‘THE TRUTH HIT HOME: I WAS BEYOND MORBIDLY OBESE, AND SLOWLY KILLING MYSELF.’
When Esther Möller realised how fast her health was deteriorating, she made a drastic change. Now she’s an LCHF lifestyle advocate and ambassador.
The hardhitting realisation that changed Esther Möller’s life
‘As a little girl growing up on a farm in the Overberg I was very active. I didn’t really experience any health problems except for very sensitive skin. It was at boarding school in my teens that I realised I tend to pick up weight faster than others. My family members always point out that I take after my grandmother, who was overweight most of her life. This made me self-conscious about my weight.
During my varsity years my weight increased even more and I started to battle with my selfimage. I tried all sorts of weightloss methods. I joined clubs and gyms, losing a few kilos then picking up the weight – and more – again. In my late thirties I decided to make peace with my body – I even started to love the skin I was in – and my weight increased steadily.
My “Damascus moment” came in November 2014. I almost landed up in hospital, completely burnt out, after an event I’d organised. I saw photos of myself at the event… I looked so bloated and washed out. The truth hit home: I was beyond morbidly obese, and slowly killing myself. I was fooling myself by not taking note of what was happening. I didn’t even own a scale but my health was going downhill so fast I came to the scary realisation that I might never reach old age. There and then I decided I had to do something.
I’d always seen myself as quite healthy as I don’t visit the doctor much but, with hindsight, I realise how metabolically challenged I really was. I developed hypertension about 15 years ago, followed by chronic water retention, with swollen feet and ankles. I also suffered terribly from acid reflux and gout, and developed severe eczema on my neck and face, and arthritis in my joints. Eventually I was prescribed a handful of chronic medications, which I had to take every day. The eczema got so bad, I needed powerful antibiotics.
Then one of my friends mentioned on Facebook that she was losing weight despite enjoying creamy cappuccinos. I thought: “How is that even remotely possible?” She said Banting was
‘I feel at least 10 to 15 years younger. I now weigh what I weighed in high school!’
changing her life, which made me sit up and take note. I knew nothing about Banting or Professor Noakes. I had only heard that it was controversial. So I read as much as I could on the topic, and slowly the penny dropped.
I started to apply the LCHF principles and soon realised that I could make this a way of life. I love keeping life simple – I’m not into weighing food and calculating carbs or calories – so this suited me. I used a carb calculator app on my phone for about a week to get the hang of it, and after that I just followed the basics. It worked!
We’ve been led to believe that we can’t exist without six to eight portions of carbs a day. I bought into that and ended up sick and morbidly obese. Yes, I enjoyed the white starches but I always believed that eating wholewheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and legumes was the healthy thing to do. As a mother I chose the “healthier” options for my family. If only I’d known! The moment you realise that carbs are not an essential macronutrient, life gets so much easier.
I didn’t go cold turkey on carbs at first as I didn’t yet fully understand the LCHF lifestyle. By about two to three months in I’d cut the sugar in my coffee to only half a teaspoon, and I thought: “Who the heck are you fooling?” Since then, I haven’t been able to stand its overly sweet taste. Starches and grains have also lost their appeal. I reduced my bread intake dramatically, and when I did eat it I suffered from lower abdominal pains and remained bloated for a couple of days. Cutting grains and legumes was just more soothing to my gut. I didn’t even miss them; I enjoyed my fatty biltong, streaky bacon, macadamia nuts, pork crackling and creamy coffees way more and didn’t suffer any consequences
from eating them – apart from the weight melting off.
You have a harder time coping with the people who insist you have the cake they feel uncomfortable eating in front of you. The power lies in the space between your ears. The moment you understand the laws of nutrition as explained in LCHF terms, you’ll be hooked. Most people start the LCHF lifestyle in a quest to lose weight, but you eventually realise how beneficial it is all round.
Within four to six months I was living LCHF without giving it any conscious thought. It came as naturally as my high-carb lifestyle of the past 45-odd years. The secret, though, is to control your environment. Never underestimate the power of carb addiction.
At a conservative estimate I’ve lost at least 44kg. I refused to weigh myself before, so it’s hard to pinpoint it exactly. I wore a tight size 48/24 before starting, and am currently between sizes 38 and 40/14 and 16. After about two months my clothes felt looser but it was only after about four months that other people started noticing a difference.
I feel at least 10 to 15 years younger! I now weigh what I weighed in high school. I have much more energy, I got rid of the most terrible brain fog – my focus is clear – and I have much more stamina and endurance. I dropped all my chronic medicines less than a year after starting LCHF.
Recently I reintroduced some carbs, and my hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema and arthritis flared up again. I also picked up 4kg but soon after returning to the basic LCHF principles I lost 2kg. I now know I will never be able to enjoy carbs safely and I’m not willing to compromise my health any further.
My family didn’t have much of a choice but my cooking hasn’t changed. I just don’t include starches, thickeners, sauces and the processed stuff. We love stews, grilled chicken and meat, lasagna and pizzas. The breakfasts are the best! I have found alternatives for some favourites and I bake only on special occasions.
It’s not an expensive lifestyle. We save money as we usually buy fattier cuts of meat. We don’t do processed food at all and tend to eat only two meals a day. This way of eating keeps you full for longer. Our special treats are chocolate mousse or a strawberry smoothie made from double cream yoghurt. We use xylitol as a sweetener and 500g lasts at least six weeks!
My family members were a bit sceptical at first but when they saw the results they realised that this was not a fad. Together, my husband, my eldest daughter and I have lost close to 90kg so far. My parents and both sisters have also changed their lifestyles. Our success has inspired colleagues, friends and even strangers through social media. Living in a small town, it doesn’t pass unnoticed. We’re used to people in the supermarket aisles voicing their amazement at our weight loss.
My daughter Mariska had been morbidly obese since childhood. I was worried about her health and felt completely helpless. She’s always been bullied and ridiculed for her appearance and that broke our hearts, but she was inspired by my transformation. Slowly the weight began melting off her. It was amazing to see my firstborn transforming into a beautiful, confident young woman. We now know that her health was impacted to a greater extent than mine by eating carbs. She is completely carb intolerant and experiences severe symptoms when she reintroduces sugar, starches and grains. I now know why we’ve always struggled with her health.
I’m a recovering “carboholic”. In my opinion, sugar addiction is very real. I know the effect it has on my mind. After failing several times I also know how strong cravings can get after indulging in a “cheat” treat. It’s similar to the experience of a rehabilitated alcoholic – one sip and everything goes downhill. I believe that carb addiction also needs the acknowledgement we’ve given to alcohol and drug addiction. We need official programmes to assist sufferers. Our society is becoming crippled by diabetes and metabolic syndrome and it all starts with insulin resistance. We’re setting up our loved ones from conception. Sugar and carbs need to be stigmatised as addictive substances in the same way alcohol, drugs and nicotine are. People need to be confronted by warnings on food packaging. Currently we’re encouraging them to enjoy their addiction through our official dietary guidelines and the way food is marketed. We lovingly feed our families drugs on a plate!’
I now weigh what I weighed in high school. I have much more energy, I got rid of the most terrible brain fog – my focus is clear – and I have much more stamina and endurance.
FAR LEFT: ESTHER USED TO BE A ‘TIGHT’ SIZE 48. NOW SHE WEARS SIZE 38–40. LEFT: WITH HER HUSBAND RAS, BEFORE THEIR LCHF JOURNEY.