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The accidental path to success: Ketogenic pioneer and wellness expert Maria Emmerich tells her story

Maria Emmerich’s path to becoming a best-selling author, ketogenic lifestyle pioneer and wellness expert happened by accident. She just wanted to feel better.

As an overweight 16-year-old, she lacked energy and didn’t know why. After a visit to her doctor, she walked away with a prescription to an antidepressant — not the answer she was looking for.

That same week, Maria’s dog was losing patches of her hair.

“The veterinarian asked, ‘What are you feeding her?’ It was like a lightbulb went off for me,” she says. “I went home and immediately changed my own diet too.”

She started limiting carbohydrates and adapting a nutrient-rich, whole foods diet, now know as the ketogenic diet. Seeing results, she decided to pursue a degree in nutrition and physiology.

“I was just getting a degree to have a degree,” she says, noting that she had recently met her husband, Craig. “I really just wanted to be a mom.”

But because Maria had PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), the couple had a hard time getting pregnant. So, they looked into adoption. Just as they were making headway and getting excited about the possibility of becoming parents, Craig, an electrical engineer, lost his job.

“We lost every penny. We lost our house, our cars, everything,” she says. “We would go on dates to the library and stay at my parents’ cabin.”

That’s when she started writing. What started as a cathartic stress-reliever quickly turned into something more.

“My friend told me, ‘You need to start a blog. Write down your recipes and put them in a cookbook,’” she says. “She told me, 'Market it as a way to raise money for your adoption.'”

A year-and-a-half later, Craig and Maria adopted two boys from Ethiopia: Kai was four months and Micah was 18 months. But, it would be months before they could actually bring them home — to Wisconsin.

Maria, who had thought her one and only calling was motherhood, had found another passion: writing and growing her business, Maria Mind Body Health LLC. She had become so successful that Craig was able to stay home with the boys (they homeschool Kai and Micah, now seven and eight years old) and help Maria grow her business.

Maria, a self-proclaimed “quiet introvert” realized the more she opened up about her struggles, the more kindness she received.

“The more I talked about my hardships with food, infertility and weight, the more I was met with kindness and understanding,” she says. “People would come up to me and say, ‘I’ve struggled with that too!’”

Maria’s life has changed dramatically in the last 12 years. As we chat on the phone, she jogs on the island of Maui, where her family is living for a few months to escape the Midwest winter. She’s become an international bestselling author. Her latest book, Keto, written with her husband, digs deeper into the science of ketogenic dieting. Her coaching business is thriving.

And she still makes time — everyday — for gratitude.

“I am so grateful for every day,” she says. I can hear her choking back tears. “We have had some hard times. But we remain strong together.”

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