Spotlight on Group Coaching Member: Karen O

Name: Karen Oaks

Age: 55

Where do you live? Danville, VA

Profession? Nurse Professor and Nurse Practitioner

Diet/Weight history? I never dieted until I was about 22 years old, never saw myself as “fat” until my mom mentioned I was gaining weight. Interestingly, I weighed 150 lbs. – I would give anything to be that weight now! I look back at this and think my mother was projecting her own weight issues on me, when she should have been focused on herself. At that moment I was self-conscious of my weight, but instead of getting smaller, I gained. My highest recorded weight was in 2015. I was 284 lbs. and diagnosed with breast cancer – I am sure my weight contributed to the breast cancer.

Success achieved on low carb? From June 2019 thru February 2020, I lost 65 lbs. I had been taking allergy shots off and on for 20 years, and was able to stop those a few months in. I also was able to come off 5 different allergy medications and 2 other prescriptions due to improved metabolic health and weight loss. My energy has improved 100% – I didn’t know how bad I felt until I was doing more and more without feeling aches and pains!

How long have you been low carb? Since June, 2019

Why did you start low carb? I had tried all types of diets and nothing worked. I wanted to lose weight to decrease my chances of breast cancer reoccurrence and improve my metabolic health. I heard Dr. Andy Phung on the Low Carb MD podcast where he talked about losing weight by lowering carbs, so I figured I’d give it a try.

How did you start? I begin by eliminating what I knew as carbs: bread, chips, fries, pizza, and I was able to lose weight. When I met with Dr. Phung I learned more about hidden carbs and my daily intake of fruit, ketchup, sports drinks (I thought these were healthy!) were eliminated. In August 2019 I met with Dr. Tro and learned even more!

How has keto changed for you over this time? I learned that keto is more than eliminating bread and fries. I now look for hidden sources of carbs, and have become aware of trigger foods. I do my best to not eat them or be around them without a back-up plan in place.

What do you struggle with? COVID has stressed me out due to change in social life and my work life. I am a people person! I have also had trouble seeing myself smaller. Looking in the mirror it did not seem like it was really me. I also received so much attention as I was losing weight, and many people would stop and ask how/what I was doing to lose weight. Sometimes I felt like I had to defend my new way of living because others felt it was dangerous for me to eat this way. It sometimes became a distraction.

What do you struggle with? I crave popcorn a lot – the crunch, butter and salt. I have not found anything that gives me the dopamine hit like that does – and when I am working on my Doctoral studies, I struggle to write and start having cravings for popcorn or sugar free pudding with a pile of sugar free whipped cream. Sometimes I give in, if the food is available. Then I magically can complete all my assignments for the evening. I also struggle with my college-age kids having tempting foods around. I find it is hard to have willpower 24/7. They try to be supportive and will keep the food away from me, but I know it is downstairs and I will find it! They are both at college now and I have 2.5 months until they return home.

What do you love about low carb? I respect food now, the simplicity of eating. I usually eat only one time a day and am satisfied. It makes me feel good and my mind is clear.

Top tip? Always have a plan when around those who do not eat low carb. Be forgiving of slip-ups rather than punishing yourself.

Advice for those just starting out? Make it easy by choosing a meat and a low carb vegetable. Read labels! I still have slip-ups because I fail to read a label closely.

Favorite low-carb meal on the go? Salami and pickles or hamburger patties

Favorite low-carb meal to cook? Steak on the barbecue

Favorite holiday/special occasion recipe? Cooked chicken wings in the Ninja and artichoke dip with pork rinds.

Favorite inspirational quote? “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Anything else you want us to know about you? Perseverance and knowledge has kept me motivated to stick with low carb, even when I have slipped up many times. Also, my husband Scott and I are partners and support each other a great deal through this process!


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Dr. Tro’s Medical Weight Loss and Primary Care provides nationwide medical weight loss, primary and metabolic care through an individualized approach that reverses and prevents disease.

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