Today’s success story comes to us all the way from France. Meet the lovely Anne Robertson. Not only is her story inspirational, it’s nothing short of amazing.
Rising to the Challenge
Now 59, Anne has been blind most of her life. After suffering an eye injury shortly before her 5th birthday, Anne started losing her vision. In four years, she was totally blind. At the age of two, Anne spent several weeks in the hospital with acute nephritis, which is inflammation in the kidneys. At the time, the treatment recommended was starvation. She says, “I survived and was put on a high protein diet afterward. This episode had consequences for me from then on, although I did not understand them until relatively recently.”
Despite these challenges, Anne earned a BA Honours degree in French from the University of Manchester, where she also met Archie, her husband of 35 years. I had the privilege of meeting them both on the 2012 Low Carb Cruise, and I can’t begin to tell you what a fantastic couple they are. They were a pleasure to spend time with.
If It Isn’t One Thing, It’s Another
In the ten years after graduating college, Anne noticed she was gaining weight – somewhere in the range of 20 kg (44 pounds). Like so many of us, she’d tried every diet known to man, but weight loss was elusive. She pushed on, and by her mid-thirties, she and Archie decided to start a family. Sadly, it was then Anne’s health began to deteriorate. She endured 3 miscarriages, and developed high blood pressure. Her first prescription hypotensive caused a bad reaction and she shied away from further treatment. But her blood pressure took its toll on her already damaged kidneys. In 1995 Anne suffered total kidney failure, requiring dialysis. “At this point, I was a walking skeleton, but I still weighed 47 kg (around 103 pounds). Before the kidney failure, my weight had been stable for some time at 69 kg.”
After 15 months on dialysis, Anne’s kidney function had returned sufficiently for her to stop treatment. But as luck would have it, another health issue had arisen. Her family had a history of polycystic liver disease, and she was one of the three, out of four, siblings that had been affected by it. Polycystic liver disease is the presence of hundreds of cysts in the liver. These cysts are tiny and harmless until some other condition causes them to grow. Anne’s kidney failure caused the cysts to take over the function of producing erythropoietin, the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. This was once again bad news.
In 1997 Anne had surgery to remove the left lobe of her liver, relieving pressure on her stomach. This helped for a couple of years, but the cysts in the remaining lobe began to compress the bile ducts, causing liver failure. The only solution was a liver transplant. Since her kidney function was extremely poor as well (around 15%), Anne and her doctors decided a kidney transplant was also warranted. Her double transplant took place in April of 2001. Initially, her body started to reject the kidney, but after the addition of a second immunosuppressant, she was back on the right track. She now had a fully functioning kidney and she says she couldn’t ever remember feeling so warm.
Trick And Treat
That was almost 11 years ago, and Anne says she immediately started to gain weight, slowly but steadily. She never had a fondness for sweets or baked goods, so she knew that wasn’t the problem. Her biggest vices were breakfast cereals and bread. Her doctors couldn’t understand how she could possibly be gaining weight on such a “healthy” diet. Blood tests even showed that she was getting all the recommended nutrients. Still, she was gaining weight. This is a familiar scenario for many of us: our doctors giving us that “I know you’re lying about your menu, because you should be losing weight” look.
Help came to Anne roughly three years ago in the form of a book. She and Archie read Trick and Treat by Barry Groves, and it just made sense to them. She calls herself an “enthusiastic carnivore”, so the plan certainly sounded worth a try. “Out went the carbs, and my weight dropped, a couple of kilograms, and then wouldn’t budge.” The next two years she hovered around 64 kg (141 lbs), but last October, for no apparent reason, Anne’s weight started moving again. In the past several months she’s dropped another 5 kg (11 pounds).
Health Improvements Worth More Than Weight Loss
Anne may not have lost a colossal amount of weight, or have abs of steel, but she gained something worth far more – good health. “Because of taking the immunosuppressant drugs, I used to get respiratory tract infections every spring and autumn. These would always culminate in an ear infection, which would make my life hell. It was a bit like total sensory deprivation.” Since taking on the low carb lifestyle, Anne reports having had only one such infection, and that only three months after changing her diet. “Since then, I haven’t even had a cold!”
Not getting sick is certainly high on my list of amazing benefits the low carb lifestyle can bring about, but for Anne, that was just the beginning. She had trouble sleeping, a problem she attributed to having no light perception, thus inhibiting the regulation of melatonin. The insomnia is gone. Anne sleeps extremely well and doesn’t get sleepy during the day. This benefit took a couple of years to manifest, but it’s one that thrills her. The most dramatic change came about with her kidney and liver function, which had been slowly deteriorating. Thanks to low carb, that has all been reversed and is now completely normal! Take that kidney-“asploding” evangelists!
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso
Currently, Anne and Archie eat a primal diet. Living in France, they have access to very high-quality dairy, especially cheeses. They buy organic meat direct from the farm as well. “We even get ox liver for free, because no one else wants to eat it!” She says the kitchen work load has lightened. Since going low carb, Anne is no longer spending hours in the kitchen making pastas and bread from scratch. Now she enjoys making bone broth, which takes much less effort.
Because her health has improved so much, Anne now works part-time teaching other blind people how to use Apple products, such as Mac computers and iPhones. She also does some translating, although she says she prefers teaching. She’s also working hard to persuade her doctors that low carb lifestyle / primal eating might be helpful to other transplant recipients.
Anne’s advice to those looking to lose weight and improve their health:
- We’re all different and have to find what works for us, but everyone benefits from ridding their diet of wheat.
- Drop the sweet drinks and shakes, which she considers “baby food”.
- Always question received wisdom!
Inspiration comes in many forms
Anne finds her inspiration in books, blogs and podcasts. Her favorites podcasts are:
- Latest in Paleo by Angelo Coppola (Subscribe in iTunes)
- The Paleo Solution
- Livin’ La Vida Low Carb by Jimmy Moore (Subscribe in iTunes)
- The Carbohydrates Can Kill Podcast by Dr. Robert K. Su (Subscribe in iTunes)
- A Good Look at Good Health by Dr. John Briffa (Subscribe in iTunes)
Anne’s recommended reading includes the following:
- Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes
- Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It by Gary Taubes
- The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
- Trick And Treat by Barry Groves
- Escape The Diet Trap by John Briffa
- Fat and Cholesterol are Good For You by Uffe Ravnskov
- The Great Cholesterol Con by Malcolm Kendrick
- Cholestérol: Mensonges et Propagande by Michel de Lorgeril (in French)
- Evolution RX by William Mellor
Anne agreed to share one of her favorite recipes, which is her version of low carb moussaka.
Anne’s Low Carb Moussaka
- 1 1/2 lbs of minced veal (lamb or beef will do)
- 1 medium onion
- 6 tomatoes
- 1 aubergine (eggplant)
- 1 glass red wine (4-6 fluid ounces)
- 2 eggs
- Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- Slice the eggplant and fry in goose-grease or olive oil until soft. Use half the quantity to line a greased oven-proof dish. Keep the rest for later.
- Chop the onion and fry it in butter in a deep saucepan. Add the minced veal, chopped tomatoes, seasoning and red wine. Cook over a fairly high heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture has reduced to a thick consistency. Stir in some Parmesan.
- Sprinkle some Parmesan over the layer of eggplant, then add the contents of the saucepan. Put the remaining slices of eggplant all over the top.
- Make a cup of Béchamel sauce. Beat two eggs and stir into the Béchamel.
- Pour over the meat and eggplant, and put in a medium oven for 30 minutes.