What’s the Keto Diet Craze All About?

What’s the Keto Diet Craze All About?

I Heart Carbohydrates.

For me, they’re curative.  A doughnut or two and voila – nausea is vanquished, anxiety is subdued, headaches disappear, and mood is elevated.

All this, and delicious too.  What’s not to love?

I can grab a cookie, a bag of chips, or a candy bar in any store across the nation.  Meals high in carbs are easy to prepare and even easier to eat.  My weight is fine and I feel, well, like I guess everyone feels when they’re 64, fluctuating between pretty good and pretty old.  I love my carbs.

Donuts on the keto diet are bad

And then my daughter, Amy, calls.   She is looking extra fit and trim, but I assume it’s due to her penchant for exercise.

“Keto,” she gushes, during a FaceTime call.  What’s Keto? 75% of your food intake comes from the right kind of fats, like olive and coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.  20% of your diet is derived from protein, and 5% from carbs.

Can I Really Do This?

Drastically reducing carbs from my diet doesn’t seem feasible.  My 23 and Me DNA traits report states: “You are likely to prefer sweet snacks.”  Uh huh.  It’s in the genes.  My Neanderthal ancestors likely stumbled into a field of sugar cane while hunting for meat.

Amy peels off a list of health benefits of the high-fat, low-carb diet.  Besides weight loss, devotees claim they have higher energy levels, better moods, and clearer thinking.  Some studies show a Keto diet prevents epileptic seizures in children, effectively treats diabetes, and helps stave off Alzheimer’s.

Preliminary research suggests it may stop cancer’s progression, inhibit metastases and kill off cancer cells.  She is so enthusiastic that I find myself saying, “I’m in, sweetheart!”  Just.  Like.  That.

Amy was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive breast cancer in October of 2013.  She is nearing her 5th anniversary, and fears of it’s possible return continue to disturb our peace of mind.  For Amy’s type of cancer, years 5-10 pose the greatest threat of recurrence, and so she’s been looking for any and all ways to give herself the best chance at fighting or slowing down any cancer cells that may be lingering.

MadLife Amy RobachAs we’re talking, I’m watching Amy’s face on the screen.  I’m trying my best to hide my own emotions, but we both have a tough time pretending.  If there’s a chance this diet can help prevent a return of cancer, then it’s a no-brainer.

I can sum up most of my life choices into a simple verse:  For me, it’s all or nothing.  So… I’ve turned into a bit of a fanatic.  Mike and I both drop 5 pounds in 2 weeks, but weight loss isn’t our priority.  Joining Amy in a healthier diet makes me feel like we’re standing in solidarity with her against cancer.  She’s our baby.  It feels right.

OK.  I’m in.

Day 1:  Breakfast – two scrambled eggs, sautéed in butter and topped with cheddar cheese.  Lunch – turkey chili.  Dinner – grilled chicken salad.  I hesitate while putting on a generous dollop of blue cheese dressing, but do it anyway.   I snack on peanuts and cheese.

Day 2:  Lunch – cheeseburger wrapped in lettuce.  Delicious but messy.  On and on we go.  My husband and I are eating like cavemen.

Days 3-4:  I wake feeling tired and cranky.  Mental pictures of meat, cheese and eggs are making me gag.  By 5 PM, I’ve got a raging headache and my body aches all over.  I want to punch my husband in the face for no reason whatsoever.  I also want a biscuit smothered in raspberry jam.

“It’s called the Keto flu,” says Amy, calling to check on our progress. “Yay, Mom!  That means you’re doing everything right!”  This newsflash brings me no solace.

The next day I wake with no appetite and a heart that pounds over 100 bpm.  Putting on my jeans takes super-human strength.  Right leg goes into right side of pants.  Rest.  Then left leg.  Rest.  Hot flashes, ear-ringing and mental confusion are compounding my misery.  I need an oatmeal-raisin cookie, STAT.

Days 5-10:  I’m feeling a tad better.  Progress is slow but steady.  It may be a bit early to embrace this new dietary lifestyle for the rest of my life, but at least I’m feeling some energy and mental acuity returning.  I am shocked at the rapid changes in my body.  Pants are zipping with ease.   Dresses are slipping on effortlessly.

But this is not a diet for sissies.  I spend over an hour at the grocery store checking the carb count on the back of packaging.  It’s annoying and time-consuming.  Jabbing my husband in the arm, I wave my eyes over into the direction of a stranger’s cart.  “Look at the carbs in that cart!” they silently say.  Carb-judging brings out the ugly in me.

I’m not accustomed to so much food prep, and at first, it’s a bit overwhelming.  Amy and I swap Keto recipes via text.   Fathead pizza is delish!

Here’s the Amazing Part:MadLife Keto Diet What's It All About

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I am never hungry.  I was always hungry before Keto.   And my sugar cravings have almost vanished.  I walk through Publix bakery without stopping, though I do partake in a good whiff of glazed donuts now and then. Squirting real whipping cream from the can into my open mouth brings back memories of Dad lining up all nine of his children to do the same.   With a Keto diet, the tradition continues.

I’m sticking with Keto for a couple of months, then reevaluating.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

About to head off to a holiday party.  I’ll hover around the cheese and sausage platters, but will allow myself a dessert or two.  We’ve all got our breaking point, and when I spot a tray of sugar cookies, fudge, or cheesecake, I reach mine.  December 26th, I’ll get back in the groove by reminding myself that everything tastes delicious when you pour butter and melted cheese on top.  Even brussel sprouts.


The Keto Diet Got Me — Hook, Line, & Sinker

The Keto Diet Got Me — Hook, Line, & Sinker

I may be going out on a limb here, but something tells me I’m not the only one who kind of let things go over the summer in the general nutrition department. While there are plenty of people who are lucky enough to take off a few pounds during the warmer months, you know, because they’re outside and being all active — I’m the opposite. Summer is basically one huge party, full of delicious things at cookouts every weekend, early cocktail hours where the wine flows freely, strawberry layer cakes that just scream EAT ME, and … more wine. Meet Summer Mary:

And that’s why as soon as August wrapped up, I desperately felt the need to go into full-on detox mode to get rid of the extra layer that “suddenly appeared out of nowhere.” (Oops.)

Enter the Keto diet — or Ketogenic diet, if you want to get technical. OMG. When Joan first told me about this plan, I have to admit I was intrigued right away. I mean, I’ve done dozens of diets in the past, including buying into the miracle shakes craze that so many people are on board with these days — and I was at a point where I needed something different. Something new. Something strict. Something that involved real food in lieu of a blender bottle.

As soon as Joan gave me the run-down of what going Keto entailed, I knew I was ready to hop on board and at least give it a shot — even though it meant that most of the daily calories I consumed were going to come from fat (and not wine.) Yes … FAT.

In case you haven’t heard much about Keto, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

Fats are good. Protein is good. Carbs are bad. Well, starchy carbs, processed carbs, sugar carbs, and basically anything other than vegetable carbs and the trace of carbs found in nuts are bad. (Yes, even potatoes are the enemy. Sniff, sniff.)

Basically the majority of your calories should come from things like avocados, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, protein calories should come from grass-fed meats, full-fat cheeses, and fish, and then you really can’t go wrong with leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and cauliflower in the carb department.

Eating this way puts your body into a state of ketosis, which basically means you’re burning fat for fuel instead of your body using carbohydrates for energy. And guess what? When your body uses your own fat for energy — you lose fat. Funny how that works.

Ok, enough with the basics. Back to me. I figured I’d lose a few pounds and this would at least give me a good jump start, but here I am almost 3-weeks in, and I honestly cannot believe not only how fast the weight loss has been, but also how much of an improvement there is in how I’m feeling.

Meet Keto obsessed Mary:

Again, it’s been roughly 3-weeks, and I’m down 8 pounds. Which is awesome — and I’m hoping to take off another 5 to 10. But you know what’s even better than the weight loss? The energy I have. I’m seriously bouncing off the walls, people! I cannot sit still, hence why you’ll find me on a hiking trail any day I’m not working and the sun is shining. And if it’s raining? I’m cleaning the house and/or organizing a closet — which is so unlike me. (Just ask my mom. I’m the queen of putting that type of stuff off.)

I’m not feeling that afternoon slump-reaching-for-a-cup-of-coffee-at-3pm anymore. I’m staying up a little later, and getting up a little earlier — and I’m sleeping soundly and waking up refreshed instead of groggy.

My skin looks awesome. (Probably from all the fat. Winning.)

The “fat” jeans I bought to accommodate my expanding summer body are falling off — and I’m not complaining. My favorite pair of jeans I’ve had since I was 25 finally buttoned up again this morning. And I even have one pair of shorts that at one point, were the only pair of shorts I could comfortably fit into this summer — and now they are hanging off me and there’s no way I can wear them anymore.

Oh, and you know what else is weird, but pretty amazing? I’m not hungry. Like at all. Sometimes I eat about half my dinner and cannot get through the rest of it. Did I mention I’m even saving money, because I’ve gotten back into cooking meals at home instead of going out to dinner 3-4 nights a week? The perks are endless with this plan.

I’m honestly just so excited about these results, and I’m fully committed to keeping up with the Keto diet as more of a lifestyle change than a quick fix. Given how wonderful I feel after 3-weeks, I can’t wait to see what kind of transformation happens after a few months. Yep, I’m #KetoObsessed — and I dig it. (Thanks Joan!)


I Found My Soulmate & He’s the Last Person I Expected

I Found My Soulmate & He’s the Last Person I Expected

Sigh. Ever since I was a little girl, I always bought into the notion that every single person in the world has a soulmate. You know, that one person who understands you like nobody else on earth. The one whose soul has known yours in many, many lifetimes before this one. Someone who absolutely adores you. Someone who looks at you and thinks you’re the most wonderful woman they’ve ever known. Someone who gives you unconditional love, even when you might not deserve it. Someone who knows exactly when you need a hug, and isn’t afraid to throw their arms around you no matter who might be watching. Someone who is your … everything.

You know … like this.

Yep. Noah and Allie. That’s the picture I had in my head of what truly constituted a soulmate relationship. (Eye roll.) And for a good portion of my adult life, I honestly believed I possibly had that for a brief moment in time. Spoiler alert — it was not with my former husband. (Not even close.)

And as pathetic as this is to admit — I clung to him, and to that notion of a perfect soulmate — all throughout my marriage, during my divorce, and even for a period of time after my divorce. Especially after, because I was single again. Finally. Which meant the stars were finally going to align and we were going to find our way back to each other and live happily ever after and all would be right with the universe.

The only problem is that … it wasn’t right. It didn’t happen. It probably was never meant to. I finally understood that he never had those kinds of feelings for me — and maybe I never really had them for him either. I had simply cooked up this notion of a soulmate in my head, and for whatever reason, I attached him to that vision. But if nothing else, maybe he helped play a part in getting me out of a relationship that was figuratively drowning me. I’ll forever be grateful to him for that. (Always a silver lining.)

And then one day — I just magically got over the whole idea of … “uh-oh, what if I let my soulmate get away.” Because a light bulb went off in my head, and I realized that all of those dreams I’d had of having this perfect relationship with the soulmate the universe had chosen for me had already come true — and the dude from the past was simply that — a dude from the past.

My real soulmate was right before my very eyes.

Yes, my son. My son is, was, and always will be my one true soulmate. Let’s revisit what I always thought was the definition of a soulmate.

“The one whose soul has known yours in many, many lifetimes before this one. Someone who absolutely adores you. Someone who looks at you and thinks you’re the most wonderful woman they’ve ever known. Someone who gives you unconditional love, even when you might not deserve it. Someone who knows exactly when you need a hug, and isn’t afraid to throw their arms around you no matter who might be watching. Someone who is your … everything.”

Little did I know it, but my entire life, I’d been dreaming of him. “He” just turned out to be my kid. And that’s when I realized that this whole notion of soulmates having to be romantic soulmates is seriously killing the hopes and dreams of so many people out there. Why must the person we feel most connected to absolutely have to be a romantic partner? And maybe that person is a romantic partner in some lifetimes. But maybe in others, it’s a child. A parent. A friend. Hell, a dog. And if dogs are factored into the mix, then I’m the luckiest person on the planet, because I have TWO soulmates.

Image via maryjhawkins/Instagram

I’m not sure what the future holds for me in terms of love (with a grown-up dude), but I do know one thing for certain — soulmates most definitely do exist. EVERYONE has one.

You just have to look for them in the right place.

Do Soulmates Exist?

Do Soulmates Exist?


MadLife Do Soulmates Exist

According to a Marist poll, 73% of Americans believe in the existence of soulmates.

Mind. Blown.

I fall into the 27% minority, but admit there isn’t a more romantic term for love than soulmate.

Love that’s predestined.  Fated.

You fit together like two puzzle pieces, connecting on every level:  It’s a love that completes us.  Sigh….

Soulmates really get you.  They finish your sentences and give you their full attention. You communicate without words, and the physical connection is intense.

Somehow, in your heart of hearts, you just know when you’ve found your soulmate… Really? 

Hollywood has made buckets of cash selling us the dream of the soulmate:  The Notebook, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Breakfast at Tiffany’s – I’ve seen them all.   Add a giant bowl of buttery popcorn, PJ’s, and a box of Kleenex, and I’ll watch them again.

This is it

Mike and I met when we were 15.  We had a lot in common.  Both from large Catholic families, we attended the same church and grew up in small, neighboring Michigan towns.  After school and summers, we both worked in the restaurant business – he slung burgers at Burger Chef, and I waited tables at Woolworth’s lunch counter.

The day he got his driver’s license we became a couple, dating exclusively through high school and into college.  Electricity surged through my body when we were together.  He listened to my every word.  And we didn’t listen to our parents and friends when they told us not to tie ourselves down to one person. Why would I look any further when I’d found THE ONE?  Surely, he was my destiny.  My soulmate.

What I know now (that I didn’t know then)

MadLife Do Soulmates Exist - What I Know Now That I Didn't Know ThenA few weeks ago, Mike and I sat outside watching the autumn sun fade over the tops of the Georgia pines.  When the sun’s rays landed on his face, I noticed how grey his hair has become (love the grey BTW).  His eyes look just like his Dad’s, and that great chin dimple is from his mom.

“How much I love this man,” I say to myself.  We’ve had our share of joys, challenges, and sorrows like everyone else, but he has been my rock.  Always.

Mike and I have built a great life together over 45 years.  He’s my confidant, my lover (sorry kids), my friend, my protector.  I deeply love and respect him, and can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone but him.  I got lucky when I met my husband.  It wasn’t fate or destiny.  Right time, right place, great chemistry.

But he doesn’t complete me.  And I don’t complete him.   

Several years into our marriage, I came to the conclusion that my husband couldn’t fulfill all my needs.  Our communication styles are vastly different:  I found out he isn’t a mind reader.  Perhaps I had a touch of Cinderella Complex, but at the very least, I overly-romanticized marriage.

He no longer listens to my every word.  Probably because he’s heard most of them before.  And getting his attention can be challenging, particularly if I’m competing with a Michigan State football or basketball game on TV.

When we complete each other’s sentences, it goes something like this:  (Joan) Hey, Mike, would you….  (Mike)… take out the garbage?  (Mike) Do you know where my…… (Joan)…. wallet is on the kitchen counter.

MadLife Do Soulmates ExistMost of the time he does NOT get me and I certainly don’t get him.   It has nothing to do with how much we love each other.

Here’s the truth as I see it:   NO ONE REALLY GETS YOU.     

There are plenty of times when I don’t get me.

Made for each other, or look how far we’ve come?

In 2014, two social psychologists, Spike W. S. Lee , and Norbert Schwartz published the findings of their study in, “Framing love:  When it hurts to think we were made for each other.”  “Our findings corroborate prior research showing that people who implicitly think of relationships as perfect unity between soulmates have worse relationships than people who implicitly think of relationships as a journey of growing and working things out,” says Professor Lee.  Enough said.

Still the one

Mike and I share a lifetime of history, starting with a one-night honeymoon in the Holiday Inn overlooking the St. Joe river in our hometown.  We love each other because of, but also in spite of.  There is no one else who loves me like he does, or knows me better.  I remind myself to love him more than I love myself, and to do something every day to show him that love.  Some days I fall short.

When I was a young wife, I desperately wanted Mike to understand me.  As the years passed, I began to realize it was more important that I try to understand him.  And I also realized that sometimes that’s just not going to happen.  It’s not always easy and we don’t have a perfect marriage.  He tries his best to get me, listens to me (most of the time), and despite my many faults, loves me completely.  And yes, the sparks are still there.

Soulmate?  Not so sure about that.  A man worth sharing my life with?  Absolutely.

“I’m Not a ‘Regular’ Mom … I’m a ‘Cool’ Mom!”

“I’m Not a ‘Regular’ Mom … I’m a ‘Cool’ Mom!”

For longer than I can remember, I’ve always had this sense that I was born too late. Like I somehow missed the boat on being an adult in a bygone era, back when things were simpler, when people actually talked to each other instead of communicating via smart phones, and when parenting was also a bit less … judged. But even though I like to think I have an old-fashioned vibe, somewhere along the line, I became the cool mom.

You know what I mean, right?

But I’m a legit cool mom, not the fake Mean Girls cool mom. (Duh.)

I’ve been fairly laid back since my son was little, but I’d be lying if I said getting divorced 2 years ago didn’t have something to do with taking my cool status to the next level. I wiped the slate clean. I started my life completely over on my own terms. I bought my own house. And now I’m over here adulting like a boss – and whether he knows it or not, my kid has it pretty damn good compared to a lot of other 11-year-olds. (Or at least I think so.)

For starters, I really don’t have the desire or energy to implement any sort of rigid schedule in this place. We don’t have a set dinner time, and when we do eat dinner, it’s usually in front of the TV on TV trays – not sitting at the table like a “proper” family dinner should be. (Go ahead and gasp.)

And since I’m single and am always on some sort of healthy eating kick (currently Keto obsessed,) I tend to gravitate toward the whole intuitive eating thing. Meaning some nights I make myself a pan of roasted Brussel sprouts for dinner. What kid in their right mind wants to eat roasted Brussel sprouts as a main course? Not mine. So nine times out of ten, I ask him what he wants for dinner, so I wind up making two separate meals. And you know what? I don’t mind one bit. Because as long as he’s happy, I’m happy — and is it really that hard to put a tray of bagel bites in the oven along with my Brussel sprouts? No. No, it isn’t.

And then there’s bedtime. Ok, ok, so now that the school year has started again, I’m a little less lax about it than I was this summer. Meaning most nights, I have him upstairs in his room reading by 9pm. But on nights where he has a baseball game and needs to take a shower and unwind a little when we get home? Yeah. It’s closer to 10pm. But I know how much I need chill time in the evenings before being able to fall asleep, so why should I expect my 11-year-old to be any different? I’m cool like that.

While some may judge me and insist that my cool mom status makes me kind of a bad mom, there is one part of raising my son this way that is the envy of any parent who doesn’t have it. The kid is totally open and honest with me, to the point where he’s comfortable talking to me about pretty much anything. From how he’s feeling, to what his dreams are for the future, to describing his interactions with teachers and his peers at school, to quizzing me on his favorite rock bands, to … wait for it … puberty and sex — he knows he can come to me and we can have an open discussion without any judgment or looks of disapproval. I can 100% say that this kiddo and I are as close as close can be, and it’s … way cool.

Image via maryjhawkins/Instagram

And you know what the best part of being a cool mom is? My kid will tell even tell me I’m the resident cool mom – because even his best bud has told him on several occasions, “You’re mom is so cool.”

Hey — if being the cool mom means my son sees me as a confidante and is comfortable opening up about any topic – even the birds and the bees, then I must be doing something right. We laugh. We have fun. We live our life our way. We’re a team. And it’s working for us, so what’s the point in changing things? There’s no way I’m going to get all strict on him, regardless of who thinks I’m anything but cool for being less than your typical parent.