How a trip to the ER led to one radical weight loss journey

Kalie Marsch has a lightness about her, and I'm not talking about her recent 80 pound weight loss.

Anyone who meets Kalie quickly realizes there's a bright light that shines through everything she does. And while I might be biased as her current colleague and friend, I believe her story is one worth sharing.

Buckle your seat belts, friends, because this is one journey sure to leave you ready to crush your wellness goals!

Kayla Brandon: Take us back to the very beginning — your childhood. Did you struggle with your weight? If so, how has that affected your body image?

Kalie Marsch: I’ve struggled with my weight ever since I was a little kid. I have a lot of family members who are overweight, and growing up, my sister and I lived off of processed foods, soda, candy, etc., which obviously wasn’t healthy (in my parents defense, the whole non-GMO, gluten-free, sugar-free health crazes weren’t a big thing back then, but still).

As I got older, my relationship with food worsened and I became morbidly obese at a young age. And with that, as time progressed, my body image really took a hit. I used to be an emotional eater and would binge eat as if I were never going to eat again, and started getting into horrible eating habits. I would sneak food into my room late at night, binge eat until I could barely move, eat a second or third dinner late at night…the list goes on and on.

At one of my lowest points, I even remember wishing I would have an eating disorder to help put an end to it all, and would even try to make myself vomit after I ate so that I wouldn’t gain weight. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t escape from. My relationship with food and my body image was something I struggled with every second of every day; it wasn’t until high school that I really decided to make an effort with my health and take things into my own hands.

KB: When did you realize your weight was impacting your quality of life?

KM: Looking back, even back to my early years, there were so many instances where my weight impacted my overall quality of life, yet I didn’t want to accept it. I remember being bullied back in middle school and later in high school because of my weight, and what did I do to feel better? I ate! I was somewhat active growing up due to my various stints in tennis, softball, dance, and figure skating, but being overweight obviously made partaking in physical activities like these a lot more difficult. But as every food addict knows, even knowing all of this couldn’t stop me from continuing my poor eating habits.

KB: Have you dieted in the past? If so, what kinds have you tried and were they successful?

KM: Growing up, I was always a “yo-yo” dieter. I’d follow one specific diet, like Atkins, for a short period of time and would then get impatient from not seeing any results, so I’d quit. Then I’d move on to the next fad. Towards the end of my high school years, I started working out religiously and eating health-ier (as in frozen diet meals, gross). I lost about 30 pounds and gained it back soon thereafter. I started college a few months afterwards, re-started my health journey, and ended up losing around 40 pounds between my freshman and sophomore year.

I stopped drinking soda, alcohol, started cooking at home, went to the gym every single day for at least 90 minutes, and was in the best shape of my life, both mentally and physically. Flash forward a few years, after I graduated from college and was no longer following my normal routine, I slowly started to gain the weight back. I ended up moving in with my boyfriend at the time and ended up gaining 80 pounds (the term “happy fat” is real, ya’ll) over a short time span. I had officially topped the scales at my heaviest weight, which was 276 (!!!) pounds. In terms of my health, that’s when I really hit rock bottom.

Kalie Marsch photo

KB: What was the key to your weight loss?

KM: After my 80 pound weight gain, and after experiencing the most excruciating stomach pains ever, in June of 2018 I ended up in the emergency room one night with a bad case of gastritis and a stomach infection, which was all due to my eating habits (I was knowingly eating pretty much all of the foods I had sensitivities to). The ER doctor assigned to me that night gave me one vital piece of advice: change your diet. So that’s exactly what I did. The next day, one of my dearest and closest friends, Carla, convinced me to hop on the ketogenic diet/fasting bandwagon with her, and the rest is history.

With Carla’s help, I immediately started researching and studying everything I needed to know about the keto diet and fasting, and ended up losing roughly 20 pounds within the first month of my new lifestyle change. And with a lot of preparation, I even participated in my first-ever extended water fast, which lasted over 120 hours. Unfortunately my “ah-ha!” moment came down to me spending the night in the ER, but as crazy as it may sound, I’m forever grateful everything happened the way it did. If it weren’t for that experience, and if it weren’t for Carla, I can honestly say I’d probably still be sitting here, bad eating habits and all, miserable with myself.

KB: You're also a fan of functional medicine — tell us more!

KM: I’m very passionate about functional medicine. Following the keto lifestyle and fasting really taught me the importance of knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body, whether it be the type of food you’re eating or the type of skin care products you use. Think of it this way: if you’re consuming foods that are laced with harsh chemicals (I’m talking to you, glyphosate) that are known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters, they’re certainly not going to do your body any good, are they?

The same thing applies to skin care products, makeup, etc. Glyphosate alone, which is a known human carcinogen, has been linked to numerous diseases, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, testicular cancer, liver and kidney diseases, and so much more. What’s worse is that it’s used in all kinds of foods, including soy, wheat, rice, corn, fruits, veggies, and even children’s cereals. Why would anyone want to voluntarily sign themselves up for cancer? Through keto I learned to be more aware of not only the types of food I was eating, but also where they came from. Nowadays, I make sure to thoroughly read food labels and purchase non-GMO, organic foods only. (Pro tip: if you’re ballin’ on a budget, Trader Joe’s has a nice selection of organic fruits and vegetables that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, like Whole Foods does).

Functional medicine is a holistic approach that addresses the underlying causes of the symptoms or disease one is experiencing, instead of masking the problem with medication. So instead of taking medicine to cover up a health issue, wouldn’t you want to figure out what exactly was causing that issue? Taking medicine for issues that you can otherwise solve holistically can wreak havoc on your body — especially your gut — resulting in inflammation that can contribute to disease. I’m a firm believer in whole healing traditions like Chinese medicine and naturopathy to help heal the body, and have experienced firsthand how beneficial these practices are.

Kalie Marsch photo

KB: Do you see yourself living this way for the remainder of your life?

KM: Yes, yes, and YES! I absolutely refuse to go back to the lifestyle and eating habits I had before I started keto and fasting. Not only was I incredibly unhealthy, I was also extremely unhappy with myself. I’ve found a lifestyle that I not only can sustain long-term, but one that is also rewarding in more ways than one. I’m in the best shape of my life both mentally and physically and I couldn’t be happier. Although I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in the past year and a half, I’m determined to keep going and continue reaching my health goals.

KB: Tips and tricks on finding a lifestyle that works for you.

KM: I’ve learned from trial and error that you have to be in the right mentality in order to be successful in making a complete lifestyle change. Whether it be changing up your diet or simply following an exercise routine each week, if you’re not “all in” mentally, you will not succeed long-term. Keeping that in mind, my best piece of advice would be to find something that you know you can sustain. So if you’re “all in” and have the willpower to make a complete, drastic lifestyle change like I did, then go for it! If not, first try taking baby steps to help you reach that “all in” mindset. For example, if you’re addicted to drinking soda every day, try decreasing your intake over a designated timeframe to prepare you for cutting it out of your diet altogether, especially if you know cutting it out cold turkey will have more of an adverse effect on you.

It’s also important to surround yourself with a support system that you can rely on for help when you need it. After all, changing your lifestyle isn’t an easy task! When I first started keto and fasting, having the support of my friend Carla really helped get me through some tough times, especially when it came down to cravings. If I was craving something unhealthy (mainly sugar), I would reach out to Carla and she would remind me all of the reasons why I shouldn’t eat it, along with ways to help combat the craving. My family and friends were also supportive of my lifestyle change, so knowing I had their backing really helped me be successful in the end.

Last but not least, if you want to make a lifestyle change and be successful at it, stop making excuses. I used to live by the motto “I’ll start Monday.” I’d tell myself that I’d start back up with my gym routine on Monday, and once Monday rolled around, I’d find excuses to not go. I’d try and reason with myself and would promise myself that I’d start up again the following Monday. This cycle went on for years and years when it came to exercising and eating healthy. And what did I get out of it? A lot of wasted time that I’ll never get back.

So why start on Monday? Why can’t you start at lunch today or dinner tonight? Why not start right NOW? Procrastinating doesn’t do us any good. Learn to stop making excuses and be proactive. Life really is too short to waste time, especially when it involves your physical and mental health.

Thank you, Kalie, for being so brave and sharing your journey with the KB Fitt tribe!

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