BY TONY WOODS
I am an experimenter. Trying things out and seeing whether they live up to the hype is definitely worth a go, providing it’s not going to kill me or destroy my moral compass.
For quite a while I have been hearing about the benefits of veganism. Vegans always seemed a little too angry for me to try going full vegan. However, with a vegetarian wife I figured I’d try vegetarianism for a month. But 2 weeks in…NOPE! Bad idea. I was horribly unwell, felt weak, couldn’t do what I needed to do, suffering a complete feeling of lethargy unless jacking up on energy drinks and chocolate. Tried to stick it out another week and…no chance. My health was too important and my 24/7 farming life meant I was unable to wait until the “Adjustment phrase” was over (days off are not a luxury we all get to enjoy). So that was it for my foray into plant based diets.
Over the last year or so, I started hearing about people living amazing lives based entirely on eating just meat. Yes, a carnivore diet. A complete reversal of veganism. As a devout non-vegan, I got a little curious about this and quickly learned that a fair number of high level academics are on this style of eating and have been for a surprisingly long time.
Bang – Time for intense Google searching. Did I find horror stories of deteriorating health? Quite the contrary actually. I found stories of people who have been eating the carnivore diet (I call it a diet, but try to think of it as a way of eating and not a beefy Slim Fast plan) and are thriving 3, 5, 25 years down the line. This is a growing subculture and it’s only going to get bigger as far as I can tell.
As with all amazing things, the claim have to be over hyped. People claiming it cleared up their gum disease, depression, diabetes and most other things. My first thought was “Another miracle cure, just like veganism.” But unusually there were no stories of people’s health deteriorating or people getting unwell because of going carnivore. Maybe this was because of it being a new thing? Back to Google and…it’s not that new. Many ancient tribes are either 95% carnivore, or 100% carnivore for 9 months of the year. These range from Masai up to Innuit…which is equator to the pole. Which suggests it’s not a localised one off group who have tried it and survived.
As with all things too good to be true…it was time to give it a go and see whether all the hype was true.
One thing worth considering, I have zero health conditions. So instead of stepping into this as a way to help improve my ill health, it was actually a way to challenge the claims of feeling super human which almost everyone reported. Come on Carnivore, show me what you got.
Twitter threw up a storm when I announced I was doing a 1 month carnivore trial. Friends and twitter buds were curious and looking forward to seeing how it went. A few suggestions of scurvy did get me a little worried, but all in all it was positive. However, when I posted my first few meals, the vegans of the echo chamber started going crazy. As it turns out, for people who eat no meat at all, they were all highly qualified to tell me about how a pure meat diet would affect me…which is definitely their area of expertise. First-hand experience, no doubt. With this, an obsession with my colon became their principal interest.
Now I’m not going to pretend I knew/know what I’m doing. So I enlisted the help of the greatest carnivore minds on earth…everyone with a carnivore podcast, to be more accurate. I absorbed hour after hour of carnivore information, read documents and really got excited about it. Super-Human here I come.
Day 1 of going Carnivore…I feel the same as yesterday.
Day 2 of going Carnivore…I still felt pretty normal.
Day 3 more of the same.
Day 4 I am as before and no different.
Day 5 My wife thinks I have lost a little weight. It is at this point that I am eating only 1 meal a day. But it’s a stonker of a meal. Loads of cheese and beef. It’s not exciting, but it is delicious.
Day 6 toilet time. Don’t worry, not going to be sharing loads of information here, but basically, everything the same as usual.
Day 7 all normal.
Day 8 I think I am in ground hog day. I am no different really. My mental focus is better, but nothing mystical. I cannot jump super high like a mutant spider and neither can I fly. These super powers are somewhat lacking.
Fast forward to Day 15, still more of the same. I have good mental focus and consistent energy. No spikes or troughs. Considering giving up coffee.
Day 16 I became hyper aware of my intense mental focus. My mind was firing in every direction but in ways which I was also able to follow. If you have seen the film Limitless, it was like a milder version of that. This new style focus made today a bit of an epiphany day. I was reading lots (as always) and listening to lots of podcasts (as always) but all on carnivory. That’s when a few things struck me. Those who follow the carnivore diet are putting extreme constraints on their food intake, much as how vegans do. A surprisingly high number of people (in my experience) who are vegan have a history of eating disorders before becoming vegan. This is not a knock on vegans or eating disorders. Just something I have anecdotal data on. Later today I hear a podcaster say exactly my thoughts. Is carnivore eating just another way for people to put controls in place on their eating, just as with other eating disorders? I have no answer on this, but the podcaster did go on to say that there is a proportion of people on the carnivore diet who fit this category (in my view, if they’re thriving on it, then it’s not a bad thing, as long as they’re healthy).
Also Day 16, I had my first proper cravings. Prior to going carnivore I had a sweet tooth which would allow me to eat a 12 pack of Krispy Kreme donuts and still have space for more food afterwards. Not having any cravings until day 16…unreal. Cravings were never a struggle before. Having said that, even now at day 16 it wasn’t much of a struggle. It was more of a “Hmm, it would be nice to eat some Custard Crème biscuits.” As opposed to really yearning for them. I think it is the change in texture I was after
On Day 16 I had another eureka moment. By surrounding myself with carnivore data, podcasts, tweets, literature, etc I had accidentally indoctrinated myself into believing everything being said…much as how vegans surround themselves with vegan based information and thus believe everything they are being told too. It was time to break away from the world of data and just go for it without the torrent of information coming through.
Fast forward to Day 19. Morning – All normal.
Meander forward to day 19. Midday – I’m not feeling 100%.
Hobble a little more forward to day 19. Early evening – My joints hurt, my head hurts, I don’t feel good at all. In fact, I feel absolutely hanging. Wife checks me out and thinks I am badly dehydrated. My health comes first. Rehydration salts and the alike…still feeling awful…and I’m off carnivore. Sorry but I’m not risking my health. Everything said I should use Himalayan salt, but either I was using too much or too little. Whatever the situation I was not sticking to this. Having to supplement with a salt from half way across the world was where I was drawing my line.
I had been speaking online with a guy called Brett who was super supportive and many other carnivore forerunners…yes even Dr Shaun Baker. When I said about my change and stepping away from carnivory the response was amazing. Unlike the responses I have seen vegans giving to past vegans, the carnivore community almost unanimously said “Do what works best for you. Well done for giving it a go.” This blew my mind. These religious zealots so entirely pushing their agenda were actually just people who wanted others to experience the benefits they have. They are not the raving nuttery of the vegan hardcore I have seen online abusing people who have walked away from veganism. These were people wishing me the best and hoping I find a way of eating that gives me the benefits they have all been enjoying. So much for the religious fanaticism I was half expecting.
Putting up side by side, if I had to permanently be a part of either community, I would choose the carnivore community because the people are all so much happier, even if you walk away from their “Thing”!
After being Carnivore
Since Day 20 I have experimented with varying degrees of carnivory and nothing has yet helped my mental focus and satiation as being 100% carnivore. Cravings are as regular as clockwork and I am needing to eat throughout the day. Even with a huge meaty breakfast and a tiny bit of carbs (fast or slow digesting) I am hungry very shortly afterwards.
One rather nasty thing to note, since reintroducing carbs, I have been as gassy as a blimp. The difference with being full off a meaty diet and being full off a plant based diet is unreal. One is best described as being like a bear after its largest meal just before getting ready to hibernate. A cozy satiation which lets you know you will have energy for what’s ahead. The other is like a balloon inflating to burst where bits and pieces are poking out and noxious gas escaping now and again. My wife commented that whilst carnivore I was not passing wind and since being off carnivore I had done little but pass wind…all the time.
At the time of writing I am still experimenting with being carnivore and cannot let go of it. My mind keeps coming back to the clarity I was enjoying. The benefits I was experiencing are things I cannot ignore. Providing I did not get dehydrated, I believe I would still be pure carnivore. With that in mind, I have taken a month to experiment and my conclusion is simple, being carnivore was more comfortable for my stomach, better for my mental focus and providing I can play with a little sugar before going to the gym (insulin spike manipulation for muscular gain) I will likely be back pure carnivore (except that tiny bit of sugar before the gym) by the time you read this.
Do I recommend going carnivore to everyone? I cannot say yes or no to that.
Do I recommend trying it?
Well…30 days is only 30 days.