Transformation

I Lost 50 Pounds by Eating More Fat and Trading Alcohol for LaCroix

One Philadelphian's transformation story.

Photograph by Mark Kennedy-McClellan

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one Philadelphian’s transformation story. Want to share yours? Email me at ccunningham@phillymag.com.

Who: Mark Kennedy-McClellan, 30, graduate student from Port Richmond

Starting weight: 232 pounds

Current weight: 183 pounds

How long it took: A little over six months

Why I wanted to change: “My wife and I went down to South Carolina for my sister-in-law’s wedding and it was there that I looked at myself long and hard in the mirror as I was dressing for the ceremony. I frankly felt like I could see all the years of being unhappy with what I was doing literally weighing on me, and I felt that hot sense of shame down the back of your throat you can get, where what you see in the mirror doesn’t match who you believe you’re capable of being. That night at the reception I made myself many many mixed drinks and danced the night away, trying to forget the feeling, and I realized I wasn’t even getting a buzz, I had such a high tolerance. Something about noticing that I’d tried to drink a lot to mask feeling scared about what all this stress had done to my body made me think: well if drinking isn’t even really working anymore, what if I went the opposite direction? So I decided not to drink alcohol for a year, to help with losing some weight, but also to give myself a chance to feel what I’d been feeling.”

How I changed my diet: “As I was working through the first few weeks of not drinking, I decided focusing on my health more broadly might help me feel even better. I’d learned about the ketosis diet from a colleague at work and I decided to try it for two weeks to see if it would help me feel better and have more energy. The keto diet puts you in your secondary metabolism which burns fat by removing carbs and sugars from your diet. I eat mostly fat and protein, leafy greens, and only a max of 20g of carbs/sugar a day. I drink a lot of LaCroix and butter coffee. Coffee is the one main mood changing stimulant I’ve allowed myself to keep, because, well, everyone needs some feel-good treat!”

“Seeing these results and knowing I’ve proven to myself that I can do these things has fundamentally changed my relationship with myself.”

How I changed my exercise routine: “I worked from home in my sales job in NYC and didn’t exercise much, so I naturally started exercising a lot more being in my physical theatre program where I’ll be moving on and off for two to three hours a day in class easily. I also walk to and from school (about one hour total) three-ish days a week, some weeks more. I’m starting to incorporate core strength training for 30 minutes a day, and may expand now that I’m on semester break. Trying to do little things consistently every day, as best I can.”

What I’m most proud of: “I think if you’d told me six months ago that I’d like how I looked in the mirror, that I’d be able to politely decline beer after beer and candy after candy, and not only would I be feeling and looking healthier, but also more myself, I’d’ve smiled at you sadly and quietly told myself, Yeah but I’m not good enough to do that. Seeing these results and knowing I’ve proven to myself that I can do these things has fundamentally changed my relationship with myself.”

The hardest part: “A lot of people I’ve seen socially question or feel threatened by my decisions — even though they’ve nothing to do with them. As a natural people pleaser, I’ve had to learn to let go of trying to prove to everyone what I’m doing is right for me.”

What I want you to know: “Deciding to transform yourself is sometimes seen as a negative, insecure, self-hating thing — there’s a train of thought that suggests you should just accept who you are and believe in yourself and you’ll feel better. I really bought into that for a while because it let me keep self-medicating to keep my pain at bay. But I’ve learned that not accepting my self-destructive impulses actually has lead me to be much more loving of myself, of what I choose to fuel myself with. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but easier now to choose the hard thing, than choosing not to choose anything at all.”

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