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A doctor lost 50 pounds and has kept it off for years after ditching fad diets. She eats high-protein food and does intermittent fasting.

A doctor lost 50 pounds and has kept it off for years after ditching fad diets. She eats high-protein food and does intermittent fasting.
  • Dr. Betsy Grunch followed fad diets for years but could never lose weight sustainably.

  • By educating herself about nutrition, she lost 50 pounds and has kept it off for years.

  • Grunch decided to lose a final 30 pounds by taking Mounjaro, a buzzy drug that aids weight loss.

Dr. Betsy Grunch has tried all sorts of diets and weight-loss plans.

"If you name it, I probably tried it," she told Business Insider.

But she never managed to lose the weight she wanted to — or keep off what she did.

You may think that as a doctor, Grunch would know how to lose weight healthily and sustainably. And as a neurosurgeon specializing in spine surgery, Grunch was indeed often advising her patients to lose weight to help ease their back pain.

But there was very little nutrition education in Grunch's medical training, she said, and she felt like the pot calling the kettle black.

"One of the biggest culprits of degenerative disease of the spine is your body weight, and the fact that I had no great educational background on the foundations of nutrition is kind of sad," said Grunch, 43, who's from the outskirts of Atlanta.

In 2018, Grunch hit a turning point when she injured herself, and she knew she had to change her lifestyle.

Starting from about 230 pounds, Grunch lost 50 pounds over a year and a half by making changes to her diet and maintained the weight loss for more than four years before losing an additional 30 pounds on Mounjaro, a drug manufactured for diabetes but at the time used off-label for weight loss.

Injuring her back was an 'aha' moment

Grunch was always active, playing sports and going to the gym, but as a busy neurosurgeon and mother to two children, she relied on convenience foods, and her weight crept up.

She also had various aches and pains, which she believed were exacerbated by her weight. Things came to a head in 2018 when she bent over to pick up her baby boy and tore a disc in her back.

It was an "aha" moment, she said.

"The only way I could see a change happening was completely changing my way of thinking and my way of approaching my health and my lifestyle," Grunch said.

From her reading, she learned that she needed to take a holistic approach to weight loss and think long-term for results to last, she said.

Grunch did intermittent fasting

Grunch decided to try intermittent fasting by eating all her food for the day in a six-hour window. She initially tried shorter eating windows, which she found unsustainable.

Research shows there's nothing special about intermittent fasting for weight loss, and it doesn't work for everyone because it can be challenging to maintain. But it helps some people stick to a calorie deficit, which is required for weight loss.

Grunch also swapped from a fast-food heavy diet to one high in protein and whole foods and lower in carbs. Protein is helpful for weight loss because it keeps you feeling full and helps the body maintain muscle during a calorie deficit. Carbs, meanwhile, aren't inherently fattening, but Grunch said she just felt better eating less of them.

Dr. Betsy Grunch before and after losing weight
Dr. Betsy Grunch before and after losing weightDr. Betsy Grunch

She also counted calories on and off to ensure she was in a deficit but found it too time-consuming to do long-term.

"Once I started implementing those changes, the weight just came off pretty quick," Grunch said.

But it wasn't easy at first.

Adjusting from eating three meals a day to one or two in a small amount of time was "really hard" initially, Grunch said. To combat the hunger, she drank a lot of bone broth and water, she said.

After a few months, her new lifestyle felt normal, and she continued intermittent fasting after finishing her weight-loss phase. But she now extends her eating window to about eight hours some days as it's more manageable.

"That's just a part of my lifestyle now," she said. "I've been doing it for five years."

Surgery to remove stomach tissue boosted confidence

After losing weight, Grunch had "life-changing" surgery in 2019 to remove the excess stomach tissue that was left behind.

Grunch said it not only shifted how she viewed herself but motivated her to keep the weight off and push herself harder to continue to improve her health.

"It's just really a confidence-building surgery," she said.

After surgery, Grunch largely maintained her weight by sticking to her new lifestyle, she said.

Losing 30 pounds on Mounjaro

Fast forward to 2023, and Grunch was feeling happy and healthy, but she wanted to lose a little more weight, she said.

With a local dance performance coming up, Grunch wanted to look and feel as fit as possible. So she decided to talk to her doctor about taking a GLP-1 medication, the buzzy class of appetite-suppressing drugs that includes Ozempic and Wegovy.

Such drugs can carry unpleasant side effects, including nausea and constipation, and after discussing the pros and cons of the various types, Grunch started taking the diabetes drug Mounjaro, a brand name for tirzepatide, which is now marketed for weight loss as Zepbound. Research suggests it's even more effective than semaglutide, marketed as Wegovy for weight loss and Ozempic for diabetes, enabling non-diabetic people to lose from 15% to 20% of their body weight on average.

Between March and September 2023, Grunch lost 30 pounds on the drug, she said.

"It was kind of weird," Grunch said. "I felt like food was not a part of my brain anymore, so it completely separated the way I felt about food and the connection I had with certain foods."

Grunch was "obsessed" with peanut butter, for instance, and would have a spoonful from the tub when she got home from work every day. On Mounjaro, she no longer wanted it, she said.

"I didn't care to have it. And when I ate it, it tasted the same, but I just didn't get that mental reward," she said.

Grunch says weight loss is about mindset

Grunch is now aiming to maintain her weight and will see how that goes without medication. But as weight regain is common when people stop taking GLP-1s, she knows she may need to take a maintenance dose of Mounjaro, so she has some supply in reserve.

In Grunch's experience, weight loss is more psychological than physical, and she said people needed to understand that losing weight isn't the answer to everything because we criticize our bodies at any size.

"You have to accept yourself at your weight and be happy about yourself," Grunch said.

If you have an interesting health story to share, contact Rachel Hosie: rhosie@businessinsider.com

Read the original article on Business Insider