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Mom turns to keto diet, cycling to lose 130 pounds: 'The best I've ever felt in my life'

When a knee injury stopped her active lifestyle, she began to overeat. One day, she had enough.
Tatianna Wawrzynski before and after her weight loss: She was determined not to give up even as she experienced failures along the way.
Tatianna Wawrzynski before and after her weight loss: She was determined not to give up even as she experienced failures along the way.Courtesy Tatianna Wawrzynski
/ Source: TODAY

On a beautiful winter day two years ago, Tatianna Wawrzynski just wanted to get on her skis again and speed down the mountain, but at 315 pounds — the most she’d ever weighed — it seemed impossible.

It wasn’t always that way.

Wawrzynski grew up downhill skiing and horseback riding. She liked playing softball and took up running in college — anything outdoors.

But a knee injury stopped her active lifestyle. She began to overeat — indulging in “anything chocolate, any dessert — I loved all of it,” she said.

She had two young daughters and felt tired. The weight kept creeping up. At 5 feet, 9 inches tall, she became morbidly obese.

In this 2017 photo, Wawrzynski poses with her daughter Nadja, her husband Mark Johnson and daughter Thalia.Courtesy Tatianna Wawrzynski

“I couldn't even go up a flight of stairs without feeling winded and exhausted, and I kind of felt like life was just passing me by,” Wawrzynski, 37, who lives in Gilford, New Hampshire, told TODAY.

“I remember the day I looked in the mirror and I just was really upset and I said you know what? I'm going to make a change. I’m not going to do it for anyone else but myself because I'm ready to get up off the couch and stop letting life pass me by.”

The start:

The first step was buying a pair of running shoes in 2019. Wawrzynski put them on, got up and just started walking.

Her street is a quarter mile long in each direction, so she started with that distance as her goal. A few months later, she worked up to walking half a mile. Eventually, Wawrzynski was going around the block, which amounted to about 1.5 miles.

Walking was the first step in Wawrzynski's journey.Courtesy Tatianna Wawrzynski

She began to quicken her pace, transitioning between walking and jogging.

At the same time, Wawrzynski started the keto diet “to do something drastic” to help her get a jumpstart on weight loss. It worked well: She lost almost 100 pounds after a year-and-a-half of sticking to the eating plan and her exercise regimen.

Love of outdoor sports grows:

Wawrzynski loved running, but a local trainer also encouraged her to try cycling. She jumped into the sport in the spring of 2020 as part of his challenge to ride outside every day for 10 miles in April, which can be challenging in New Hampshire weather.

“I just remember being pelted in the face by sleet, and riding in the snow and freezing. And I'm like, I love this, I want to do this. It's for the crazies, but I guess I'm one of those crazy people,” Wawrzynski said.

“I just craved going farther and farther.”

Always an outdoor enthusiast, Wawrzynski said she became "borderline obsessed with cycling."Courtesy Tatianna Wawrzynski

She did her first 100-mile ride last August and decided to try doing a triathlon. The COVID-19 crisis canceled many events last year, so Wawrzynski mapped out her first triathlon and did it on her own last June, on her birthday. She swam in a local lake, then jumped on her bike and ran to complete the challenge.

The busy mom now rides more than 100 miles a week. She also runs and takes part in special events like snowshoe marathons and gravel cycling races.

Swimming is also part of Wawrzynski's fitness routine.Courtesy Tatianna Wawrzynski

Today, Wawrzynski weighs 185 pounds. She stopped doing the keto diet six months ago and switched to a plant-based eating regimen, which provides more carbs for the endurance sports she loves. She doesn’t eat any dairy or eggs, and only consumes meat on special occasions.

“I felt really great right away,” Wawrzynski said of the change. “I was just kind of feeling heavy (on the keto diet) so switching from that to eating fruits and vegetables, it actually made me feel really good.”

Wawrzynski has lost 130 pounds in about two years.Courtesy Tatianna Wawrzynski

Her secrets to success:

Don't let failure win: “It's so much easier to just sit back and let life pass you by,” Wawrzynski said. She failed many times during her weight-loss journey, but was determined not to give up. “You’ve still gotten up, you’ve still done it and you still tried hard, so take that and learn from it and grow from it,” she reminded herself.

Stick to a 90-95% plant-based diet: She eats lots of kale, chickpeas, vegetables and tofu. A typical day’s menu includes oatmeal with oat milk and blueberries for breakfast; salad for lunch; and vegan chili for dinner. She doesn’t count calories.

"You want your kids to see you succeed and you want to show them what it means to work hard," Wawrzynski said.Courtesy Tatianna Wawrzynski

Don’t have junk food in the house: “My cravings have changed a lot. I used to love ice cream and potato chips and I don't really crave that stuff anymore just because I don't eat it,” Wawrzynski said. “I don't buy it. I don't think about it.” She tries to stay on the outside perimeter of the grocery store where all the fresh, natural products are usually placed.

Skiing was impossible when she weighed 315 pounds, but Wawrzynski is now back on the slopes.Courtesy Tatianna Wawrzynski

But make some room for things you enjoy: Wawrzynski likes to joke that she’s fueled by craft beer and french fries, her favorite indulgences. “I've given up a lot of things and I've changed a lot of things in my life to help improve my athletic ability,” she said. “If you put in the work… I don't think it's right to really restrict yourself 100%. It's OK to enjoy the things that you love in life.”

Remember why you’re doing it: Do it for yourself, she advised. “I feel fantastic. I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life,” Wawrzynski said. “I’m not exercising and doing all these crazy endurance ultra events to be skinny. I'm doing it to be strong.”