When Tkesha Corggens puts her mind to something, she can accomplish it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she can stick to it. The Toledo, Ohio native attempted to lose weight three times prior to embarking on her current journey, but couldn’t sustain the methods she used for the long-term because she wasn’t doing them for the right reasons.
“In the past, like when I was on Weight Watchers, I was doing it more for society, for other people, not necessarily for me,” she said over the phone. “I’ve done the HCG diet and then I’ve done Weight Watchers, and it wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle for me.”
But after having her daughter, reaching her highest weight of 295 pounds at a petite 5’3″ and being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Tkesha knew she had to find something that worked for her and make it stick — for good.
The 34-year-old found what she needed in the popular keto diet, and since starting her latest weight-loss journey last July, she’s been able to lose 125 pounds without working out. She’s gone from that harrowing 295 down to 168, completely reversed her diabetes diagnosis, and as she says with joy, “I have full-blown collarbones!”
After being overweight for most of her life, getting to this point hasn’t been easy for Tkesha (it’s involved a lot of fasting and remembering her “why”), but it’s certainly been rewarding. We talked to her about what it is about the keto diet that makes her confident that she can stick with it for the rest of her life, how she manages to be nourished when she only eats one meal a day (her personal choice, not a keto guideline), and why the scale never tells the whole story of a body in the process of transforming.
MadameNoire: How long would you say that you’ve struggled with your weight?
Tkesha Corggens: Since I was around 5 years old, honestly. I’ve been overweight all of my life.
Are your earliest memories around the age of 5, and if not, what is it about that age that you pinpoint when it comes to your weight?
Kindergarten I just remember being like one of the biggest kids in my classroom and I can remember my first day of kindergarten and thinking, “Why do all the other kids look so much smaller than me?” And that’s just been literally from kindergarten on up, me being one of the biggest kids in my class. Every year.
Can you remember what your relationship with food was around that time?
I never hid food as a little kid or anything like that but I do know that I was bullied a lot so I did use food as a comfort, especially once I got to my teenage years. If I was sad I ate, if I got bullied I ate. If I was happy I would eat. I would overeat all of the time. I wouldn’t consider myself a binge eater, but I definitely overate. I never ate healthy and I ate for every occasion or emotion. That’s how I coped with things, through food.
As you got bigger, when would you say you felt like your weight started to hold you back?
I would say probably around 16 years old. That’s in high school, and I hated gym because I couldn’t do things. I didn’t want to play any sports, climbing stairs was difficult, and I went to a school that had three floors, so that was the beginning stage of noticing the weight was hindering me from doing things that other people can do fairly easy. That just kind of lasted throughout the rest of my years. Physical activity, I didn’t want to participate or do any of it because it was hard for me.
You said you lost a good amount of weight in the past three times before getting it right. What was it about those methods that you think didn’t work for you?
I’m good at losing weight because once I put my mind to something I will do it, but it’s the sustainability of something. Weight Watchers wasn’t sustainable for me because you have to pay for it constantly and then the point system — it’s like you’re constantly thinking about losing weight. You’re so focused on it, and that didn’t work for me. I just couldn’t sustain those types of programs then, but I feel like now, it’s something I feel like I enjoy doing. I think about the weight loss but it’s like, I know I can live this way forever. I feel like I can stay keto the rest of my life and it won’t be a problem. I think those were the differences: not doing it for me, doing it for other people. I remember when I first started losing weight with Weight Watchers it was because of my mom. She came to me like, “Tkesha, you need to lose some weight. I want you to lose some weight because you’re getting big.” It wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to do it. She came to me like, “I’ll pay for your first meeting and all of that.” It was more so for other people, for society, and like I said, I couldn’t sustain those types of programs.
What pushed you to make a change, and how did you decide you were going to try doing so through the keto diet?
This time I actually had my daughter and I reached my highest weight of 295. I was struggling to get on the actual horse to lose weight. I was actually fighting mentally with it, and I feel like God placed a stumbling block in my life, which was diabetes. I woke up on July 16 with a blood sugar number of 400+ fasting. I hadn’t eaten or anything. I went to the doctor the next day and was confirmed that I had Type 2 diabetes and that really pushed me to say, I’m not going to just live like this. I’m not going to settle for this. I’m not just going to take the medications that they give me. I’m not going to take this diagnosis and run with it. I’m going to try my hardest to correct it, to fix it, and that’s what jump-started me. I knew that keto would be the way to go because when I lost weight two years prior, I had lost 50 pounds just eating low carb. I knew that helped with blood sugars, so that’s why I decided to go the keto route, which was literally cutting out most carbs, and my blood sugar dropped instantly. That’s what led me to live the ketogenic lifestyle.
What is it about keto that makes you feel like you could sustain this way of eating and living for the long term? There is a specific way you have to eat to keep the body in ketosis and for some, that can be a lot. For you, you seem good with it.
I guess I feel like I can stay this way because the food to me is so good that I don’t feel deprived at all. I know that the food I’m eating, I enjoy eating. And not just that, but also, I love how I feel physically. The energy that I have, the mental clarity that I get from being in ketosis, I just love how I feel eating this way. I can keto-fy anything [laughs]. I can make me a cake and it’s still low carb and delicious. That’s the main difference. I’m not eating low-fat rice cakes and stuff that’s not necessarily enjoyable to a person. I’m eating food that tastes good to me and so that’s what I think is most important with anyone who’s on their journey. They have to find that lifestyle, whether it’s vegan or pescatarian or keto, you have to find something you feel like you can live with, with foods that you enjoy because I think that’s a huge key to success. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to sustain it.
It’s been a year since you started your journey and the keto lifestyle. When it comes to your diabetes, have you seen a change in that and gone back to levels that are before pre-diabetic?
I am no longer pre-diabetic at all. I’ve completely reversed my diabetes. When I went the first time and got diagnosed, my A1C was 10.3, and when I went back this time, it was a 4.8, so it wasn’t even pre-diabetic. Pre-diabetic I believe is like a 5.5 or a 5.7, so I completely reversed it in nine and a half months.
That’s insane. Congratulations!
Yeah, that’s the best part of it all. That was the best day of my life.
How do you specifically go about your keto diet? I read on your page that you do consistent fasting and you don’t work out.
When I started keto, even up to this day, I practiced intermittent fasting. That’s just when you pick a window of hours where you’re eating, and then you have a period of hours where you’re not eating. The very first day that I started keto, I was fasting 16 hours and eating during an eight-hour window. That’s how I initially started and I did that for a month. When you start the keto diet, it’s sort of like an appetite suppressant, so that’s why fasting and keto kind of go hand-in-hand. You realize you’re not even hungry because when you’re on keto, your body is running off its own fat for fuel instead of sugar so you don’t get that crash that you would get from eating carbs where you feel like you have that hangry feeling. You don’t get that with keto, so you sort of feel like an Energizer bunny, you could just keep on going.
So I did the 16:8 for a month and then I pushed myself and did 18 hours fasting with a six-hour eating window. I did that for a month. Then the next month I did 20 hours fasting with a four-hour eating window. That’s what led me to where I am now, which is where I went from not eating breakfast to not eating lunch to now only eating dinner, and I’ve been doing that for about 10 months now.
So you only eat one meal a day?
One meal a day, yes. I eat one meal a day and that’s usually dinnertime. I do listen to my body, but 95 percent of the time I eat one meal a day. I also did extended fasting, which is fasting for longer than 24 hours. I would do 48-hour fasts, sometimes I would do 72-hour fasts maybe once a month. Fasting and keto have been crucial in my success in my weight loss and also for my insulin resistance, because obviously, when you don’t eat, your insulin levels are stable and it gives your body a chance to just heal and do its thing.
You never felt when you were fasting like you were weak or anything?
Oh no. Never felt sick or like I was going to pass out or anything like that. Fasting has been amazing for me, honestly. It’s also amazing for me in actually realizing when you’re hungry and when you’re not. Before, I would just eat because of every emotion I was feeling regardless of if I was hungry or not. Fasting has really helped me to see if I’m actually hungry.
You said on your page that there have been times where you feel like despite it being clear that you’ve lost a great deal of weight, sometimes you feel like you can’t see the major changes other people see. What are the small changes that you have noticed that keep you motivated then?
My bracelets, my fingers — oh my goodness [laughs]. I just noticed how small my fingers are compared to what they used to be. I’m jawlines and collarbones all 2019 because I remember starting my journey and taking videos on my Snapchat and saying to myself that I was trying to see my freaking collar bones because they were not there. Every month I would do a little video check, pumping up my shoulders and wondering, are they there yet? Now, I have full-blown collarbones and that is my biggest small physical change that I’m in love with. I actually have collar bones and I can see them! That is my favorite, as I like to say, non-scale victory.
With that in mind, would you encourage people to focus on the non-scale victories as opposed to always feeling attached to what the scale says?
I would say those markers are so important to progress because the scale doesn’t tell the whole story, it never does. It’s just one tool that we use to measure progress. There are so many factors that factor into why the scale would say what it says, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Pictures are more accurate. Clothing is the best thing. My first progress picture is in a shirt from Rainbow, it was too tight, a 3x that I couldn’t fit for nothing. That was my first picture and I knew, regardless of what the scale says, that shirt is going to tell me the truth, and it did throughout the months. I always encourage my clients and my friends on Instagram to take pictures and also take the measurements because those things tell the story. The scale is just a number, but true progress is definitely through non-scale victories like seeing your collar bones and being able to sit in an airplane seat without an extender, because the scale can be so discouraging at times. We use it as a tool, but it’s not the only tool.