I have been a pharmacist for over 20 years. The first 10 years of my career began working as a retail pharmacist. Between the long hours, demanding customers, constantly short-staffed, no lunch breaks, trying to explain how to properly use an inhaler to someone in the drive thru, and barely enough time to run to the bathroom, I had enough. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my health (both physical and mental) deteriorated during my time as a retail pharmacist. It turns out that eating a bag of Combos for lunch in between counseling patients isn’t the healthiest food choice. The environment I was in focused on how many prescriptions filled and how many immunizations administered.
I was very fortunate to have another opportunity present itself to me in 2010. I went from the rat race of a retail pharmacy setting to focusing on patients’ wellbeing by providing one-on-one medication counseling. This career shift was welcomed with open arms. Not only was I helping my patients with their medications, my mental and physical health also improved.
That’s the end of the story…right?
Not so fast.
While I was helping my patients with their medications, I noticed patients with chronic disease states (heart disease, diabetes) were maintaining status quo. Most were managing their disease states with their medications; a majority had to increase their dose or add another medication; some were able to decrease their dosage; and it was extremely rare to see a patient eliminate medications. These patients were not happy, they did not like taking medication, and they certainly did not like taking more medication. If a patient was told to lose weight by their healthcare provider, they were told to “eat less and move more.” This advice rarely led to success and most often led to patient frustration. Something did not seem right, and I didn’t know what to do about it.
Fast-forward 5 years and I began listening to podcasts while driving to work. One particular podcast had a guest who talked about the health benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet. This way of eating went against EVERYTHING I was taught. Afterall, we were told to eat less and move more to lose weight, right? This one podcast started my long journey down this road of nutrition. I started reading books about nutrition, listening to podcasts, reading about the weight loss successes that people had while eating a low-carb, high-fat diet. Patients who followed a low-carb, high-fat diet were able to lose weight, eliminate their medications, and achieve metabolic health. Most importantly, I came across the amazing work and research from Virta Health showing that diabetes could be REVERSED by following a ketogenic diet. This was a gamechanger for me.
With the information I have learned over the past 5 years, I applied this knowledge to myself and adapted a ketogenic lifestyle. Pounds started to fall off and I lost over 40 lbs. All of my blood work improved, I gained mental clarity, and reversed my metabolic dysfunction. If I could do this for myself, I knew I could help other patients achieve similar outcomes. I became a Certified Ketogenic Nutrition Specialist, credentialed by the American Nutrition Association® through its Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists™.
When I was in pharmacy school, we barely had any education when it came to diet. It took 20 years to realize that diet is one of the most important ways to achieve metabolic health. I became a pharmacist to help people and I cannot think of a better way than to help patients with my medication knowledge in combination with my newly-found nutrition knowledge.