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Paula Mainard turned a scary situation into motivation

Date: 04/04/2018

How long I’ve kept it off:  My name is Paula Mainard. I’m the Fetal Alcohol Program Coordinator for the Division of Children and Family Services Behavioral Health team. In August of 2016, I had some major diabetes-related complications. As a result, I dedicated myself to getting healthy. So I began to count calories. Eventually I started to slowly lose weight. In March of 2017, I discovered the Ketogenic Diet and was confident it was a plan I could do long term. Thankfully, my assumption was correct. The main principle of the diet is a very low carb intake. Meats and green vegetables are what you often eat. That style of eating leads to Ketosis. At that point your body is a fat-burning machine.  Aside from the plan I use, I workout five days a week.

Personal life: I’m in my mid-forties. I married my husband Gary 25 years ago. We have an adopted child, Jonathan, who has Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorder. We reside on a small farm and have four beautiful dogs, two horses, and a donkey. I’m also a grad student who loves to volunteer, do my part to make a difference in the community. I’ve always enjoyed helping people.                       

Keeping track of progress:  I use a food tracking application and host a ‘Keto’ Facebook group called Keto Friends in Arkansas. The group is what I use to hold myself accountable. My best friend was also struggling with weight issues and she inspires me to stay on track. I have to be accountable to someone besides myself and my family.        

Turning point: I have yo-yo dieted my whole life. I once weighed over 350 pounds and was having dangerous diabetes-related complications.

I was a DCFS field worker for two years and my attempt at eating healthy did not go well. I regularly ate late night meals from fast food restaurants. Of course, that habit did not help my situation. And in August of 2016, I had a Transient Ischemic Attack – a mini-stroke. My blood sugar was over 700, and that changed everything. That day I promised my mother I would get the weight off and the diabetes under control.

Diet plan: I am a sugar addict. I had to admit it out loud and come to terms with it in my mind and in my heart. I changed my eating habits to get my blood sugar under control.
I started by counting calories and carbs, but still couldn’t stabilize my blood sugars. After consulting a physician, I learned that I was a great candidate for bariatric surgery. But I was afraid to have the surgery. I started researching weight loss surgery and the diet protocols following surgery.

I learned that many bariatric surgeons put patients on a ketogenic style protein meal-plan after surgery. Ultimately, I decided to forgo the surgery. Instead, I began to avoid sugars – including fruit, grains, and flour based products. I stay away from pasta and pastries as well. I drink water – a gallon a day – and I eat mainly meats, eggs, cheese, and green vegetables.  My doctor says my cholesterol is now great, so that excites me. 

Exercise routine: I hate exercise. But I love to dance. So I joined a Zumba class. I love Zumba. It’s not like exercise at all. It’s fast paced, upbeat, fun, and I sometimes focus too much on the music and forget to follow the instructor. She says, “dance to the beat of your own drum,” so that’s what I do. As long as I am moving, that’s a good thing.   

Biggest challenge:  My biggest challenge is keeping my carbohydrate count below 20 grams a day and maintaining Ketosis. Most processed foods have hidden carbs and fruits are naturally high in sugars. The office is a mine field of high carb offerings in the form of donuts and cookies! Thankfully, I always remain disciplined and turn down the goodies. The only way to maintain my Ketosis is to avoid processed foods, most fruits, everything wheat-based, and high starch vegetables.       

How life has changed:  I have lost 121 pounds. I’m just under 75 pounds away from my goal. I no longer take medications. I can now shop everywhere instead of just Lane Bryant and Torrid. I went from a plus size 26/28, to a size 14 jeans and XL shirt.  I can walk a 5K and not feel like I need a nap to make it through the day. I can run and play with my son again. Yet, none of that is as important as when my doctor notified me that I reversed my diabetes. Discipline, diet, and exercise make a difference.               


Arkansas Department of Human Services
Arkansas Department of Human Services

Arkansas Department
of Human Services
(501) 682-1001

TTY: 1-800-285-1131 or dial 711 for Arkansas Relay Service

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