When tragedy strikes, it’s hard not to seek solace in comfort food. But instead of letting her life slip away in the face of suffering, Sari Gillen chose to survive and thrive with keto.
For 20 years, Gillen was the wife of a high-powered executive and mother of three children. With no life outside her kids and dealing with the pressure of marriage to a perpetually stressed-out man, it was tough keeping up the image of perfection. “I was depressed, numb, and seriously overweight,” she said. Then in January 2011, one event instantly changed her life for the worse.
Her husband suffered a massive heart attack in their home and barely made it to the ER before he passed away. To add to the unimaginable for Sari, a week later, she found herself sitting in a doctor’s office with her terrified sister who had just learned that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and was likely to die of it.
“All of this was more news to bring home to my stunned and grieving children,” Gillen said. “More to digest in my numbed state. More to drive me to the refrigerator.”
With too much time to sit and think, Gillen still wasn’t sure what to do. But she knew her kids needed her and that her sister needed her. She had an epiphany at the oncologist’s office when the doctor was explaining the procedure for her sister’s upcoming PET scan.
“To prep for this test, my sister was told to not eat carbohydrates for three days and then they would give her a glucose drink to do the scan,” said Gillen. “Any cancer in her body will light up the screen as it feasts on the sugar she just ingested—especially since it has been starved of carbohydrates for three days.”
This was Gillen’s epiphany: cancer feeds on sugar and carbs. That was the day she decided to live carb-free. She set about investigating and researching. She was preparing to not only save herself and help save her sister, but to clear the fog in her brain and become a healthy, strong mother to her children. “I was reborn,” she said.
By the time she found Dr. Berg’s advice she had already been on the keto diet for seven years. But when she came across his Facebook group she immediately joined, hoping to inspire others and get involved.
Gillen saw that Dr. Berg had been featured on a few sugar documentaries and she found many of his videos on YouTube. “I love his white board videos and how he can break down to the scientific level all of the processes that spiral off of this simple way of eating,” she said. “He makes everything basic and very understandable.”
She said she understands the importance of a strong support system because when she started keto, no one was doing it. Many of her friends and family were unconvinced of the benefits, convinced she was making a mistake. “Now, years later, many of them have climbed on board and are reaping the benefits of living the way the human body was supposed to live,” said Gillen. If she were to do it all again, she wouldn’t fret over people not understanding her choice to make the change.
During the process, she had to let go of the scale and trust that with keto, her body would reach its perfect size and that’s where things would level out.
In her first year with keto, Gillen lost 64 pounds (29 kg) and another 25 pounds (11 kg) over the next five years after that. While menopause was a struggle, she still managed to go from a size 20 to a size 6/8.
Nowadays, keto is normal. She feels good all day without colds, inflammation, and brain fog—with no blood sugar dips or sleepy afternoons. “Plus, grocery shopping is quick!” she exclaims. Top that with the fact that her sister is still alive, fully keto, and 100% cancer-free without radiation or chemo. That’s the motivation that keeps her going.
“You can do it!” Gillen says. “It’s not expensive and it’s definitely not hard.”
Favorite Way to Exercise: Walking!
Favorite Keto Recipe: Fathead Crust and Crack Slaw.