Success Story: Dawn's Keto Journey
While health is about so much more than numbers on the scale, the possibility of major sustained weight loss undeniably draws significant attention to the Keto diet. The power of seeing others succeed in their Keto journey serves as inspiration and motivation for ourselves as we gain insight into what it takes to meet our goals. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Dawn Marsala Delaney — a long-term Keto Krate subscriber who’s lost over 90 lbs — and ask her some up-close-and-personal questions.
How long have you been a Keto’er and why did you start?
I’ve been a Keto’er for almost 4 years straight. I started in November 2014 when my 17-year-old daughter was diagnosed as insulin resistant. Her doctor told her that she needed to eat a Ketogenic diet to keep her insulin resistance under control and halt its progression into diabetes.
Had you heard of the Keto diet before that?
No! Neither of us had. My daughter and I just looked at each other in disbelief as the doctor started listing off everything she couldn’t eat. It was really overwhelming, and I had no idea how a teenager was going to do this on her own.
Were you worried about eating that much fat?
Yeah I was. It’s scary when you first hear about cutting carbs from your diet and eating a lot of fat! But, it turns out my daughter’s doctor and his wife, who is also a doctor, were following a Keto diet so that helped. I figured if these doctors are doing it, it must be okay. He did a good job explaining that Keto was safe and not to worry about things like cholesterol.
Take us through the early days of your Keto journey.
The beginning was pretty rough for both of us. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it, and I remember crying in a diner once because I didn’t know what to eat. I didn’t know then that you could sub out the fries for vegetables or just not eat them. I could have quit then, but I felt like I had to figure it out. My daughter was going to college soon, and that's hard enough without having to follow a weird diet nobody’s ever heard of. So the first couple months were really tough while I was still learning.
What were your biggest challenges?
Figuring out how to make all the foods I loved low carb — like pizza, cookies, or fried oysters. I love fried oysters, but how do you make that low carb? I also felt really alone in the beginning. I didn’t know anybody who was doing the diet. Nobody had even heard about it, so I was pretty alone.
How did you overcome the challenges?
I spent a lot of time researching how to make Keto alternatives to the carbie foods I loved, how to eat in restaurants, and what to buy at the grocery store. I also found a lot of people on Instagram who were posting foods and recipes. That gave me hope that we really could figure this out and gave me a community of people I could talk to so I wasn’t so alone. Now I know how to make anything I want low carb. It got easier, and I’m so glad I stuck it through at the beginning.
How different is it being a Keto’er now vs. 4 years ago?
Oh my gosh — throughout these last 4 years, there have been tons of recipes, cook books, Keto restaurants, and snack food companies pop up. You can have anything you want now. There is a low-carb snack food or recipe out there for anything you can imagine. It wasn’t like that 4 years ago. The only thing that I really, really want that I can’t make Keto is french fries. I haven’t found a suitable recipe for that — but that’s literally the only thing. I’ve found a substitute for everything else.
When did you start feeling like this was no longer a diet and was instead a lifestyle for you?
Hmmm that’s a tough question. It took me a couple years to lose the 93 lbs. I lost most of the weight in my first 2 years and then I stalled for a whole year. I recently lost another 20-ish more, and now I’m where I want to be and in maintenance. But, I guess you could say I really started feeling that this was a lifestyle after my first 6 months. I started in November and made it through Thanksgiving, a vacation in December, Christmas, my birthday, Valentines Day, and my anniversary. And I think after making it through all of those holidays and celebrations where you would normally go off, I realized I really liked Keto and became totally committed to it.
How would you describe your weight loss?
Slow! I was a slow loser. I lost a significant amount of weight in my first 6 months. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but it was a good amount. Then it slowed right down, and if I lost ½ a pound a week, I was good with that. A lot of people think you have to lose 20 lbs in your first month. That wasn’t me, and I actually think losing slowly is better for your body. I don’t think the average person loses fast like that, but you see those stories most on social media because no one wants to boast about losing slowly.
Did you ever have moments where you felt discouraged?
You know, I didn’t ever really get discouraged which probably sounds really weird, but I really never expected to lose anything. So when I lost the first 10 lbs, I thought, “well I’ve lost 10 lbs before — I’ll just gain that back.” Then I was seeing my daughter losing and she was looking fantastic, so I just felt really good about the whole thing. Every time I looked down and saw another 5lbs gone, I was like, “this can’t be real!” There were a couple times that I thought I was finished losing weight, so I’d buy a completely new wardrobe and start feeling good about not wearing baggy clothes, and then I’d lose another 20 lbs and that wardrobe wouldn’t fit anymore. I just trusted the process and kept going with just eating low carb, and I knew that if I kept doing it, I was just going to keep going down. I looked at it like a long-term thing.
Do you track macros?
I do not. I kept track of net carbs in my head, and when I got to 20 net carbs, I’d just stop. I tried using an app to track macros, and it just drove me crazy! I was spending all my time looking up foods. I said to myself if I have to make myself crazy tracking macros, then it’s not worth it. So I just count carbs in my head.
Do you count calories?
No, I didn’t even have to watch calories in the beginning. I do now that I’m in maintenance, and even then, I don’t count calories. I just watch them and make sure I stop eating when I’m full. That’s the beauty of Keto — you can just stop eating when you’re full, and you don’t have to count calories. You just don’t eat carbs, and you can eat anything else you want.
Do you have cheat days?
No. I’ve been doing this for 4 years straight with no breaks. Occasionally, I will have, oh I don’t know, some french fries, but I am not talking about going crazy. I don’t have a whole entire cheat meal — just a few fries with a bunless burger. I don’t go all out because that just makes me feel sick.
Even when you’re on vacation?
No! People will tell me I am depriving myself. But I’m really not. I want to be healthy now, and that’s what feels good. I went to Italy and I didn’t eat the pizza, pasta, or the gelato, and no fries or pastries in France, and no rice in Spain, but it meant I felt my best and had energy to walk 12 miles a day. If I would have eaten those carbs, I would have felt sick. I would have been depriving myself of a great time if I would have eaten those things because I would have felt like garbage. I plan ahead and take Keto snacks that I get in my Keto Krate when I know I am going where there might not be low-carb options.
Do you weigh every day?
I weighed myself every single day up until last month, but I never really freaked out when I got on the scale and saw that I was up 2 lbs because I knew tomorrow was going to be different. You’re supposed to fluctuate — that's what your body does.
What are a few of your most cherished successes in your Keto Journey?
I don’t want to make it all about appearances, but I look better and feel better. I went on a cruise in Rome and wore a 2-piece bathing suit and these cute little dresses I never ever would have worn before. I’ve also started doing things I wouldn't have done before. I ran my first 5K in April and I’ve taken up horseback riding. I have a lot more energy overall now, and I am off all medications. I am on zero medications now. That’s huge.
What is the most common question you get asked?
How to get started? Who should I look at online? What do you eat? Do you count your macros? And the thing is, it’s different for everyone. Some people can't lose weight on 20 net carbs. They have to go lower.
When did you find Keto Krate and how has it helped you?
I found Keto Krate 6 months into my journey and was one of the first 200 subscribers when Keto Krate launched in May 2015. I’ve loved it since the start! I still have the little gold card that came in my very first Krate. Your customer service is excellent, and you’re always looking to improve the quality and quantity of items in the Krate. I have been introduced to novel food items I may not have ever discovered on my own. The foods included in the Krates are convenient and have traveled with me all over the world! I like to be prepared and always pack snacks for road trips or plane rides so I stay on plan even in stressful times or when low carb options are likely not available.
What are your favorite products you’ve found through us?
Oohh, there are so many. I’d have to say Front Porch Pecans, Tomer Kosher Meat Sticks, CocoPolo Chocolate, ChocZero Chocolate— anything chocolate because I love it so much— also Raw Rev Peanut Butter Glo Bars, and just recently there was the Three Jerks Hamburger Jerky.
If you had a magic wand to turn any one food carb free what would you use it on?
Sweet or Savory?
Savory now, but I used to be a huge sweets person.
What advice would you give someone who was considering starting Keto?
There is a lot of info out there, so find a few reputable sources and read up. Make decisions based on your needs and don’t get crazy about it. Everyone is different, and it depends on how much you have to lose. When I was 235 lbs, I didn’t need to watch macros closely. Anything I did was going to be an improvement. If you’re 150 and you want to lose weight, you might have to do things differently than me. So I really feel like you have to research and you have to do what works for you. Everyone Keto’s differently.
You mentioned that Instagram has been a powerful resource for you. If people want to connect, how do they find you?
Yes, instagram has been a huge resource for me, and it was instrumental in not giving up when things were tough. Keto is part of my identity now. It’s who I am and who I hang out with. It’s important to have a sense of community and belonging when you make a lifestyle change. If you want to connect, I am @dawnmariex on Instagram.