I have been on the Carnivore Diet for about six weeks now. In case you don’t know, this is the anti-vegan, all-meat diet. It is being touted for health reasons, but is far more interesting for the personalities and politics behind it. Really, this just ought to be called the Dissident Right Diet.
Carnivore is, hands down, the simplest diet there is. No calorie counting, no macro counting, no food weighing. There is one and only one rule: if it’s an animal product, you can eat it. The staple of the diet is meat, and many of its advocates eat beef almost exclusively, but any meat is acceptable so long as it is naturally raised. Other animal products are also permitted, but you are encouraged to focus on meat. Eggs are acceptable, as well as some dairy products like high-fat plain yogurt, cheese, and sour cream. It’s best to steer clear of milk if one of your objectives is to lose weight, as it has a lot of naturally occurring sugar in it.
No fruits and vegetables are permitted. I suppose that honey is arguably an animal product, but that’s out as well. The reason is that one of the objectives of the diet is to cause your body to go into ketosis, which means that you shift over to using fat for energy rather than carbs. Ingesting a high-carb source like honey would take your body out of ketosis. This means that the Carnivore diet is all about protein and fat. So, while theoretically, any meat is acceptable, you really want to go for fatty meats like ribeye steaks and pork chops.
Carnivore is sort of an extreme version of the ketogenic diet, which was initially developed in the 1920s as an effective treatment for epilepsy. The diet received some attention in the 1990s, but it was really Dave Asprey’s 2014 book The Bulletproof Diet that turned keto into a full-blown phenomenon, and a multi-billion-dollar industry. Keto allows you to eat fruits and vegetables, so long as they are not sugary and starchy. Green things like broccoli and spinach are in, and potatoes, carrots, and corn are out. This effectively eliminates virtually all fruits except the avocado (yes, that’s technically a fruit).
As part of my “stay in shape” program during the COVID-19 shutdown, I went on Asprey’s Bulletproof Diet back in March, pretty much as soon as my gym closed. I then transitioned to a stricter ketogenic protocol, aiming for the complete elimination of carbs (Asprey’s diet allows you some). I had tried keto two years earlier, and could not sustain it. But this time I did a lot more research and figured out what I had been doing wrong. Mainly, I had very seriously underestimated the amount of water and electrolytes I needed to supplement (keto causes you to lose both). I had also not been eating enough fat — in other words, I had deprived my body of one energy source (carbs) but had failed to provide it with sufficient quantities of the new source it was craving.
Everything went a lot better this time, but I found one element to be extremely difficult: I simply could not get in all the servings of non-starchy, non-sugary vegetables I was supposed to consume in a day. The main reason for this is simple: I hate vegetables. Sure, if presented to me on a plate in a good restaurant, appealingly prepared, I will try them. But when at home, about the best I can manage is to microwave some frozen broccoli or open a can of sauerkraut. I had heard about Carnivore, but thought it sounded insane. Without fiber, wouldn’t I get colon cancer?
For some reason, however, these interesting times we are living through have made me feel a bit reckless. One evening, I found myself staring intently at a package of “mixed field greens” I was about to spread onto a plate and force myself to eat, after splashing them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. My body was screaming “no!” And then I did it; I made the leap. I just said no to vegetables. I tossed the greens into the trash and decided to go full Carnivore — as an experiment. And it is still an experiment, for my intention is just to see how this goes. I may not stay on the diet long term.
The next day I headed for the grocery store to begin my new, carnivorous lifestyle. My shopping list was considerably simplified: beef, pork, chicken, eggs, cheese, sour cream, Greek yogurt (I have since eliminated the yogurt). Breakfast is usually now a small steak with four scrambled eggs. Sometimes I make a cheeseburger. Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce. Hold the bun, the onions, and the ketchup (too sugary). Hold everything, in fact, apart from the meat and the cheese. I cook the burger medium rare, covering the pan for about four minutes to let the cheese melt, then I usually adorn the whole ensemble with two or three runny, fried eggs. At midday I usually pop three or four chicken breasts in the oven, sprinkling them with salt and seasoning, and topping each with a pat of butter. These breasts serve as snacks. I often consume one, sometimes two a day. Another favorite snack is hardboiled eggs.
Frequently, dinner is cheeseburgers (if I’ve not had one for breakfast), or a steak, or a couple of pork chops — or some combination of these. My beverage of choice is usually water. Mineral water is fantastic, because you need to take in more minerals on this diet. Sometimes I add some sugar-free electrolyte mix to the water. I also drink Dave Asprey’s “bulletproof coffee,” which is coffee blended with a tablespoon or so of butter. No sugar; I use stevia instead. Generally, I have two or three cups of this a day, regular or decaf. I had quit drinking alcohol in January, before our descent into complete, unhinged madness began. Now I consume a martini after dinner, for medicinal purposes. (This is breaking the rules of the diet, actually — a point to which I will return later.)
So what have been the results? Since starting the whole “diet arc,” which, as I’ve mentioned, began as “Bulletproof,” I have lost twelve pounds. All of it seems to be fat. Despite being gymless and reduced to doing almost nothing but bodyweight exercises, I do not seem to have lost any muscle mass. Based on other people’s experiences, I can expect to keep on losing fat. In fact, this diet is absolutely terrific for fat loss.
The trouble is that some people who try to go Carnivore (or Keto) cannot stick to it because their chief reason for being on the diet is weight loss. This means that they often wind up not eating enough. And it’s also hard to break through decades of conditioning about how fat will make you fat. All the Carnivore gurus advise people to eat more than they think they should, at least in the first few weeks. This can actually prove difficult, since protein and fat are so satiating. (One of the reasons normies get fat is because carbs are not very satiating, so they wind up eating more and more in order to feel full.) Even stuffing yourself, it’s pretty hard to gain fat if you are eating nothing but meat (which was correctly advertised in the 40s and 50s, incidentally, as “slimming”).
In addition to the fat loss, there have been some other interesting effects. For one thing, my mood has generally been much more positive. I have fewer “highs” and “lows” and just seem to be on an even keel. My thinking seems to be clearer. Words are coming easier and my productivity is up. I have also noticed that my mild OCD seems to have improved (I’m now only checking the stove a couple of times before leaving the house). It could be my imagination, but some of my senses seem to be heightened. For example, my sense of smell seems to be more acute, and olfactory experiences somehow more “vivid.” (“You’re becoming a werewolf,” a friend said to me.) I’ve also experienced vivid recall of old, long-forgotten memories, which has sometimes occasioned a mixture of emotions.
My vision, which has been steadily deteriorating for years, now seems to be a notch better. I’m also sleeping well, and I seem to need less sleep (something many people on Carnivore have reported). Alcohol seems to have a stronger effect on me, which is not always good. In general, I have the odd feeling that something is “shifting” inside me; that I am becoming more “myself.” Again, perhaps this could all be my imagination. Perhaps it is just the high hopes of an enthusiastic convert.
The first objection that everyone has to the Carnivore diet is constipation. People’s experiences vary, but in my case, it was not a problem.
There is a downside, however, and it is called “the adaptation phase.” This is supposed to last anywhere from two weeks to several months. It’s worse for people with really bad, normie diets. Now, I was already low-carb, but the adaptation phase has been pretty difficult for me. I have been working out about five or six days a week, but I have less energy. This is supposed to get better in time, as my body adapts to using fat as a fuel source. I fatigue rather easily, and I get headaches, always in the back, righthand side of my cranium. These are cured almost immediately by taking in more water and electrolytes (sometimes I sip beef bone broth, which also has an immediate effect).
As I mentioned earlier, you lose water and minerals on a no-carb diet. “They” say that this is supposed to get better, and that you can get all the minerals you need from animal products. But I see little sign of improvement on this score, and after six weeks I am still guzzling salty water or broth all day long. But it doesn’t matter to me that much. Unless something changes, I am going to stick this out and suffer through the adaptation phase, given that so many others have reported that things do get better. Setting aside the bad, the positive results I’ve had so far make me want to continue. And I also just enjoy finally feeling liberated from the tyranny of the vegetable kingdom.
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