Carnivore is extreme. I get that. All I can say is desperate times call for desperate measures.
I was addicted to food, mostly sugar. It feels like such a failure to say out loud that I’m addicted to food. We all need food to live, right? How can you be addicted to something you need to survive? The issue is, I didn’t want the food that my body needed, I wanted the junk that tasted good—because that’s what I relied on to be happy, in a way. A whole box of cereal, a whole sleeve of chocolate chip cookies, a huge dinner at a party with a piece of cake and fruit bowls, ice cream, plus snacks all along the way… no problem! The issue was more mental than physical really. Food became an idol for me. I wanted food to celebrate special occasions. I needed food to get me through bad times. My girlfriend and I would binge watch our favorite tv shows on our weekends off with plenty of sugary iced tea and tons of pasta-heavy quick and easy meals. It was great. Then.
Fifteen years later, it’s hitting me. Food has been an idol my whole life.
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Matthew 4:4, NLT
So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?Ecclesiastes 2:24-25, NLT
The bible verses above tell me two things. First, that we shouldn’t depend on food, and second, that we should enjoy food instead—the enjoyment is a gift from God.
Check out the video below. I watched this video a few months ago and it resonated so deeply with me. My hopelessness, regarding my addiction to food (again, mainly sweets), is what I needed to change.
Instead of making food into a god like I did in the past, my focus this past month of eating carnivore has been retraining my thoughts—accepting that God is God. Food is one of his many gifts to us, not an idol to take his place.
I was also one point away from pre-diabetes—the fallout from my addiction to sweets. I’m way too young to be concerned about pre-diabetes! I was pretty close to having gestational diabetes while I was pregnant with both of my sons. I was right on the line. I wasn’t ever formally diagnosed, but when my second son was born at over nine and half pounds, the midwife said she wasn’t surprised. Unbeknownst to me, she’d been expecting a large baby. That was seven or so years ago. I thought everything went back to normal afterward. Then a few years ago I noticed a trend on my annual blood tests. Every year my blood sugar level was getting higher and higher. It was a lot more concerning without being able to use pregnancy as an excuse.
I was also chronically tired. Woke up—tired. Got dressed—tired. Got the kids off to school—tired. Went to work—tired. Came home from work—tired. Got to bed—tired. Rinse. Repeat. I was so sick of it. I felt like I was wasting so much time being tired. I had such awesome plans and ideas, but I was always too tired.
Lastly, I never had any success with other elimination diets; AIP, GAPS, etc., and carnivore is the ultimate elimination diet! My interest in an elimination diet is because of my four year struggle with hidradenitis suppurative. HS is an excruciatingly painful autoimmune disease/condition that effects the skin. You can google it for yourself if you’d like. In 2015 it got so bad that my doctor suggested a skin graft. I’d be ‘out of service’ for months during recovery and would require months of physical therapy as well. When I told him I wanted to think about it, and maybe try healing myself through diet, he literally laughed in my face and told me I’d be back when I couldn’t stand the pain anymore.
Months earlier my team of dermatologists told me to stay thin, stay a non-smoker, and avoid stress. I already was relatively thin, I’d never smoked in my life, and I had what I thought was an acceptable amount of stress in my life. The non-smoker recommendation intrigued me. Turns out tobacco is a nightshade. Do you know what I nightshade is? I didn’t! Let me tell you, getting them out of your diet seems like a death sentence when you’re used to eating whatever you want. Attempting to remove nightshades from my diet was my first experience with an elimination diet. I didn’t even last a week. You’d think the prospect of undergoing a skin graft would have spurred me on. Instead of changing my diet, I just cried over all the things I felt I couldn’t do.
It ended up that a year or so later a huge stressor in my life—one I wasn’t even was causing me stress—ended up leaving the state. My HS began healing over night. I could feel my body healing from the inside out. I knew it was over. I thank God for that—that I actually healed and that within a few weeks I was pain free. My body is still healing. I’ve still got scars and discolorations on my skin from the wounds, but as far as I’m concerned my HS is in remission.
Still, I want to know I’ll be able to do all I can do to combat HS in the future, should it rear its ugly head again. Along with prayer, eating carnivore (thus nightshade free), is a huge part of successfully tackling an elimination diet.
What have I been eating?
Only the tip of the iceberg, in my opinion. Pretty much everything I’ve eaten during the month of January is listed below. Really, the list is pretty pathetic. It’s lacking some awesome carnivore options. Honestly I’ve felt like I’m missing out on a lot of good things, like real bone broth and meats that are a little off from the norm. I’ll get there. I just haven’t had the chance to venture out much.
- McDonald’s quarter pounder patties
- Beef Ribeye
- Beef Fillet
- North Atlantic Bonita
- Pork Tenderloin
- Pork Roast
- Eggs – Eggs did not seem to go over well for me. I think they were causing a lot of issues like fatigue and weakness. I wanted to experiment with adding them back in after a few weeks without them, but I feel so much better without them I haven’t tried them again on purpose.
- Pork Rinds
Awareness. It’s funny how aware I have become of a lot of things I was really out of tune with prior to going carnivore. For instance, one of the reasons I wanted to start carnivore was to have more energy. Aside from the highs and lows of eating a carb filled diet, I really wasn’t paying attention to how much I slept. One of the things eating carnivore has done for me is given me a stronger awareness of things I never paid attention to before because food has become so simple. Without focusing on what I’m eating, there’s a lot more time to consider other factors.
Sleep. I’ve been sleeping wonderfully. I’m what most people call a ‘light’ sleeper. Pretty much anything wakes me up. I guess that could be good in a way, but it often made for a lot of nights where I’d be up in the middle of the night because of any sort of little noise. I’ve noticed that I seem to be sleeping much more heavily. It’s nice! When I wake up now, I feel like I actually got some real sleep. An odd thing that’s been going on is that I frequently have vivid dreams. My husband wakes up much earlier than I do for work. When his alarm goes off I am usually in the midst of some crazy dream. Two hours later, when my alarm goes off I have no clue what I was dreaming about only a few hours earlier, but at least several times a week for the last few weeks the dreams have caught me off guard at one point or another. I’m thankful they’re just weird dreams and not nightmares!
Energy. One of the things I was aiming to improve eating carnivore style was my energy level. This one is tough to describe. I’m not brimming with energy, but I feel like I’m on the cusp of brimming with energy. Like a Lamborghini with an empty gas tank. I feel like I’m right there—there’s just something critical missing that I haven’t been able to nail yet. Like I said just above, I’ve become aware of a lot of things I would have never noticed before. That said, I don’t think my energy is held back by being tired. I increased the number of hours I’m sleeping each night and I’ve noticed positive changes from that, but there’s still something slightly off. Carnivore eating confirms that I’m not experiencing the ups and downs of my blood sugar level changing, so what else could it be? I think it’s a lot mental and partly physical. I’m so used to being tired after eating a carb-heavy meal that I think my brain is having a tough time adjusting to my new reality. When I eat, I get energy. I get crazy energy. After eating I’m used to finding a comfy spot on the couch. Now, after eating, I’m ready to clean the house like a mad woman—because I have the energy to do it! I think a lot of my current energy crisis is because I’m simply not eating enough. I’ve noticed a trend where if my energy seems low, and I eat, my energy level rises very quickly. I just need to remember to eat instead of lay down! Strange, but true. For me anyway.
Mood. I’m generally a happy go lucky person. My mood has been good, but I don’t know that there’s been any change from my pre-carnivore days. In the beginning, the weakness and light-headedness affected my mood quite a bit. Since that’s all gotten better, my mood has followed suit.
Cravings/Appetite. I just flat out don’t want to eat—a lot, or often. It’s crazy. My husband is the first to say that he’d get bored eating carnivore. My biggest concern in the beginning wasn’t boredom, but cravings. I’ve never been able to stick to any other elimination diet because my cravings did me in, rather I let my cravings get the best of me. Eating carnivore, cravings haven’t been an issue. The first few weeks I actually had such a strong aversion to food in general that I had trouble eating enough food. My energy levels were crazy low, but I just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating. Still, once I’ve eaten my fill of meat and fat, I have no desire for anything else. I can’t even stress how different it is to be in this position! On other diets, I’ve always ended up hungry, including keto! Cravings have always been my biggest issue. On carnivore—what cravings!
Vision. I was really interested in how carnivore would affect my vision. About a year ago I was driving home in the evening and noticed that the tail lights of the vehicles in front of me were shaped like the letter, “J.” It really stood out to me. I had no clue why, but the shape faded over the next few days. Then a few weeks later, it happened again. Several times my vision went back and forth between being normal then for whatever reason the J’s would show up. I did some google investigating and found that diabetes often affects people’s vision. That blew me away and so I started paying attention to when I’d see the J’s. Sure enough, seeing J’s at night seemed to correlate with my sugar binges. I thought, if that was the case, surely eating carnivore and avoiding spikes in my blood sugar would affect my vision positively somehow. I haven’t seen any J’s at night recently. I was hoping for more than that. Maybe that’s enough. Aside from that though, I have noticed something else going on with my eyes. It’s January so my health insurance will cover a free eye exam for 2020, and I’m super curious about my prescription. I’ve always had good vision close up and needed glasses for driving/seeing distance. My glasses and vision without my glasses is noticeably different now compared to a month ago. I’m super curious about what changed, but I will likely wait a few more months to schedule an eye exam because I only get one a year and there might be more changes on the way.
Oral Health. My oral health seems to have greatly improved. My mouth doesn’t ever seem dirty. I’m still brushing and flossing as usual, but my teeth usually feel like I’ve just left the dentist’s office regardless of if it’s before or after my own cleaning routine.
Skin. My best measurement technique is looking at my legs. I live in the northeast and heat with wood. Our house is dry. The air is dry. Usually, my skin is really dry, and flaky. Not so, though. Even if I don’t lotion my legs after I get out of the shower, my skin stays in good condition and doesn’t seem to get as dry and flaky as it used to. Regarding the way I look, I had some trouble with it. When I get ready in the bathroom, and when I see myself in the mirror at work, it’s almost always under horrendous artificial lighting. I’ve lost so much weight in my face that I thought I looked sickly and gaunt. I asked my husband a few days ago if he thought the same, or if I looked better. He said better, that I didn’t look sick at all, and he’s honest, I don’t think he’s just sayin’ it to be nice. 😉
Hair. I’ve had a rash of good hair days. I have no clue if it’s been because of eating carnivore or just a fluke. Regardless, I’ll take it! Also, I think my hair has been thinning since I’ve had kids, my youngest is nearly eight now. I think, without a doubt, that I’ve stopped losing hair as quickly as I was. My hair length is to the middle of my back. I used to clean out my brush every few days. Now, there’s hardly any hair on my brush. This is really a pleasant surprise! My hair is important to me. I’ve got a lot of scarring from different skin issues and really bad acne I had when I was younger. My hair has always been like a security blanket I can hide behind. I would really really really be thankful for long healthy hair! Up until starting carnivore, I thought it might be something I’d need to let go of though, because of how thin my hair was getting. It’s really comforting for me that this way of eating seems to be supporting the health of my hair.
Weight. When I started my first day of carnivore on Dec 29th 2019, I was 126 pounds. This morning I was 113 pounds. I’m 5′ 2″. I can feel that I have gotten much smaller. My clothes are loose and there’s less of me to wash in the shower. I haven’t weighed 113 pounds since high school, my body is pretty tiny at this point, but in the words of Mark Sisson, I’m ‘skinny-fat.’ My body composition is thin, but not muscular. I’m not really concerned about my weight at this point, if anything, my focus going forward will be on gaining muscle.
Digestion. Like I said earlier, one of the unsustainable parts of keto for me was cravings. The other was digestion. When I got constipated on keto, I ate more veggies and less meat thinking that more fiber was the fix. Then I’d get hungry because with less meat I wasn’t getting enough fat to stave off my hunger—I had trouble eating enough fat because I was thinking I’d eat too much protein to get it and that the protein would convert to sugar via gluconeogenesis. It felt like I had a beach ball in my stomach that nothing got past. I was horribly bloated and ultimately, I’d give up on keto because I couldn’t make it passed being bloated. It was horrible. Keto was this awesome tool that seemed to work for everyone else, but it just didn’t work for me! I felt like maybe I just wasn’t doing it right. I never did figure it out. I’d only ever go for a few weeks, then I’d give up because I just felt so disgusting.
Gas. When I ate high carb / high sugar my gas was socially debilitating. There was just no way for me to eat high carb and be around people. I just couldn’t do it. The down side to carnivore is that you can’t trust a fart… you might just poop your pants—but the upside is that if you can make it past the little bit of time it takes for your body to adapt to the higher fat content, there’s no gas—ever. Social life reinstated!
Poop. Yeah, it’s a thing. Nearly every poop in the beginning was diarrhea. Not fun. But, at one month in, I’m doing okay. I had my gallbladder out in 2010 and prior to the surgery the surgeon told me that I’d have little warning when it was time to go, so I’m used to it. Some poops are normal. Some are still pretty loose. Whatever. It’s poop. It’s not going to be pretty. I am absolutely astounded at how much less I poop. And yet, I’m still lighter on the scale and less bloated. I feel like this ‘new math’ doesn’t add up—but I totally don’t care! It’s really crazy—I eat, I barely poop, I feel lighter in general, and there’s no bloating, no heaviness, no issues whatsoever. I’m good with that!
Light-Headedness. In the beginning this was a huge issue for me. I think eating eggs so often compounded the issue. I had general light-headedness the first week, I think that was par for the carnivore course. I took a turn for the worse toward the end of the second week though. There was a lot of light-headedness and weakness, tiredness, etc. As soon as I stopped eating eggs, all of it went away. If I were to give advise to someone beginning carnivore, I’d advise them to stay away from eggs in the beginning and introduce them carefully after a decent amount of time eating just meats and fat.
Menstruation. I’ve gone through two periods while eating carnivore. I didn’t notice any real changes during round one. Round two was a bit late. I was hoping that maybe carnivore would positively affect some of the PMS symptoms that are normal for me. I didn’t really notice any improvements, but it’s still pretty early in my carnivore journey, so I’m not disappointed at all. One of my main issues during PMS is sugar cravings. If carnivore could positively impact that issue for me, that would be lovely! I’ll just have to wait and see.
I am sticking with the carnivore way of eating. I’ve never experienced a way of eating that is so rewarding and so simple. My cravings are manageable. I feel wonderful. I don’t want to go back to where I came from.
Is it extreme—absolutely! I fully recognize that this diet may not be for everyone. Most of the people I’ve seen posting on the social medial message boards have some pretty extreme health issues. Why else would people turn to such an extreme tactic? Carnivore is a last resort for them, just like it was for me. Also, I can’t help but notice how many people come from keto with a couple extra pounds to lose, or still lingering auto-immune issues, etc.. The point is, yes carnivore is extreme, but the N=1 experiments folks on the social medial communities document seem to detail success in areas where even keto has failed.
Is it necessary—I don’t know that it is for everyone. If you’re fine eating a SAD diet, or fine eating keto, then by all means, do what makes you happy. In all honestly, this post isn’t for you. If you’re not broke, you’ve got nothing to fix. Unfortunately we’re not all in that category. The carnivore way of eating seems to be the ultimate elimination diet tool some people have used to regain their health. Whether or not people who’ve had success eating carnivore will ever be able to reintroduce other foods back into their diet—while still maintaining their health—is more of a personal experiment than an overarching statement one can make for the whole human species. Like with so many other things in life, there’s no one-size-fits-all optimal way of eating.
Is it sustainable—absolutely. Why on earth did we ever start using sugar to flavor our food in place of fat? I’ve realized over the past month that flavoring food with fat is delicious and satiating! I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything flavor-wise. Even better than that is that while sugar made me hungry for more sugar, fat puts a quick stop to hunger—without the lethargy that comes with a carb-heavy or sugar laden meal. That is what has made this way of eating sustainable for me.
God, you are amazing. The things you provide for us in your time are exactly what we need. It’s been enjoyable to grow closer to you and right my thinking regarding what I need and what I enjoy—I need you, and food is one of your gifts to me.
Lord, please continue this journey for me—better health and closeness to you. Please help me to grab a hold of what I’ve gained and not let go, just keep me moving forward. Thank you for taking care of me Lord, and please help me to use this experience to care for others.
In Jesus name!