunity to show myself some love."
What did that include? "This meant eliminating grains, beans, sugar, starchy veggies, nuts, and fruit (berries are acceptable)," she explained. "In the first week, 11 pounds were gone, along with my carb cravings." During the following weeks, she lost 21 pounds. "My mind was blown and I finally had hope that this diet was for me."
Manuela didn't track her caloric intake at the beginning of her keto journey; she just set her sights on eating well and keeping track of her carbs. "I ate intuitively," she said. "It felt great to not need to track once I got the hang of keto."
"After five months, I achieved my dream goal of 149 pounds. I wasn't sure I would ever achieve it, and I'm even more thrilled with the fact I accomplished it in such a short period of time," Manuela gushed. We're so happy for her! Now that she's seven months into her keto journey, her "food requirements also have changed." She's much more active these days and she has to be sure she's getting in enough calories and meeting her protein goals. "As with any diet, you need to get close to foods in their most natural state," Manuela said, so she's trying to "clean up her keto eating" as much as possible.
As for working out, Manuela was four months into her keto diet before she started exercising regularly. "I keep it pretty simple and maintainable by keeping workouts under an hour," she said. "Eating is 80 percent of the equation and working out is fine tuning." She insisted that "you don't need to kill yourself at the gym," but rather strengthen your eating habits.
"Now I find social gatherings and even the holidays are easy and enjoyable. They are no longer about the food, but about the company."
As a busy mom of three, she used to have trouble finding time for herself. "This was something I was going to change, so I wake up early, like 3:45 a.m.," she said. "It's the time I need to get my gym on before my hubby heads out the door. By virtue of waking up early and hitting the gym at 4 a.m., I'm given the opportunity to show myself some love." Making this small sacrifice "has blown open the door to a multitude of opportunities."
"I work out five times per week, doing a mixture of cardio, weights, and circuit training," Manuela explained. She didn't join any fancy gym or pay a huge amount for a membership. She worked out in a standard gym and "got workouts from an Instagram nutritional coach, and then progressed to an online e-book called Body Boss."
When she started exercising more, Manuela had to make a few changes in her diet. She increased her carb intake to 50 to 60 grams in total, but "this did not mean incorporating cake, but rather increasing nutrient-dense foods, mainly veggies for their fiber and gut health." She also made sure she was getting at least 32 grams of soluble fiber from natural sources. These days, her goal is to eat around 1,650 calories a day.
Manuela told POPSUGAR about the biggest challenges of her lifestyle change. "The hardest part is getting started. It feels like so much to learn and can feel restrictive with tracking." However, she said, "It won't feel that way forever. Pay your dues and it will get easier with time." She said it's all about starting with small, achievable goals.
"I look at all the times I failed, but those moments have helped me arrive to a place I'm happily enjoying. Remember, it all started from one small step!"
"The second hardest thing is social gatherings," she continued. In order to master the social life while you're eating keto, Manuela recommended, "Make no excuses and don't cheat. If you cheat, cravings come back to haunt you and you need to kick the cravings all over again." Rather than showing up to an event hungry, she suggested you bring something you can eat or drink.
"Now I find social gatherings and even the holidays are easy and enjoyable," she said. "They are no longer about the food, but about the company. I could care less about the 'treats' around me. Keto is amazing because it's easy to make it happen in almost any situation."
For anyone out there trying to lose weight, whether or not it's through keto, Manuela urged, "You can't do it on your own! You need your tribe. I began this journey with my mom, then my husband, my dad, my sister, and even my 89-year-old grandfather." If you can't find a friend or family member to support you, turn to Instagram or your gym.
Finally, Manuela said it's important to seek out knowledge as much as possible. "It's all at your fingertips! You don't need to reinvent the wheel; someone has already figured it out. Shovel through that information and find what works for you. It is different for everyone."
"It's OK to take the wrong path, but look at it as the scenic route and an essential path on your journey," she said. "I look at all the times I failed, but those moments have helped me arrive to a place I'm happily enjoying. Remember, it all started from one small step!" Amen to that. Amen to it all.