By Maggie Miles
November 6, 2020
In August 2018, Rachel Moser had a health scare. She was suffering from depression and anxiety and knew she needed to lose weight, so she started one diet after another only to fall off them. And then one day, her anxiety got the best of her.
“I thought I was having a heart attack,” says Rachel, 36. She wasn’t, but her husband Ryan convinced her to go to the hospital to get checked out.
“I was scared of doctors because I knew I was overweight and I didn’t want to hear the hard truth of ‘You need to lose weight,’” she says.
It turned out to be a severe panic attack. But that was the moment she realized she had to make a change. According to Moser, she was fit growing up — she played sports. And then, like many of us, she and her husband got married, got comfortable, and had busy, stressful jobs. They turned to what many of us do – convenience.
“Trash man, trash,” is how Ryan, 33, describes what their diet was like in those days. Lots of drive-thru meals, pizza three times a week, sushi, Thai food. Ryan is Italian and did most of the cooking, so that meant lots of pasta and carbs.
“We ate really bad,” Rachel says. “I could say, ‘Oh woe is me, I got huge.’ But we did it to ourselves.”
“You don’t realize how bad you feel,” she adds. “I ate like crap and I felt like crap.”
So, Rachel started researching how to eat healthier. She started low carb, “dirty keto” as she calls it, using artificial sugars such as Maltitol and lots of deli meats and cheeses. She made treats like what she would have eaten before, but she made them with ketogenic diet friendly ingredients — almond and coconut flour instead of regular flour, stevia sweetened chocolate chips, etc. — and to her and Ryan’s amazement, they were just as good.
“It’s not Atkins. Yes, you have to get your fat content, but you don’t have to get that from pork rinds and that sort of thing, you can get that from coconut oil and avocado oil. On your salad, you can make your own dressing and make it fatty,” says Rachel. “Everybody thinks fat is bad – it’s really everything else. Sugar is terrible, at least with my body and the way my body works.”
According to Rachel, it’s been easy because the food is awesome. She can have things that taste good.
“I don’t even say diet anymore because it’s really not a diet; it’s just living that lifestyle and saying I can’t have that kind of food anymore,” says Rachel.
And it wasn’t long before Ryan, her Italian, carb-loving, veggie avoiding husband caught on.
“I was like, ‘You can have this?! It tastes so good!’” he recalls. “And I was like, I might as well just do it, see what happens.” His wife and already lost 30 pounds, after all, so something was working.
Their latest favorite is a cabbage noodle dish where the cabbage is sautéed in a pan with meat sauce and let simmer until the vegetable resembles a pasta noodle.
“I’m weird about a whole meal centered around a vegetable and that’s literally what this dish is,” says Ryan. “And every time I see it being put together I’m like, nooo, I don’t want to eat all of that cabbage, and then I taste it and I’m like, damn this is so good.”
They’ve gone through a lot of trial and error, and before quarantine they hit a plateau. They now realize that was probably from going a little too hard on those keto treats, or eating way too much of one thing, like when they realized they were eating thousands of calories in macadamia nuts. Or when they realized how one or two White Claws on the beach can really add up.
“It’s a learning experience for sure,” says Rachel. After that plateau she ended up dropping another 60 pounds during quarantine solely from not being able to go out to eat. They cooked all their meals at home and fasted intermittently, where they only eat during certain hours of the day.
Rachel added yoga and eventually kickboxing to her regimen. She says exercising has become a big part of her life now. And she cut out alcohol and caffeine.
The couple says cooking and losing the weight together has been therapeutic.
“I know its cliché, but it’s really made us closer,” says Ryan, who is now down 60 pounds. Rachel has lost 150 pounds total and is 10 pounds away from her goal. She’s no longer pre-diabetic, she no longer suffers from depression, and she hasn’t had an anxiety attack in two years. She’s openly shared her weight loss journey on Instagram and, according to Ryan, has helped inspire friends and family to lose weight as well.
“I think there are a lot of people out there that are going through the same thing I went through — am still going through,” Rachel says. “We’ve had infertility issues and different things like that and I want people to know they’re not alone because I thought for a long time that I was and the anxiety was so rough and being overweight is rough. … I want everyone to know, you’re normal. Being this way is normal. Feeling this way is normal.”
She says she wants to show people that they can drop the weight naturally, without resorting to surgery. Ryan says if they can do it, anyone can.
“It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done,” he says, grinning, “mainly because all of the food is so good.”
10 tips from Rachel and Ryan
- Allow yourself a “treat” day, but plan for it — put it in your calendar. Be intentional about it so that you stay on track and have something to look forward to. Ryan and Rachel treated themselves once every two weeks to an acai or rice bowl.
- Avoid going out to eat as much as possible. Buy good stuff, such as organic and grass-fed butter and free-range eggs, and make meals at home.
- You don’t have to eat meat and protein all the time — there is vegetarian keto. And you also don’t have to consume enormous amounts of fat to be keto, either.
- Pay attention to what you’re eating. At first Ryan and Rachel thought a lot of things they enjoyed were keto that weren’t, such as Imitation crab and oysters.
- Use natural sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia and erythritol to ween yourself off regular sugar.
- Modify your favorite things to make them keto, especially when starting out.
- Moderation is key. Even too many keto treats could stall weight loss if you are eating them all the time.
- Meet yourself where you are in terms of exercise: Rachel started out walking because that was all she could do, then she transitioned to yoga and then kickboxing.
- For the holidays: Bring your own keto dish to share if you gather with friends and family. If you plan to treat yourself, one piece of pie isn’t going to kill you but know your limits. Rachel didn’t cheat at all at holiday parties her first couple of years because she knew she wouldn’t be able to stop at one. Now, she knows she can enjoy one and be done.
- Don’t get stuck on one diet for life. When Rachel hits her goal weight, she plans to incorporate sweet potatoes and other foods back into her meals to have an overall healthy, balanced diet.
Note: You should always check with your doctor in all things related to your health.