Olympian, Epilepsy Advocate, and Ketogenic Dieter!

Chanda Gunn
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

For this month’s Keto News, I asked Chanda Gunn to tell us about her personal ketogenic diet journey. An advocate for those living with epilepsy, Chanda is an ambassador for Athletes vs Epilepsy, works for the Epilepsy Foundation New England, and was a goalie for the bronze medal winning U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey team in 2006. My ketogenic diet team had the pleasure to meet her in December when she came to visit us in Baltimore. – Eric Kossoff MD

Johns Hopkins Ketogenic Team with Chanda Gunn

Chanda, middle back row, visiting several members of the Johns Hopkins ketogenic diet team

Chanda's Journey

I was asked to speak on a panel in San Francisco in 2010 and, as I was taking the stage, I had a seizure in front of the audience. Though I had been struggling with seizures, having one in front of an audience was a first and a new low in the struggle with my uncontrolled epilepsy.

Typical of my epilepsy, it took me hours to recover, and I do not remember much (nor do I choose to watch the video stream) but feeling horrified is still not a word used in the past tense. When I returned to the conference, Dr. Elizabeth Thiele was speaking about the efficacy of the ketogenic diet for adults. It was a serendipitous event as diet has ever since been the biggest contributing factor to decreasing and controlling my seizures.

Chanda Gunn
Chanda Gunn

Common Questions

When I travel and share that I use diet as part of my treatment plan, please ask me

  • Does it work? Yes, it does for me. I encourage people to have that conversation with their doctor.
  • What do you eat? I answer by sharing a recipe.
  • How hard is it to follow the diet? My truth (opinion) is that for an adult, the diet is very hard in the beginning largely because you don’t know what to eat. Because food is a social thing, it can be intimidating. The question for me was, “What is more socially awkward – having a seizure at the table or skipping bread and dessert?” Over a period of months, I adjusted and any overwhelming feeling of “hard” went away.

Now I tell people the diet can be fun!

I have a circuit of restaurants that know me and customize dishes. There is one café that will weigh and measure for me if I pre-order, so I can have a work meeting without taking out a scale.

I eat things like omelets, lattes, salmon, Brussels sprouts, grilled cheese, fudge, strawberries... This year we hosted a soup pot-luck party for New Year’s Eve where invitees each brought a crockpot of soup to share and a bowl. Soup is an easy keto-meal and KetoVieTM makes a keto-roll! My freezer is ready!

soup party
Soup Party

Managing the Challenges

Like everything else, there are some anxieties that come with being on the diet. The biggest challenges are traveling/being out and making sure I have enough food. And while not all versions of the diet require weighing and measuring, I do… and it can be a drag.

My children ask, “If you can have one sugary treat what would it be?” I’ve lost all cravings, but if I didn’t have to measure or record food for a week it would be a game changer.

But in the end the sacrifice is well worth the benefit. I am so grateful for the time and research that has been put into adults and diet as a treatment for epilepsy!

A Recipe to Try: Bacon Wrapped Cannoli

My entire family often eats a version of a ketogenic or modified Atkins diet (MAD). My son has Celiac disease and I do not have time to make four different meals! Their classmates have been caught bringing keto favorites in their lunches, and we have been asked to bring bacon wrapped cannoli, a keto-party favorite, as an appetizer!

bacon wrapped cannoli
Bacon Wrapped Cannoli

Summary

  • Total Time: 0:35 minutes
  • Prep time: 0:15 minutes
  • Level: Easy
  • Yield: 10

Ingredients

  • 10 slices bacon
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/3 c. Swerve confectioners sweetner
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 c. ricotta
  • Optional: dark chocolate chunked into small pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° and line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Make a cylinder out of aluminum foil and wrap slices of bacon around it to create your cannoli shells. Bake until bacon is crispy, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat together heavy cream, swerve, cinnamon, and nutmeg until stiff peaks form. Fold in ricotta and optional chocolate. Transfer to a piping bag.
  4. Pipe ricotta mixture into bacon. Serve.
  5. There are many ways to go with this using sugar free syrups, etc.!

Learn More

Authored by: Chanda Gunn, Youth Programming Specialist, Epilepsy Foundation New England on 2/2018
Reviewed by: Eric Kossoff MD | Ketogenic Diet Editor on 2/2018

Our Mission

The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

 
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