Weight Loss

How she did it: Cutting back on sugar and carbs

How she did it: Cutting back on sugar and carbs

Photography by Heather Douglas Image by: Photography by Heather Douglas Author: Canadian Living

Weight Loss

How she did it: Cutting back on sugar and carbs

Cathryn Dunowski
Age: 35
Lost: 213 pounds
Occupation: Retail manager in Huntsville, ON
Time period: October 2011 to December 2012
Height: 5'7"
Weight loss: 358 to 145 pounds
Pant size: From size 28 to 4

Where she started
Growing up, Cathryn Dunowski had always been athletic. But when she became pregnant, her weight skyrocketed from 170 pounds to 278 pounds—and it wouldn't come off. After becoming pregnant with her second child, she experienced health problems and tipped the scales at more than 500 pounds.

"My body just shut down," says Cathryn. Over the years, she tried everything from a personal trainer to Weight Watchers, but her size made exercise a challenge, and her weight loss always seemed to plateau.

How she did it
In 2011, when Cathryn couldn't fit into her size-28 pants, she knew she had hit rock bottom. "I said, 'This is ridiculous. Something's not working.'" She went to see her doctor, who ran blood tests: Cathryn had insulin resistance, an obesity-related condition in which the body doesn't properly respond to insulin, the hormone that regulates glucose in the blood. Cathryn's doctor referred her to a clinic, where a nutritionist and nurse taught her a new way of eating.

She cut out much of the natural and unnatural sugars and carbs that had been sending her pancreas into insulin overdrive, and began focusing more on veggies and healthful proteins. She also followed a regular eating schedule to keep her blood sugar steady throughout the day. The pounds started coming off each week. Her nurse recommended "conversational exercise"—activity she could maintain a conversation through—so she began walking with her husband and, later, strength training.  

Where she is now
Cathryn's doctor says she has reversed decades' worth of damage to her body. She now looks at food as fuel and enjoys cooking healthful, creative fare such as rutabaga fries, cauliflower rice and zucchini pasta. (She does all her cooking prep on Sundays.) And while Cathryn used to have trouble finding clothes that fit, she can now shop anywhere she wants. Her husband jokes that he might need a second job to afford it!

Lessons she learned
Cathryn attributes much of her success to her support system—her husband and two teens, her nurse and her coworkers, who cheered her on for her weekly weigh-ins. She calls her nurse the "little angel" on her shoulder, and hopes to help other women in her situation. "I've been in contact with another woman already, helping her through. It's really inspiring me to keep going," she says. "I'm just on fire now. I want to help everybody!"

Pro tips
Insulin resistance occurs when cells fail to respond to insulin, the hormone that helps regulate glucose in the blood. When you're resistant, the body overcompensates with more insulin. The condition is often genetic and can be brought on by weight gain, but it also spurs further weight gain through hormonal changes. And although the blood might be full of glucose, tissues aren't able to use it, so the body stores it as fat.

The first treatment for insulin resistance is weight loss. Cathryn did an excellent job losing weight, but she may have cut out more carbs than necessary, since the body can still handle complex carbs. It was great that she incorporated exercise. Typically, those with insulin resistance should exercise for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, increasing to one hour daily for weight loss. Cathryn should maintain her healthy habits and keep her family involved, since her kids may have inherited increased risk of insulin resistance. The best treatment is prevention!

— Dr. Afshan Zahedi, endocrinologist and medical director, Women's College Hospital.

For more inspirational weight loss stories, check out how one mom lost 100 pounds
This story was originally titled "Turning Point" in the May 2014 issue.
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Weight Loss

How she did it: Cutting back on sugar and carbs