'I Ate A Modified Low-Carb Diet To Lose 110 Pounds After My Heart Condition Diagnosis'

Susana Rodriguez, as told to Emily Shiffer
·5 min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Women's Health

My name is Susana Rodriguez (@myhealth.iswealth), and I’m 29 years old. I live in Los Angeles and I'm a full-time mom. After being diagnosed with heart issues, I decided to start eating a flexible low-carb diet, practicing portion control with the Lose It! app, and walking for weight loss to lose 110 pounds.

Before I started my weight-loss journey, I struggled a lot with having the energy to do simple things. Putting on my shoes or playing with my daughters took so much effort. I also struggled with self confidence. Being overweight made me so insecure. Though being overweight didn’t stop me from having happy moments in my life, I was unhappy with myself. At my heaviest I weighed 273 pounds.

In 2019, heart issues started to make me feel worse than ever before.

I started suffering from heart palpitations and an irregular rhythm. I also experienced chest pain and pressure, faintness, and fatigue. I couldn’t even walk for seven minutes to pick my daughter up from school without feeling like I was going to black out. I was in and out of the ER all year, and I kept getting misdiagnosed with anxiety. But I knew something was wrong with my heart.

After finally being referred to a cardiologist in December 2019, I had an echocardiogram and other tests done. My cardiologist told me that I had moderate left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), which basically means I have an enlarged heart and, if left untreated, it could lead to sudden cardiac arrest or heart failure.

I had spent all of 2019 depressed, and imagining dying and leaving my girls. I was desperate to feel well. So in January 2020, I knew the time was now to turn my lifestyle around and take control of my health.

My cardiologist suggested I go on a low-carb diet.

When I looked at the guidelines for a low-carb diet and what that meant, they said I needed to limit certain healthy things like fruit, oatmeal, and dairy that I didn’t want to cut out. So I decided to do a low-carb diet my own way.

For my heart health, I avoid greasy and fried foods, and I pay attention to sodium, sugar, and cholesterol on nutrition labels. I also try to avoid foods high in trans and saturated fats. I track my food in the Lose It! app and practice portion control. If there is anything I want but it isn’t heart-healthy, I make my own healthy alternative. I don’t feel deprived or restricted, and I feel in control of how I eat.

Here’s what I eat in a day now.

  • Breakfast: Dymatize Protein smoothie with papaya, berries, kale/spinach, hemp hearts, and almond milk; or a breakfast sandwich made with a multi-grain muffin, Canadian bacon, egg whites, fiesta blend cheese, spinach, and fruit on the side.

  • Lunch: Barilla grain and legume protein spaghetti, turkey meatballs, mozzarella cheese, and veggie pasta sauce.

  • Snacks: My favorite snacks are Dannon Light and Fit Greek Yogurt with pomegranate arils or black bean hummus with veggies.

  • Dinner: Turkey burgers on cauliflower sandwich thins with lettuce, tomato, pickles, Swiss cheese, and veggie ketchup, with sweet potato fries.

  • Dessert: I love Yasso mint chocolate chip or cookie dough Greek yogurt ice cream bars.

I wasn’t cleared to exercise right away because of my heart palpitations and chest pain. So I started with light walks around my neighborhood in March 2020.

I would walk three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes. It was really challenging at first because I wasn't used to getting any movement in, and I would get dizzy and feel faint. But it quickly became my favorite way to de-stress and move my body. Eventually, I was cleared to exercise.

Now, a typical week of exercise includes walking two miles, five days a week. I also enjoy doing Zumba Toning twice a week and HIIT with dumbbells or bodyweight three times a week. I got into HIIT by playing games on the WayBetter app, and I fell in love with how strong it made me feel.

These three changes made the biggest difference in my weight-loss results.

  1. I learned to log my food daily. Learning to track my food was the first big game changer in my journey. I had tried losing weight numerous times before, and I never learned how to be in control of my portions or really pay attention to my food. Doing this has made me feel true freedom.

  2. I kept it simple and stayed consistent. It’s easy to want to make a complete switch when you want to start on a weight-loss journey, but it can get overwhelming. I started with simple walking and making healthier food swaps. Learning to keep it simple and staying consistent with my method has paid off.

  3. I made the time for me. You cannot wait around for the perfect time to work on your health. I have two young girls and a family to tend to, but I made a point to tend to myself every day. Sometimes I have more time than others. Even if I only have 30 minutes, I use what I have and make the most of it.

I have lost 110 pounds in 11 months.

The 110 pounds I have lost doesn’t compare to the weight lifted off my shoulders. I am now truly happy. It's not about the weight you lose itself, but the life you gain. I have never felt stronger. I feel unstoppable. Everyday isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. I’d rather struggle every day with trying to better my health than struggle with the consequences of neglecting it.

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