4.09.2018

And Ten Years Later . . . The Big Book Deal

April 6th 2008

I wrote a short story called "Aria." 

(I had to go back and double-check that date before starting this blog. I found it buried in the deepest recesses of my Gmail, the first draft I'd sent to a friend to read and tear apart. When I saw that the date on the email was, in fact, April 6th, I nearly had a heart attack. You'll understand why if you stick with me here.)

Here's proof, with the irrelevant bits blotted out.

"Aria" was the first piece of fiction I'd written since high school. Many of you reading this right now have read it. Many more of you have not. It isn't particularly important other than to establish the start of a timeline, the one where I began to consider myself an actual writer.

Looking back on on that story now, I think it was pretty silly and amateurish, but hey, you have to start somewhere. Once I had it cleaned up, I sent it off to an anthology I'd had my eye on. When they picked it up a few months later, the boost to my ego was enormous. Sold the first story I'd written in over ten years?! I WAS SHIT-HOT, MAN!

I made $35 off the sale of that story. The husband and I took the kiddos out to dinner that night. My treat, made easier by the fact that they were still little enough to eat off the kids menu.


From there, I would write and publish some more short stories, and then I began taking a stab at writing novels. All the while, I was certain I would very soon get an agent and sell big right away.

This is where the narrator kicks in with something like, "It didn't quite turn out that way..." I've written a lot about my writing career on this blog, so I won't rehash it, but if you want to get a sense of the long and winding events that ultimately led to me publishing a few novels and signing with my agent, you can look here.

July 2014

Upon signing with Stephanie Rostan with a book that eventually came to be called SECRET THINGS, I was so sure I was on the verge of "making it." Mind you, I had no idea what "making it" actually meant. And to be frank, even after the events of the past couple weeks, I'm still not quite sure I know. I'm not sure anyone does. "Making it" is a lot like chasing clouds or taking a big bite of cotton candy. No sooner than you think you have The Thing You're After, the shape of it changes or it disappears altogether. Some people get hung up on this and they spin out and eventually start to waste away. But you have to keep moving, because I think maybe "making it" only means you've found the next marker on the road, and there are no parking spaces until the very end. The journey must continue.

So when I nabbed the marker that read "Acquire Literary Agent," I did what any half-smart writer ought to do and started working on the next book. This one was a little thing called BLIND SPOTS. More on that in a few.

March 2015

Before long, it was early spring of 2015 when SECRET THINGS went out on submission to a list of 20 or so major publishers. And I even had the pleasure of speaking with a few great editors who absolutely loved the book. But after a stressful (though exciting!) couple of weeks, it became clear that love wasn't enough. Stephanie said to keep working on the next book and we would try again. And so I did.
***
This is where dates and things start getting a bit fuzzy, because I got lost in a flurry of work. I finished the first draft of BLIND SPOTS in late summer of 2015 and delivered it to Stephanie. She came back to me a few weeks later with some feedback. It was good. The seed of the idea was right, BUT there were some issues. And they were the sorts of issues that warranted a full top-down rewrite of the book. Mind you, she didn't tell me I had to do this, but rather it was something I knew I needed to do if I wanted to get this right. And I really really wanted to get this right. The story had a hook I couldn't let go. I wrote about the whole "starting over from page one" experience here. It took me about 6 weeks or so to draft a new version.

And then I immediately got to work on another idea that had been tugging at me a while. My friends know it as the "Ted Bundy book," and I worked feverishly on that, oh, I wanna say between December 2015 and February 2016. After working on some revisions, I sent that one along to Stephanie as well, giving her the chance to consider now the revamped BLIND SPOTS and the Bundy book. She came back to me not long after and said (and I agreed) that BLIND SPOTS had the most potential for commercial success. We spoke of some of the additional work it needed, because remember, while I had rewritten the book, it was every bit as much in its early stages of development as the first attempt.

So I got to work. But time passed, and I started working on other types of art projects, too. I taught classes at my local arts center. I would say a great deal of 2016 unfolded without me accomplishing much of anything at all in the writing realm. I stopped self-publishing. I didn't promote much of my existing work at all. Call it recharging the batteries, or maybe just saving myself from total burnout, but I'm glad I took that break, because it helped get me ready for what was to come.

I finished the new draft of the book and sent it back in early 2017. It was better, but still not quite there. Something about it was keeping it from catching, and between spitball sessions with Steph and her assistant Sarah, we finally figured it out, and a light went on in my head. Oh hell, it was more like a Bat-Signal, only it was shining the real shape of this book up into the night sky. And this is when the book went from being BLIND SPOTS to MRS. MILLER AND THE OTHER MRS. MILLER.

With the new shape in place, I was off and running at a feverish pace. Over that time, it bounced back and forth a bit as I made some additional tweaks, refining that shape ever more, bringing out details that gave the book a deeply personal angle it truly needed in order to have my own stamp of approval. In the fall of 2017, it was finally right. The puzzle pieces were all fitting together. I had a pretty spiffy little book, if I did say so.

Actually, let me back that up. It wasn't just a spiffy little book. That makes it sound too simple. I can't recall a time I'd ever felt prouder of something I'd written. I'd learned SO much about writing over the nearly four years I'd spent on this book. I finally understood how some people could spend years working on a novel. I finally understood that you're never as done as you think you are, that if you have the patience and wherewithal to dig deep (and if you have, as I do, an agent who is willing to walk those steps with you like a steady blessing), you will uncover treasures you never dreamed were there. I learned that sometimes a story comes to you whole, but many times, it's a careful sort of archaeological dig on a massive beast whose bones are scattered and lodged in bedrock, and you'll have to find stores of tenacity you didn't know existed to unearth that fucker. I'd been calling myself a writer for a long time up to this point, but it finally felt earned in a way that hummed deep.

The Day of the Deal

I'm not a publisher, but something tells me that spring is a great time to sell books. The weather is improving. People aren't all dropping from the flu. Trade events are gearing up, giving people in the industry something to talk about. We're looking toward summer and fun and rebirth. And wouldn't you know it, there was a shiny new book about to hit editors' desks that seemed to exemplify all those things. But I was bracing myself. SECRET THINGS was a whirlwind that ended in disappointment. However, I also knew that MRS MILLER was a different type of book. I had all the right elements in place, carefully shaped over time the way water shapes rock, and I had a badass agent out there peddling it. I felt about as good as I had any right to expect.

Of course, expectations of a sale notwithstanding, things didn't go how I expected them to go. In fact, they got . . . big.

I didn't expect the level of sheer excitement I ultimately encountered once editors started reading it. I also didn't expect in a million years that the book would to go to auction, a long-held dream of many aspiring writers that is even more exhilarating and crazy-making than you might expect it to be. Much much more. I thought I would entice a single editor and that would be that, the nobody kid with a pretty okay book, but still a nobody kid, at least in this particular landscape. I didn't think I would end up having a choice between an array of editors who were ALL fantastic. It was like someone presenting me with a silver tray on which there were keys to an Audi, a Lexus, a Mercedes, and a Tesla and being told I had to pick one.

And finally, I didn't expect that we would be closing on a life-changing book deal with Putnam on April 6th, 2018, ten years to the day that I wrote my first piece of fiction as an adult, a coincidence that I think will both startle and amuse me long into old age.

But that's where we are now. I somehow managed to write my way through those hallowed publishing gates. And I have an editor!! Her name is Margo Lipschultz, and she is beyond fantastic, with a passion for MRS MILLER that will no doubt ensure its success once it goes out into the world. Our connection was immediate, and I hope I get to work with her for a long time to come. You know how exciting it is to say the words "my editor?" Every bit as exciting as it still is to say "my agent."

Ten years. Ten goddamn years. Millions of words written and erased and rewritten, shaped into stories both good and not-so-good, fed by some steady supply of hope--a supply not always so abundant, but always there, nonetheless--that they would bring me here. Countless rejections and late nights, obsessive thoughts about people who only live inside my head but feel like friends, enemies, and sometimes intimate partners. And oh boy, the doubt constantly chasing me down, even until the second I glimpsed this morning's latest milestone, the Publishers Marketplace listing with my name on it. 


There are other things happening with this book right now (exciting international things!!) that I don't think I'm cleared to announce widely yet, but suffice it to say, it only begins here. World domination is in progress as we speak.

On Nearly Giving Up

The thing is, I was very VERY close to quitting this whole thing not so long ago. In fact, it was only in recent weeks I'd started having a serious conversation with myself, where I allowed that it was okay to quit if MRS MILLER didn't sell, that I'd given this whole author thing ten years to bear fruit, and if I was tired, I had permission to move on. I have, after all, found success in my little crochet business. I also started a job with Pepsi back in January. I'm still developing a podcast that I hope to start up later this year. I still have my teaching gigs at the arts center. I've spent the last 18 months getting on top of my health, losing weight, exercising, defeating type 2 diabetes. My husband and I have started learning how to save a little money and think more seriously about the next part of our lives together, with our kids being nearly grownups themselves now. Essentially, I'd reached age thirty-eight with a pretty nice and full life, and for the first time in a very long time, I was at peace with myself. My whole life's meaning was no longer wrapped up in becoming a successful author; it was no longer revolving around Getting The Deal. I decided I wouldn't feel like a failure if it didn't work out. You simply CAN'T feel like a failure if you try this hard at something for this long.

And it seems like the moment I'd finally come to this realization, when I finally closed my eyes, let loose my breath, and slackened my grip, it happened. Ten years to the day, full circle in in the most literal way.

I can't say for sure I actually would have quit, at least forever. I only knew that I had to feel like it was okay to do it. I had to remind myself that there was room in one life for more than one dream. Sometimes, just the permission to let go is all the heart really needs, even if you decide to keep holding on.

The writing fire is now lit in me anew, forged by a different kind of purpose, to build on this newfound success. I have the next book in front of me to polish up while I wait for notes on MRS MILLER (from my editor!!!!), and there are more ideas ticking away in the back of my mind, waiting for their turn.

Finally, I am so elated to be part of the Putnam team. Putnam. FREAKING PUTNAM. Is this even real?! Will the fireworks in my brain ever stop? I'm so grateful to my amazing agent not only for making it happen, but for putting up with all my jitters along the way, to my family and friends for holding me up and believing well after I'd begun to wane. You absolutely can't do something like this alone.

Watch this space for more news on the book as it develops! Cover art and more! Then watch your local bookstores. I'll tell you when.

12.06.2017

On Going Keto, Losing 100+ Pounds, Reversing Type 2 Diabetes, and Feeling (Mostly) 19 Again

As we enter the holidays and the Season of New Resolutions, I've been getting a lot of questions from people looking to start a ketogenic diet. But why are they coming to me, you might be wondering? First, I'll provide a little backstory for people who don't know me all that well, and then I'll get to answering some basic questions. If you know my story, feel free to skip ahead to the next section.

How I Got Here

In mid-December of 2016, I went to the doctor complaining of extreme fatigue, thirst, and a litany of other symptoms I was almost certain were those of Type 2 diabetes. Not only do I have a very strong family history of this disease, but I was carrying a whole lot of risk factors of my own. 410 pounds worth of them, to be exact.

Now look, I'm no stranger to being fat. Starting at puberty and beyond, I've weighed in excess of 200, then 300, then eventually 400 pounds.  I've spoken at length about the need for more body positivity, for respecting that good health is possible at a multitude of sizes (I will tie back into this in a bit). But despite these beliefs, I knew at some point along the way, I'd crossed a threshold where I could no longer make the claim to good health. I had bad acid reflux and other digestive problems. My knees, ankles, and hips were growing too painful and weak to support me. The same could be said for many chairs. In fact, the one I'm sitting in now is meant to support up to 500lbs. I'd been thinking ahead, see. Furthermore, the largest sizes in most plus size stores were becoming too small, and I was being relegated to online stores that carried sizes larger than 4X. Even such small, practical things like tying my shoes and washing my body were becoming harder to manage. Worse, I was also becoming clumsier. Because there was so much weight hanging from my skeleton, I could no longer prevent falls the way I used to. Anytime I tripped, my ass went down hard. In fact, it was best to just roll into the fall to prevent a worse injury that would result from stopping that much momentum. That lack of basic control is really scary, and I feared that if I did really hurt myself, my size would present a barricade to proper and prompt treatment. Getting a 400+ pound person onto a stretcher and out of a house for instance, or onto an operating table is a burden I was terrified to place on medical personnel as well as myself, never mind the increased risks associated with things like general anesthesia for people my size. Again, this wasn't just about being generally fat. Most people can carry around an extra 30 to even 100 pounds without pressing their luck too hard in this area, but I was beyond that. I was the size of two large people at this point. 

And let's be honest here. I didn't get there by being judicious with my food choices. Yes, there are plenty of studies pointing to how obese people don't necessarily eat more than thinner people, but that their genetic makeup can control how their body stores calories. And yes, I do believe there is a lot of validity to this, which is why what I was doing was even worse, because I wasn't paying any real attention to what I put in my mouth. I ate everything I wanted in whatever quantities I wanted, even while knowing I would pay digestive hell for it later. Inside my mind, I was going for broke for as long as I could until the slack ran out of the rope. And it finally ran out just before Christmas last year when my fasting blood sugar was tested at 186 and my Hemoglobin A1C test came back at 7.6 (anything above 7 is classified as diabetic). 

Granted, as far as diabetes diagnoses go, it could have been much worse. I know people who receive diagnosis with blood sugar over 400 and A1Cs in double digits. I'm lucky I got in there when I did, because it sure as hell wasn't going to get any better at the rate I was going. My doctor started me on Metformin and didn't give me much diet and nutrition advice after that. I've come to find out that this is pretty much the standard protocol with diabetes management anymore, which is disappointing to say the least. Luckily I've always been a precocious self-starter type, and I already knew carbs/sugar would have to be addressed immediately. It comes down to this: Type 2 diabetes results from your body no longer being able to properly use the insulin it produces, which means you wind up with a whole lot of extra glucose floating around in your body. If you have too much sugar in your body, the best thing you can probably do is stop putting so much of it in your damn mouth. 

So off I went learning about keto and how to get going. The following section will hopefully get you going on some basics.

December 2016, just after my Type 2 diagnosis
Getting Going On Keto

Now hopefully, you've been doing your homework on this already, so I'm not going to cover every single base here. The first site I tend to send people to is Diet Doctor, which provides a good introduction to how this way of eating works, as well as some tasty recipes. There is a membership you can join, but there is plenty of info you can glean there for free.

The ketogenic diet is considered a low carb/high fat (LCHF) diet with moderate protein intake. But there is a misconception at work here that going keto means you go from eating bread and pasta to bacon dipped in butter for every meal, and I'm just gonna have to stop you folks right there. The high fat is really just a relative term. With your carbs restricted and your protein moderate, the fat macro takes up a bigger slice of the pie chart you see below here:


These are my current target macros using the calculator here. Yours will vary. And you will notice that yes, 61% of my daily calories CAN come from fat. BUT, I would rather use the fat on my body. Which brings me to the first rule of the ketogenic diet:

FAT IS NOT A GOAL MACRO. Eat enough fat to keep hunger at bay and your food tasting good. It's okay if you don't eat even half what the calculator says you can eat. But in the beginning, as your body begins to transition from burning carbs for fuel to burning fat, you're probably going to be feeling hungry, sluggish, and a bit out of sorts. I ate a lot more fat during those days than I do now. Fat kicks hunger and cravings to the curb. Fat keeps your mind from wandering over to all the chips and other junk food you're probably jonesing for. My fat intake included a lot of things like fattier meat cuts (ribeye, ground chuck, chicken thighs, pork belly, sausage/bacon) cheese, butter on my steaks, Bulletproof coffee, spoonfuls of coconut oil, and nuts. After a couple months, I eventually pared back on all that, because my body was now using its own fat stores to keep my hunger at bay. I now enjoy leaner meats and (gladly) took the butter back out of my coffee (I never liked it much to begin with). So really, fat is like a training wheel. Enjoy it and all its benefits in the beginning, but eventually, let your body be your fat macro.

This brings me to the next guideline:

PROTEIN IS YOUR GOAL MACRO.  The math states we should be eating anywhere from .06g to 1g of protein per pound of lean muscle mass (that's what's left over after you subtract your body fat percentage), but since most of us don't know our actual body fat percentage, this macro is often more of a ballpark figure. The general rule is that sedentary people can get away with the bare minimum of the .06g figure while active people can get closer to 1g. I try to strike a balance here by meeting a minimum of 80g daily. Some days will be higher, some lower, but in the end, it balances out.

And finally, the thing this brings me to carbs:

CARBS ARE YOUR LIMIT MACRO. And that's NET carbs (the amount left over after subtracting indigestible carbs like fiber and some sugar alcohols). Technically, most people can maintain some ketosis with anything under 50g net carbs. When I was starting out, and for about 6 or 7 months thereafter, I stuck pretty faithfully to 20g net a day. Often, I was much less than that. However, this is a number that you will have to play with on your own in order to find a sweet spot. Most people will find that 20 grams is something they can stick to for a while, but probably not forever. But I definitely recommend when first starting out to stick to the 20g limit in order to induce your body more quickly into ketosis.

Now I will bulletpoint a bunch of other wisdoms I eventually discovered as I got going on keto. 

  • ELECTROLYTES ARE LIFE. Keto is a highly diuretic way of eating. This is because when you're storing excess sugar for energy, your body requires a certain amount of water to hold it in place. The early days of keto will have you likely peeing a lot, because your body is releasing all of that water. This means that you'll also be shedding salt, as well as magnesium and potassium. This can result in sluggishness, nausea, constipation, muscle cramps, crankiness, and brain fog, otherwise referred to as "keto flu." This can be avoided by adding extra salt to your food, drinking a cup of broth, or taking a shot or two of pickle brine. You can also sprinkle a little bit of salt into your water bottle. If you get leg cramps, you very likely need magnesium as well.
  • YOU DON'T REALLY NEED KETOSTIX. People on this diet will tell you to pick up some ketostix at the local pharmacy so you can test your urine for ketone bodies. And that's all fine and good if you want to do it, but a few caveats. These sticks won't paint a very helpful picture for you if you're more than a couple weeks into keto. That's because over time, your body will stop excreting ketone bodies into your urine because it will actually be USING them. Furthermore, you can usually tell when you're in ketosis through physical symptoms (higher energy levels, less hunger, more mental clarity). If you must know your ketone levels, a blood meter is a lot more reliable, but the strips are crazy expensive and not usually covered by insurance. 
  • DON'T OBSESS OVER "CLEAN" FOOD. This is a bit of a controversial view, I realize, but a lot of people who follow this lifestyle will tell you to buy only Kerrygold butter and grass-fed beef and organic vegetables. If you CAN do those things, great. But please don't let an inability to afford those things bar you from getting on the keto train. I've seen people sabotage themselves more than once with this erroneous thinking. You'll do plenty fine on conventional foods. In fact, 99% of the time, that's all I buy. This diet should not be breaking your bank. In fact, over time, it can save you a lot of money, because of how much less you'll be eating overall. 
  • FEEL FREE TO EASE IN. I was diagnosed with diabetes on 12/21/16. I started keto on 1/2/17. In that span of two weeks, I started cutting back on bread, pasta, grains, and sugar and watching portion sizes. We ate through several pantry items. By the time I started actually doing keto, it was much less of a shock to the system, and we also didn't have to throw out a ton of food. 
  • TRACKING IS GOOD. Get yourself a tracking app for your foods, especially in the beginning. Accountability is important so you can see exactly where you're strong or need improvement in your day. It helped me a lot to know exactly what 20g of carbs a day looked like. My Fitness Pal is probably the most common app for this. Admittedly, the food database can be a bit of a mess, but it's also the most comprehensive one out there.
  • EXERCISE IS GREAT, BUT... 90% of the weight battle is about what you eat. Working out will make you feel good, maintain weight, help with blood sugar, tone muscles, and make you stronger both mentally and physically, and as you lose more and more weight, you'll have a ton of energy and will WANT to exercise. But it also has a tendency to encourage more eating if you aren't careful. Focus on getting the diet under control first. Go for light walk if you must. Lift some free weights. Heavy exercise can always come later. 
  • AVOID THE SCALE. Okay, I know most of you will ignore this. I do too. But it doesn't hurt to remind folks that the scale is actually quite evil and it lies a lot, and you should avoid weighing yourself every day, otherwise you'll be in for a lot of unnecessary heartbreak. It won't tell you that the extra three pounds you gained overnight is due to the fact that you haven't pooped in a couple days (keto will likely slow your bowel movements) or you're retaining water because you're dehydrated or in a particular part of your monthly cycle (ladies). It won't tell you that weight fluctuates a LOT for all sorts of reasons having NOTHING AT ALL to do with fat loss or gain. And it sucks because, there is SO MUCH MORE to being kinder to your body than a number, so many more victories to celebrate that have nothing at all to do with actual weight loss. I try very hard to remember all my non-scale achievements, because there are too many to count, and they mean more. Which leads me to:
  • WEIGHT LOSS IS NEVER LINEAR. For me, with the exception of the first few weeks when I was losing a couple pounds seemingly every day, every ten pounds has been a rollercoaster. I'm up two, down one, down three, up two. I'll go sometimes an entire week or more with no net change. This despite carefully watching what I eat, maintaining a caloric deficit, and staying somewhat active. Then all of a sudden I drop six pounds, and I'm onto the next ten-pound bracket for the next one step forward, two steps back, one giant leap forward. I haven't tracked my weigh-ins by graph, but if I had, I guarantee you it would look like a volatile stock market ticker. Nevertheless, if I zoomed out, I would see the line trending downward, and that's the important part. Don't get too hung up on the day to day. Changes creep up on you when you're shrinking, just like they do when you're growing. Somehow, some way in less than a year, I've lost the equivalent weight of a small adult.
  • YES, HEAVY CREAM HAS CARBS. You will likely be directed to start replacing milk with heavy whipping cream for certain recipes, and that's because there is a lot fewer carbs in it than in milk. However, the 0g carbs you read on the nutritional label isn't a true or infinite zero. There is, in reality, about half a carb per serving in heavy cream. Labeling laws permit a food manufacturer to put 0g if there is less than one gram. When you're trying to live on 20g a day, the carb numbers can add up really fast if you're using a lot of it, so if a recipe is calling for a cup of heavy cream, beware.
  • EMBRACE THE SIMPLICITY. Being keto means your shopping is easier. Protein and vegetables, full fat dairy, nuts. If you live with people who aren't doing keto, you might be wondering how you can do your thing while feeding everyone else in the house, but it's really simple. You can all still eat the same proteins and vegetables. Just leave the starches off your plate. Or have spaghetti squash with your sauce and make noodles for everyone else. Have your burger off the bun on a bed of greens and save the buns for everyone else. In the beginning, it might be hard to prepare starchy or sweet foods for your kids, for instance, but eventually it gets easier. Then again, a family tends to benefit as a whole from having less junk in the house. I know my kids are eating far less sugar now than they were a year ago, and that's perfectly fine. 
  • BE CAREFUL WITH ALCOHOL. Yes, you can enjoy some alcoholic beverages while doing keto. You just have to avoid beer and sugary mixers. That said, ketosis makes you a much cheaper date in the booze department. One or two drinks might be all it takes to do you in, so watch out. I learned this lesson the hard way in the beginning.
  • A BAD MEAL WON'T RUIN YOU. Yes, you will sometimes indulge in a real piece of cake or bread or ice cream or whatever, and when you do, you might fall into a panic and think you've ruined everything. Knock it off. The second you start bringing shame into the equation, the sabotage has already begun. Shame is a fucking killer. Forever is a long time, and if you set such unrealistic expectations on yourself that you'll NEVER eat (insert "naughty" food here) again, the only possible result IS failure. Enjoy your treat for what it was and move on. Remember how good you feel without those foods being a daily part of your diet, but how good you still feel having the occasional treat. Go easy on yourself. I've been doing this nearly a year. I fully enjoyed my birthday and Thanksgiving with "treats," and I plan to do so for Christmas. The difference now is I know the difference between eating for a special occasion and eating day to day for sustenance. They are two different things, and I now enjoy those lovely indulgences even more because of it. This is how it should be.
  • YES YOU CAN DO THIS WITHOUT A GALLBLADDER. This is a common question, and of course I always have to tell people to defer to their doctors, but for the record, I've been without a gallbladder for several years. I haven't had a single problem that way with this diet, and there are scores of people who tell the same story. I also have the lab work to back it up.
SO HAS IT WORKED?

12/6/17. A work in progress!
In less than a year, I have lost 115 lbs, four pants sizes and 5 shirt sizes. My fasting and post-meal blood sugar numbers stabilized within the first couple weeks. After 3 months, my first A1C test was 5.5 (down from 7.6). After 9 months, it's now a 5, and that's even after incorporating more carbs than the initial days of the diet. My triglyceride numbers, which were over 270 at diagnosis, are now well under 100. I still take 500mg of Metformin daily, but I could probably stop that if I wanted. However, it does help with the insulin resistance and I'm having no adverse side effects from it. I no longer have any symptoms of GERD or irritable bowel. I no longer get "hangry." My energy levels are through the roof. I have physical stamina, mental clarity, and I also have a lot less anxiety and irritability overall. With the exception of having some of the ailments of a normally aging body (my joints say I'm not really 19 anymore as much as I would like to be), I haven't felt this good in nearly two decades.

With my current state of health, I could just stop here and maintain my current weight and remain as healthy as a horse, and that's still with a good chunk of fat left on my frame (there's that tie back in to Health at Every Size, which I still firmly believe in). I'm in a place now where I can find clothes that fit, where I can sit in a normal sized chair, where I no longer feel like my body is a major injury waiting to happen on the other side of a bad fall. In many ways, I've already attained every goal I set out onto this journey with. But I'm happy to keep going with what I'm doing, because so far, it's been virtually effortless getting here, and if that means my body keeps shrinking, so be it. I can remain the size I am now and still feel comfortable inside my own skin, with healthy blood markers and a lot of get up and go. I also feel like I'm eating mindfully now, rather than mindlessly cramming food into my mouth and being ruled by constant craving for something sweet and something more. I don't think that's something I've ever had, and I'm so grateful for it now.

So yes, this works, without a doubt. This has been normal life for me for nearly a year and I foresee no return to the ways that made me sick, anymore than I see lighting up another cigarette after 7 years of being nicotine-free. And unlike a diet, I don't feel hungry or deprived. I don't have to do anything high maintenance or expensive to stay on this path. I no longer have food-related anxiety or shame. I feel more closely in tune with my body than I ever have.

Maybe it sounds silly to say that diabetes saved my life, but in a way it did, because it brought me to keto, and keto brought me a peace and sense of control I've been waiting my entire life to feel.

Feel free to drop questions in the comments. I know y'all probably have plenty.