Cedar Rapids couple turn to keto diet for health reasons, embrace new religious mission

Mary and Joshua Haun use kettle bells as part of their workout at iGym on Blairs Ferry NE in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, January 6, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Mary and Joshua Haun use kettle bells as part of their workout at iGym on Blairs Ferry NE in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, January 6, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

When Mary and Joshua Haun began their relationship in 2013, they were together more than 160 pounds heavier than they are now.

The couple, who were married in October 2017, has been committed to the Ketogenic diet for more than a year and said they have inspired numerous friends, co-workers and acquaintances to follow suit.

“It must be close to 800 pounds lost now,” Mary, 47, of Cedar Rapids, said about those they’ve helped.

Although Mary and Joshua’s journey with the Ketogenic lifestyle can seem impressive when looking at the numbers, weight loss was never the main focus for the couple.

“I’m adopted so I really don’t know my family’s medical history,” Mary said after explaining her experience with hormonal issues, inflammation and brain fog among other symptoms.

“The brain fog scared me,” she said. “I knew I had to do something.”

After countless doctor’s visits and blood tests, Mary still had no idea what could be causing all her symptoms. So she decided to take things into her own hands and try several different elimination diets.

It took some time but Mary eventually found keto. The high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb diet seemed accessible at the time. She just needed to get Joshua, 38, who has family history with diabetes and lost both his parents to diabetic complications, onboard.

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“We never wanted to talk about our weight. We were just dating then and it was a touchy subject,” Mary said. “But I explained to Josh that the diet is basically meats, cheeses and vegetables grown above ground and he said ‘OK, let’s do it.’”

They started their new lifestyle on Aug. 13, 2016.

“I remember the exact date because I remember being like, ‘oh God,’” Joshua said.

A ketogenic diet’s main purpose is to force the body to burn fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates, called ketosis, and it is reached by cutting out carbohydrates and eating more fats.

Joshua and Mary combined their new diet with mild, yet frequent, exercise and intermittent fasting.

Before long, Joshua and Mary were fully committed to their new lifestyle. Their results began to show and their community began to take notice.

“Josh became a celebrity,” Mary said. “We couldn’t get out of church until like an hour after it ended.”

Joshua, who has lost more than 120 pounds, and Mary, who lost more than 40, wanted a better way to spread the word about their new lifestyle, rather than explaining their success to every person who asked. So, the couple decided to host a workshop at their church, Unity Center of Cedar Rapids, 3791 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, in April 2017.

Around 20 people came to the workshop, according to Mary. After seeing the interest of the community, the Hauns decided to host ketogenic-friendly potlucks and began teaching cooking classes at Natural Grocers, 931 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE.

“The potlucks are more than sharing recipes. We also share our successes, our struggles ...” Mary said. “It’s a community of people (who) are there for support.”

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Now the couple has begun hosting regular events and hopes to further develop a ketogenic program through their company, Living Prayer Ministries.

Since beginning their journey, the couple said they have helped several people reduce or eliminate their need for diabetic, blood pressure and anxiety medication. Showing people a path to health, not just weight loss, has always been the main goal of the community, Mary said.

“We are always saying that we want people to truly be the best versions of themselves,” she said. “The greatest gift that we can receive is just to see people living their purpose, feeling the best they can and inspiring others.”

Joshua said he hopes those who come to their events realize the power of their minds, as he did.

“I didn’t realize how much I valued being fat. I valued having those layers of protection so that I could stay invisible,” he said. “Most people aren’t ready to analyze themselves like that ... When they do, they’re able to change what needs to be changed.”

“This isn’t a ‘fad diet’ that you’ll stop once you reach an arbitrary goal. We want to show people that they can be healthy and live a long and enjoyable life with this lifestyle.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8287; alexandra.olsen@thegazette.com

Check it out

Living Prayer Ministries is holding three upcoming events:

l Cooking Demo: Keto quick breads, 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Natural Grocers, 931 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids; free

l Community Potluck, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at Unity Center of Cedar Rapids, 3791 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids; free

l Ketogenic Living Clinic, 4 to 9 p.m. Jan. 27 at Awaken Vitality Holistic Healing, 777 11th St, Marion; $50

l For more information, visit Livingprayerministries.org

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