Updated: Nov 10, 2019
A good 26 days, anyway. It's pretty hard to eat a monodiet when you're not motivated by a life or death situation, when you're not super concerned about getting shredded, and when you have a big family.
That's the short of it.
Of course, you already know that I will go into the long of it as well!
I had a sweet reader email me last week to ask me about the carnivore diet:
I've been learning a lot about carnivore diets and would love to read your take on it in a blog post (if you're needing any more controversial topics to take on, haha!) I did love your posts about whether meat was bad, as it took some convincing for me when I first started implementing more meat into my diet. I have so much more energy now and less problems with digestion [than when I was basically vegetarian]. Would love to read pros and cons, how long would be good to try a carnivore diet if at all, impact on digestion, etc.
I loved getting this email and I am happy to oblige, D!
What is the Carnivore Diet?
"The Carnivore Diet consists entirely of meat and animal products, excluding all other foods" (source).
PS- if a diet pops up on the government-approved website Healthline, you can be assured that it is not as counter-cultural as you think it is, my meaty friends.
What weirdo would consider the carnivore diet?
Well, this weirdo.
After reading more and more and more about it, I gathered that the healing power of the carnivore diet lies in bringing down inflammation in the body. When this happens, some chronic illnesses can be reversed, gut issues can calm down, and mood disorders can be brought into balance.
From my research, it appeared that carnivore was the step people took after keto. Keto took them quite far in their health journeys, but many were still plagued by depression, gut issues, and skin problems.
I like experimenting on myself. And if this magical diet was healing people of all of their brokenness, why wouldn't I try it so I could recommend it to others?
Also, cough, there was the lure of an easy 10 pounds lost. Let's be honest here.
In the carnivore world, there is the following legendary tale:
Dr. Shawn Baker is a guest on the Joe Rogan podcast and divulges that all he eats is meat. He feels great, he breaks world fitness records, and he is tall and buff. And a doctor. He has documented his year-long journey (at that point) on Twitter and has only positive things to say about his meaty life. People like this and want to be like him, and the diet takes off.
Dr. Baker references meaty titans of yore, like Vince Gironda, a ripped bodybuilder who advocated eating two meals a day of unlimited steak and eggs. Without carbohydrate, he said, there was no glucose to store as body fat. With the addition of heavy weightlifting, one could sculpt a beautifully defined body.
Dr. Baker also surmises in the episode that his bloodwork is normal, despite his heavy intake of saturated fat and animal products. He breezes through Rogan's concerns of possible elevated LDL and other markers of heart disease.
He easily dismisses the notion that humans need a plethora of antioxidants, specifically vitamin C. In fact, he says, Vitamin C and glucose molecules compete for the same receptor sites on the cell. When dietary glucose is decreased, the need for antioxidants and specifically vitamin C is decreased. I actually loved this tidbit.
So we have a doctor telling us that labs are not as helpful of a marker as how we feel, perform, sleep, and move. (PS- I agree with this 100%- labs can be liars!) His libido is up, his body composition is amazing, his energy is great, and clearly his mental acuity is on point.
This is good enough for most people. The swell of carnivory begins to rise.
Since old-school carnivores like the Andersons and Kelly Hogan have been in hiding for years due to their seemingly strange diet, the public doesn't really know that lots of people have been eating solely animal products for long periods of time and have felt great the entire time. Even the inventor of LSD was a long-term carnivore and claimed his no-sugar diet helped him survive a bout of cancer.
Newer carnivore converts claim that eating meat and animal products only help with a myriad of health issues:
Hashimoto's (GrassFed Girl)
Severe Eczema (Itchy Dan)
Depression and Anxiety (Amber O'Hearn).
Since biochemistry is my jam, let's break down what could happen in your body when you eat only animal products.
1. Inflammation decreases.
Of course, you are taking out the usual suspects- gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar. These are unapologetically inflammatory for many people.
When you eat processed sugar, promotion of de novo (new) creation of free fatty acids in the liver occurs. This process produces free fatty acid metabolites that can create free radicals in the body. Inflammation can be measured here with a simple C-reactive protein blood marker.
While the body can use glucose easily, dietary fructose (both excess fruit and also hugh-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, and other corn derivatives) goes straight to the liver, where is is partly converted to acetyl co-enzyme A, which is a building block for fatty acid synthesis.
Elevated free fatty acids usually mean elevated triglycerides (remember, elevated triglycerides are more worrisome than elevated LDL), and thus elevated free fatty acids are not something you want happening in your body.
If triglycerides are high and C-reactive protein is high, you've got inflammation from too much sugar.
2. Plants stop fighting back.
A great number of people think that plants are out to get them (disclosure: with reservation, as an autoimmune sufferer, I am one of them!). The concept of plants using lectins as their defense mechanism in order to get humans to stop eating them was controversially popularized by Dr. Stephen Gundry, who wrote The Plant Paradox.
Anecdotal evidence abounds. For people who have exhausted many other avenues, the elimination of plants have helped a myriad of issues. Case in point: Mikhaila Peterson (watch out, wears undies a lot! I would too if I looked like her.) From the jump off point of Dr. Baker and Ms. Peterson's Instagram account, you can find hundreds of other success stories. Weight loss is the tip of the iceberg.
3. On that note, weight loss.
Most of us are unhappy with our weight. I have clients who want to lose weight. I have clients who want to gain weight. I have clients who look great who want to lose 5 more pounds. Listen, I am not saying all people are unhappy with their weight all of the time. Please don't take it that way. My experience in my office just tends to support my observation.
It seems to me that when bodies are well-fed and feeling strong, weight issues are less of... an issue. A lot of women report feeling perfectly secure after gaining a bit of weight when their muscles are growing and their waist size is decreasing.
When the body is not fed sugar and simple carbohydrates (especially fructose), and digestion is normalized, weight loss tends to follow. This is not true in every situation all of the time, and it is rare for a metabolically challenged woman to get super shredded without focusing on diet and exercise and digestion, but many people report moderate to amazing weight loss after taking out sugar and even plants.
I journaled about my experience because I like reading about people's lives. I want to know exactly what you did, how you felt, and what good and bad things happened to you. So I have extended the same courtesy- unfiltered. Don't judge.
The Carnivore Experiment:
Sunday, July 21, 2019
This was the first day I tried to eat like a carnivore. I have been researching it for a few weeks. After the indulgence of our vacation, my brain and body are calling out for a rest. I was sick of seeing a dusting of white flakes all over my car, swirling through the interior every road trip day because my scalp was so inflamed. I was sick of feeling out of control with my eating and my weight. I thought about doing a three day fat fast or a four day juice cleanse, but I know that these things are just temporary and expensive. What happens when I eat again?
Today, I ate the following:
coffee with stevia and HWC
2 pieces bacon
4 oz sashimi
1 large pork rib
I was so itchy and agitated after the pork rib that I couldn’t go to sleep. I got up to take some vitamin C and magnesium and was able to sleep after that.
Monday, July 22, 2019
A busy day of running around with the kids. I’ve been drinking True Lemon in my water and didn’t realize that it had a gram of sugar in it. Damn. It’s so hot outside and the sweet water tastes so good though!
coffee with stevia and HWC
5 oz chicken with butter
sugar free shaved ice at a kid’s birthday party
5 oz grass fed ground beef with butter and sour cream
2 packs True Lemon
Tuesday July 23, 2019
I woke up with a terrible headache and Ive had it all day. I had a San Pellegrino with a watermelon True Lemon and some HWC between clients. I probably should not do that but it helped my headache.
Bacon and kielbasa for breakfast
Bacon and kielbasa for lunch
Dinner out: Five Guys Burgers.
2 burger patties with cheese. I ordered bacon with the burger and it was so gross I couldn’t finish it. My bacon at home is delicious and that nasty bacon was not worth it.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
I still had a rough headache today. I drank a lot of water and did a weights workout in the garage. It was 100 degrees by 9 am, and I sweat plenty. With some electrolytes in my water, I was able to kick the headache.
Lunch: Rotisserie chicken with skin, salt, and some Kerrygold
Dinner: tri tip
Friday, July 26, 2019
We went to my sister’s house for dinner and I was nervous about being in a social situation, but they’re all used to me being on weird eating plans.
I haven’t had any alcohol all week, and after drinking every single day on vacation, I was pretty happy about this (you promised you wouldn't judge).
I don’t think it’s my imagination, but I feel so even and calm eating only meat. Nothing is really bothering me, and I didn’t crave a glass of wine at all, even though it’s my normal habit to have a glass or two at my sister’s house.
Breakfast: chicken apple sausage and bacon
Lunch: grass-fed ground beef with some Kerrygold
Dinner: My sister’s delicious slow-baked beef ribs.
And tons of water! I did another weights workout today and felt good and strong. I can tell I am less bloated, even though I’m not really pooping more than once every two days. I don’t feel like I have to. I really do feel quite even and calm and almost happy! My normal mood is is usually trying to be even and calm and balanced, but with effort. I don’t feel like that now. It’s nice not stressing about what to eat, how my stomach is going to feel afterwards, and how my clothes will fit if I’m super bloated.
Saturday, July 27, 2017
Breakfast: Bacon and coffee with HWC
Lunch: Chipotle double serving of barbacoa with some cheese
Dinner: Tri Tip with a bit of cheese
I swam a bit for my workout today and honestly felt a little weak in the pool, but I didn’t push it.
I noticed I am running a little hotter, so I cut my thyroid meds down from 4 60 mg pills to 3 60 mg pills. I forget them on vacation for two weeks and my nails started chipping and peeling again, but I can tell I need less now that I’m not eating plants.
I heard Shawn Baker talk on the famous Joe Rogan podcast this morning and he said that Vitamin C and glucose compete for the same receptors in the body. Less glucose in the body means less need for Vitamin C. With my love of the science behind C, this was interesting information. Baker also stated that the body is supposed to get glucose from gluconeogenesis, and this is the most effective way to get glucose into the cells, since it is a stable and reliable source of glucose. I’m chewing on this. It makes sense but it counterintuitive to current metabolic thought.
I was sitting at table around 6 pm, playing cards with my little boys on a Saturday night. Normally I would want a glass of wine to go with this activity, but I thought about it, and actually visualized holding the glass and bringing it to my lips and and feeling the alcohol in my mouth and tummy, and I had this physical reaction where it felt like my gut kind of closed itself off. Like, I physically didn’t need it. It was interesting and is helpful to keep going both with crazy carnivore and also my decision not to drink for now.
Sunday, July 28, 2019
It’s been 8 days. I finally slept great last night, from 11-8, barring the hour my daughter came in to cry that she couldn’t sleep. I helped her, went pee, drank a sip of water, and slept till almost 8. Unbelievable. I feel good this morning.
I went to Walmart yesterday and its true- eating more meat upped my grocery budget, since everyone else is eating normally. That and school supplies for 4 kids decimated my bank account. I made pork and beef meatballs to get me through the week and added eggs to bind them. Usually eggs kill my psoriasis, but I felt like experimenting. I ate there for a snack before dinner and felt slightly itchy, but my scalp feels fine today, and is actually getting better every day. Hmmm.
My hands are looking less…old.weird.
Thursday, August 1, 2019
It’s kind of boring to write that every day, I have bacon, sausage, chicken with butter, or beef. I have a cup of coffee with cream and collagen in the morning, and drink water with artificially flavored electrolytes all day.
I haven’t weighed. Most women have a screwy relationship with the scale if they have a relationship with the scale, and I’m no exception. My baby pooch is much more flat, and my energy is up. I am sleeping pretty good- I fall asleep just fine but wake up once a night to pee. I wasn’t doing this before I started being a raging carnivore, so it’s a bit of a bummer, but I also pee a ton. I suppose my body is releasing extra inflammatory substances through my pee at night. Not too bad- I can fall asleep afterward just fine.
I’ve been lifting in the garage 3-4x a week and I feel strong. I’ve been swimming too, and feel less strong in the pool. That’s interesting. Since cardiovascular exercise is not someone my ancestors did, it makes sense that anaerobic exercise would get a boost and aerobic exercise would be more difficult. My body talks better when I’m not putting a bunch of endocrine disruptors in it.
Still no alcohol. Not too bad.
It’s not my imagination. My arm skin is getting less crepey. Hmm.
Is it possible that plants are that harmful to humans? Have we been getting it so wrong for so many decades? What if plants really do contribute to keeping us unwell? It sounds crazy and is a lot to chew on. I listened to most of “carnivory-con” yesterday and the science behind antinutrients, especially as it pertains to mental health, is pretty undeniable.
Meat-based diets will never take as a mainstream way of eating, and it’s too politically charged of a climate to advocate. I’ll wait for a few months to see how I am feeling until I publish this crazy experiment on my blog.
As an interesting note, my fully-plant-based mom and I were talking yesterday. She is tiny and I am tall and muscular and have always wiggled around with my weight, so I always feel-just a teeny bit- like I may be wrong with my dietary advice. But I can’t deny how quickly I am feeling more balanced and how my body is physically responding, so when she asked me about dietary advice for my uncle, who was just devastatingly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I ventured out with information about the therapeutic ketogenic diet, as is being implemented with astounding success clinically over at Paleomedicina.
She was quiet for a moment. She asked me what I thought about Chris Wark’s cancer protocol over at Chris Beat Cancer- a fully plant-based diet and supplement regimen to work on healing cancer. I love what that guy is doing. Cleaning up your diet will assuredly lead to a healthier body. Yet, with all of the research I’ve been doing, I’m fully convinced that any sugar- glucose or fructose or processed business, can accelerate the growth of unwanted substances. Like cancer. So clinically, I would unequivocally choose a paleo ketogenic diet for cancer. I fully believe in the work at Paleomedicina for many reasons.
She was shocked.
“That”, she said, “is exactly what the doctors at City of Hope (Pasadena) recommended.”
“Cool”, said I.
I lasted about 26 days. Since then, I have added back fruit and veggies and bites of sugar and other stuff here and there. The carnivore diet was a great experiment, but it ended up to be too restrictive for this busy working mom.
That said, I found the utility of the diet very interesting, and I realized that for therapeutic uses, it is very powerful.
I have since put three select clients on a mostly carnivore diet, with fairly great success. The caveat here is that these clients needed the diet for extreme gut issues, and we had exhausted other dietary options after months or years of working together. They needed less inflammation in their gut, they were fully informed of what we were doing, and they consented completely. This is not an easy thing to do if you are not committed and willing. I would never make anyone eat like this if they were not comfortable.
If you want to do it for fun, be my guest. I would recommend seeking out excellent quality animal products and being gracious with yourself.
If you want to do it for health issues, get ahold of me for help and I will walk through the process with you. Eventually, I will do a 28 Day Carnivore Reset, but it will be for a select population of people only. I don't want to propagate eating disorder-ish behavior for people who are healthy but want to drop a few pounds. Normal balanced eating can do that for you, just fine.
Next week, we will look a bit deeper into the ways the carnivore diet can impact your mood and hormones. Let me know if you have questions before that!