My name is Natalie Gruendl (@tasteslovely) and I am 33 years old. I live in the Bay Area of California. I’m a full-time food blogger at Tastes Lovely and full-time mom to Ryan, 1 1/2, and Josh, 4. I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart Shawn for seven years. I created a hybrid Whole30-meets-keto plan for myself and have lost over 57 pounds.
I’ve always been curvy and tall (I’m 5’9”), even in middle school. But this was before an hourglass shape was as accepted and celebrated as it is today. In the 90s, when I was in middle school, the beauty standard was waify, thin models. That was never me. I felt big back then, but looking back, I was healthy and perfect.
Fast-forward decades later to having kids: I didn’t make my health a priority after having my boys. I would cook whatever sounded delicious, which was usually pasta or comfort foods. Or, we would order takeout like Chinese food or pizza—quick meals that we would eat mindlessly. My husband and I would also have treats after the kids went to bed. We’d collapse on the couch with ice cream or cookies every single night. I was addicted to sugar.
I gradually gained weight and had such low energy. I would sneak in naps every day while the kids would nap. I became stuck in a cycle of feeling tired, not cooking healthy meals, and then being tired again. The thing was, though, I was still happy, loving my life and my husband and my kids. In my mind, I was just a little curvier, but still cute.
But then I would see pictures of myself and think, wow, that must be a really bad angle. I can’t be that big. This happened more and more frequently, until I realized that I really was that big. I knew I had to make a change.
As my kids got older, I realized how much they imitated what they saw from their parents. So I didn’t want to tell them to eat healthy—I wanted to show them.
I wanted to be the mom that had endless energy to play with them at the park. And the mom that looked healthy and put together when volunteering in their class.
After my youngest turned 1 year old and was fully eating solid foods, I felt ready to approach my own eating, with weight loss in mind. I didn’t want to stress and feel mom guilt over a possible drop in my milk supply if I changed my eating habits, so after he turned 1, it felt like the perfect time.
I committed to eating healthier long-term on September 5, 2019, and I jumpstarted my journey with Whole30.
To be clear, I’ve done numerous Whole30 rounds in the past. In fact, I’ve done Whole30 every January and September for years to reset after the holidays, and then again after the summer. I love how Whole30 teaches you how to have a healthy relationship with food, avoid all processed foods, and also helps you ID foods that cause issues with your digestion.
My food blog, which I launched in 2013, features tons of Whole30 recipes. But in the fall of 2019 when I committed to my journey for the long term, I kept having followers ask me for keto recipes. So I looked in to the diet and ended up loving how it focused on eating more fat, a moderate amount of protein, and fewer carbs. I had tried low-carb dieting back in high school and saw great results. But in high school, my low-carb diet looked like just eating cheese and bacon. Not the healthiest.
So, I decided to combine my love of eating the wholesome, real foods of Whole30 with the high-fat, low-carb approach of keto.
I dubbed my approach Clean Keto—and *this* is the food regimen that has really stuck for me. Any foods that are both Whole30 and low carb, I eat. I’m also very particular about the meat I eat; I try and eat all organic, pasture-raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. And all the produce I get is organic, too.
I learned the importance of healthy ingredients from Whole30 and have noticed a big difference in my mental health after switching to this type of lifestyle. Since I’m such an over-achiever, I started intermittent fasting, too, and I eat between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. The results have been astounding. The weight is melting off, I have more energy than I have ever had in my life, I’m sleeping great, I’m in a better mood, and my hunger is much more in control.
Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:
- Breakfast: I eat my first meal of the day around 12. Lately, my first meal has been two cups of spinach sautéed in ghee, with two scrambled eggs. I eat it with a piece of bacon and half an avocado sprinkled with salt, plus a huge glass of water.
- Lunch: My second meal of the day is usually around 3 p.m. I make a Bulletproof coffee in my Vitamix by blending a cup of hot coffee (usually decaf for me!), 1/2-cup of canned coconut milk, a tablespoon of raw cashews (which makes it so creamy), a tablespoon of cacao powder, a tablespoon of monk fruit, two scoops of collagen peptides, and a tablespoon MCT oil. It may not sound like it, but trust me when I say that this fills me up and gives me energy to tackle the second half of the day.
- Snack: If I need something to hold me over, my go-to is always a Chomps grass-fed beef stick.
- Dinner: My favorite meal of the day! I get the most creative with dinner, but a typical meal is skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs roasted in the oven until crispy and golden brown, topped with chimichurri sauce, served with roasted cauliflower and roasted Brussels sprouts. We eat dinner around 6 p.m.
- Dessert: I rarely have dessert, mostly because it can trigger what I call my sugar dragon. But maybe once a week, I’ll make my very favorite keto frosty. In a blender, I combine a cup of ice, 1/3-cup canned coconut milk, a tablespoon of cacao powder, a tablespoon of monk fruit, plus a tablespoon of almond butter. Blend until smooth and thick—and it tastes just like a fast-food frosty. I’ll have it around 7:30 p.m. after the kids go to bed.
About two weeks into my new Clean Keto diet, I decided to face my running fears and start jogging.
I was never athletic. In my entire life, I had never been able to jog even one mile without stopping. But there’s nothing like raising two little boys to give you the confidence that you can really do anything you set your mind to.
I started off using a Couch to 5K app that gradually trains you over an eight-week period. During the first week, you’re only jogging for a minute at a time, so it felt like a realistic plan for me. I also bought a used jogging stroller, strapped in my kids, and started out my jogging journey.
Jogging felt so, so, so hard at first. After my second run attempt I actually Googled, “33-year-old heart attack from jogging.” But I kept at it. I did exactly what the app said. I kept showing up day after day. And after eight weeks? I could jog for 35 minutes straight. I can now jog a 5K in 45 minutes. I’m not the fastest, but hey, I’m doing it. And I’ve never felt stronger, healthier, or more proud of myself.
These are my top three tips for weight-loss success.
- Plan your meals. Map out what you’re going to have each meal, each day, at the beginning of the week, and grocery shop for all of it. Having healthy food in my house and my meals planned out was the most important success hack for me. When I was hungry and didn’t have something planned, I’d be more likely to slip up.
- Avoid your triggers. For me, that was eating out. I didn’t eat out for almost two months straight. This became tricky with social get-togethers, so instead I would invite friends and family over to our house and cook for them. Or, rather than having a meet up be food-focused, we would meet in the afternoons at the park with our kids.
- Reward yourself along the way. After my first week of eating Clean Keto, I rewarded myself with a pedicure. After my first month of jogging, I rewarded myself with a cute new exercise outfit. After I lost 20 pounds, I rewarded myself with a pair of (smaller!) jeans. After I lost 30 pounds, I rewarded myself with a massage. After I ran my first 5K, I rewarded myself with an Apple Watch to keep track of my running goals. Having something to look forward to helps keep me motivated.
Before I started my weight-loss journey, I wish I would have known how amazing I would feel and how much energy I would have.
I love how cute I feel when I get dressed now. I have a new found confidence and self-pride. I love how proud my husband and kids are of me. I feel like I’m setting a great example for them.
My highest weight ever was 255 pounds (and I wasn’t pregnant at that time). And when I started out on my weight-loss journey last year, I was 238 pounds. Now, I finally broke 200 and am 198 pounds, for a total of 57 pounds lost. I don’t have a goal weight in mind, but I’m excited to keep going and find my happy weight.