'Keto And Intermittent Fasting Helped Me Lose 50 Pounds And Become A Badass Firefighter Again'

I’m Elizabeth McCormick (@gritandgrace__). I’m a 28-year-old firefighter from St. Louis, Missouri. At 245 pounds, I decided enough was enough and started the keto diet and intermittent fasting. I lost 51 pounds in the process.

As a firefighter, I’m used to being active. I’ve always been an adventurer. But a work injury left me with a torn ACL and subsequent surgical reconstruction, and I was forced to slow down. I spent six months in physical therapy, and afterwards, I was so unsure of myself. I felt uncertain about my physical capabilities and I no longer trusted my body to keep me safe. In the course of a year, I gained over 50 pounds.

I didn’t notice the weight gain at first. I knew that I didn’t “feel” good, but it’s hard to notice small subtle changes until they become *big* and hit you in the face. It started with little things, like running out of breath on an emergency call at work and not being able to get my gear on as quickly as I did before.

But I knew things had gotten bad when I busted out of my uniform pants at work, in front of my entire crew.

I knew I had to make a change. I wasn’t doing my best to be an asset to my community as a first responder.

Unfortunately there was more (and worse!) to come. I had to get second surgery on my knee and was left with a significant amount of nerve damage. I was in pain. Every. Single. Day. There were days my leg would swell and I felt like I could barely walk.

After doing some routine lab work in preparation for my second surgery, my doctor informed me that not only did I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), I was also in Stage 2 kidney failure, with positive signs of chronic kidney disease and very close to being diabetic. I was crushed and frightened, especially since I was only 28.

There is nothing like the fear of dying, or being incapacitated to make a person to get their act together.

I made some serious changes to my life, especially involving my diet and workouts.

Because I have PCOS, I knew that weight loss would be significantly harder since women with PCOS face weight gain as a symptom. So I decided to try eating low carb and doing the keto diet, along with intermittent and extended fasting.

I worked out every day. I would do an hour of HIIT or light strength training, and 30 minutes of fast paced or steady cardio. I took three weeks off of working out when I had my second surgery, but I kept my diet clean and fasted.

In nine weeks, I lost 38 pounds. In nearly 13 weeks, I lost 48. And by the 14th week I lost a total of 51 pounds.I am no longer pre-diabetic, my PCOS symptoms have improved drastically,and my kidneys are almost at completely normal function.

My goal is to lose 29 more pounds before I’m at a weight that I will plan on just maintaining, but at this point, I’m more concerned with my level of endurance and strength. If I have to trade a number on the scale for the ability to do my job when the bell hits, I’ll take strength and being fit for duty.

It took some time to find to find a routine that worked for me, but once I did I loved it.

After my surgery, I was so timid and worried about hurting my leg, and I lost a lot of my strength, endurance, and mental tenacity. When I first began my health journey, it physically pained me to workout. So I kept telling myself push a little harder today. Lift a little heavier. Run a little faster. Your internal voice has to be stronger than the external noise. And that takes practice.

I screwed up many times. I quit some workouts. I had some cheat days. But eventually I got tired of making excuses, and that’s when the switch flipped. That’s when my internal motivator took over, and I started making it a priority to do these things for myself. Working out became a necessity, just like buying groceries or getting gas for my car.

I’m currently doing the Andy Frisella 75 Hard Challenge, and I’m filming it on my IGTV to hold myself accountable and allow people to go on the journey with me if they choose.It’s a 75-day mental toughness challenge, where I’m working out twice a day. It’s an extreme challenge, but I’m an extremist myself, so it works for me.

When it comes to healthy eating, I usually skip breakfast.

I know that might sound crazy, but I only eat between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. or 12 p.m. and 8 p.m., depending on my fasting schedule.

A day of eating might look like this:

  • Meal 1: An almond flour blueberry muffin or two eggs with spinach, 1/4-cup shredded cheese, jalapeño peppers, and two tablespoons of salsa, two strips of bacon, or a cup of chopped chicken breast
  • Meal 2: A low carb ramen. All you need is steak strips, broccoli, mushrooms, a cup of water, one or two beef bouillon cubes, and Pasta Zero Shirataki Spaghetti Noodles (made from konjac flour, which is keto-friendly, vegan, and gluten free). Other times I’ll do a a rotisserie chicken salad with full fat ranch dressing. It’s my go-to when I need something quick, since I’m always on the move.
  • Snacks: I’ll have blackberries, cheese sticks, strawberries and cream cheese, and occasionally dark chocolate. I’ll also eat keto “treats” every now and then, like Quest Protein Ranch Tortilla Chips, or Smart Sweets gummy bears, which are low carb and keto-friendly.

I don’t wing anything anymore, especially not my workouts.

Before my journey began, I was sporadic withmy workouts. I felt like as long as I did something I was fine. Now, I realize that I have to have a plan to set myself up for success.

I plan what days I’m going to take a HIIT class at my gym, and what days I’m going to do weight training or cardio only. Planning everything matters. You can switch up to different routines to keep it exciting as long as it’s scheduled.

Since I’m working out twice a day now, I can’t afford to not have a game plan. And now I’m more focused on endurance, mobility and strength, instead of only trying for aesthetics. I want my body to be powerful.

When I do slip up, I see weakness as an opportunity, rather than a problem.

Every time you’re faced with a craving, or have to make a choice between healthy or unhealthy eating, think of it as a test. You have the opportunity to get to the next level in your health and fitness journey each time you pass. And in the case that you don’t pass the test the first time, you have the opportunity to reassess, reset, and try harder when the test presents itself again.

Be honest with yourself about where you are on your weight loss journey. You didn’t gain the weight overnight and you won’t lose it overnight either. And that’s perfectly fine. So instead of getting mad about your extended timeline, try to enjoy your progress. Appreciate the on- and off-scale victories. Buy yourself a new outfit, if you’re able to. Wear something you didn’t love wearing before. Get dressed up sand appreciate the new body you’re building. Clothing is a great gauge of progress for me.

Being able to fit back into my Class A Dress Uniform that I graduated from the Fire Academy in has been the best feeling on my weight loss journey this far. When I graduated, that was the best shape I’d ever been in, and the most sexy and powerful I had ever felt.

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