I Lost 149 Pounds on the Keto Diet—and Kept It Off

After a lifetime of battling her weight, this woman finally discovered what was wrong with her—and the best diet for fixing her troubles.

LeighAnn beforeCourtesy LeighAnn Sweinhart

Ever since she was ten years old, LeighAnn Sweinhart remembers being at least 50 pounds heavier than everyone around her. It didn’t make sense—she ate a good diet and stayed active. Then, in her late teens, Sweinhart’s doctors figured out her gain was caused by a condition that forced her body to retain pounds. And she had to gain a lot more weight before she finally found an answer.

When Sweinhart’s weight began to climb at puberty, her parents assumed it was due to junk food and lack of exercise. “I knew it wasn’t that,” the now 33-year-old Sweinhart tells Reader’s Digest. “I ate what my siblings ate and did what they did.” Her parents tried multiple diets to help her lose the weight, all of them unsuccessful. When she was 19, Sweinhart made a trip to the emergency room for sudden and extreme pain in her abdomen, and it was there that she finally learned the truth: An ultrasound revealed her ovaries were covered in cysts—and one had ruptured. Watch out for these 13 medical reasons for abdominal pain.

LeighAnn beforeCourtesy LeighAnn Sweinhart

When her primary physician followed up with hormone testing, it confirmed the diagnosis: Sweinhart had PCOS—polycystic ovary syndrome. The hormone disorder causes the body to produce excess androgen, a male hormone, and causes other symptoms, like facial hair, weight gain, male pattern baldness, and irregular periods. “I had noticed my hair was thinning, and I was getting facial hair. I also had migraines and my periods were irregular.” Doctors prescribed Metformin for her insulin resistance—a common PCOS complication—and birth control to regulate her hormones The results were disappointing. “The medications they gave me made me sick. I tried to stick with it for a year before I finally said I was done. At 20, I was too young to live like that. I gave up on myself for a while.”

LeighAnn beforeCourtesy LeighAnn Sweinhart

While taking a break from medication, Sweinhart, who lives in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, began researching drastic diets and surgeries. At 289 pounds, she had reached her breaking point and was terrified she would need to buy two plane seats for herself for an upcoming trip with her husband. “Insurance wouldn’t cover the gastric sleeve surgery, but I had already joined an online support group for the procedure. Many of the women in the group said their doctors put them on a ketogenic diet afterward. I began wondering if I could lose weight on it.” After researching the keto diet, she decided to try it—and her husband joined her. Make sure you’re aware of these things doctors want you to know before starting the keto diet.

LeighAnn afterCourtesy LeighAnn Sweinhart

The results were fast—and impressive. “Within the first two weeks, I lost 19 pounds. My symptoms—the migraines, mood swings, insulin spikes—they all went away as soon as I stopped eating sugar and committed to the diet.” In the beginning, Sweinhart says she kept it simple, focusing on eating food that had less than 20 grams of carbohydrates, healthy fats, green vegetables, and healthy cuts of meat. She downloaded the Lose It! app on her phone, which she says made the diet even easier to stick with. “With the app, I can track anything I eat, and I can scan the bar code on things to keep track of exactly what I’m eating. It’s too easy,” she explains. Here are more unexpected health benefits of the keto diet you might experience, too.

LeighAnn afterCourtesy LeighAnn Sweinhart

Sweinhart has lost 149 pounds over the last two years and she’s now half her previous size. “By the time I went on the trip with my husband, I didn’t even need a seat-belt extender, much less a second seat. If you’re even thinking about it, just do it. Research and learn the science behind it: The people on this diet aren’t just thinner—they’re healthier. Make it a goal to keep this promise to yourself.” Next, find out the things everyone gets wrong about the keto diet.

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Jen Babakhan
Jen Babakhan is an author and credentialed educator living in California. She writes regularly about advice and culture for Reader's Digest. She is also the author of Detoured: The Messy, Grace-Filled Journey From Working Professional to Stay-at-Home Mom (Harvest House Publishers, 2019). She earned her BA in Communication Studies from California State University, Stanislaus. You can follow her on Instagram @JenBabakhan , Twitter @JenBabakhan, and Facebook @JenBabakhanauthor.