If you had asked me what I thought about the carnivore diet ten years ago, I would’ve laughed and told you it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of. However, when I experienced a bout of autoimmune issues in 2016, my background as a nutritionist took a different turn. I am now more open to novel therapies and diets that go against the mainstream. The carnivore diet is one that I believe has some promise for certain people.
What is the Carnivore diet?
The carnivore diet is the exclusion of all foods except for meat and water. I won’t go into any more detail on this, because it really is that simple.
The Supposed Benefits
Carnivore diet supporters claim a laundry list of benefits. Here are some of the most notable
- Healing Autoimmunity
- Resolving digestive issues like SIBO and IBS
- Healing type 2 diabetes
- Hormonal balancing
- Weight loss
It’s important to note that while the anecdotes are promising, the scientific literature does not yet support most of these claims. Unlike the AIP diet (which is backed by copious amounts of scientific literature), the carnivore diet still needs to be studied to say for sure what benefits to expect from it.
That said, I think there’s enough n=1s out there to surmise that there is definitley merit to all the health claims of carnivore. In other words, it never hurts to try.
My experiment with Carnivore
In 2016, I started following the AIP diet (autoimmune protocol). This was to heal my autoimmune issues. The diet worked so well for me that not only did it resolve my autoimmune issues, it also resolved issues I had no idea were linked to autoimmunity. AIP singlehandedly erased my clinical depression, brain fog, and chronic fatigue. Since adopting AIP, I’ve experienced such a surplus of energy and vitality that I am usually the most energetic and vibrant person in the room. That sounds like a brag, but it’s an achievement I’m so proud of.
I’m such a believer in this way of eating that I created a course called Healing With Food to help others experience this level of vitality and health. I also help others with my nutritional therapy coaching and School of Transformation.
Though I currently follow the AIP diet and feel fantastic 90% of the time, I wanted to give carnivore an honest try to see if I didn’t experience an even better amount of health than I already have. So I jumped in head first by watching copious amounts of the leading carnivore doctors: Dr. Paul Saladino, Dr. Anthony Chaffe, Dr. Ken Berry. I also read Paul Saladino’s book, the Carnivore Code.
From there, I took a trip to my local Whole Foods and purchased a bunch of rib eyes, which was…interesting. My typical trip to the groceries consists of some protein with a buch of vegetables. Having nothing except for meat in the cart was a strange feeling.
My first day of carnivore was uneventful and surprisingly smooth. I enjoyed the rib eyes, and the simplicity of dinner time.
Feeling great, but no better or worse than during my standard AIP lifestyle. Though I did experience digestive issues (which I expected).
When eating carnivore, you’re starving the bacteria in your gut. They typically feed off of the fiber you eat. Because there is no fiber in the carnivore diet, the bugs in your gut die off and you experience loose stools. You also experience this due to a shift fat content.
You’re also eating far more fat when you do carnivore, and your digestive enzymes haven’t yet gotten accustomed to this shift. All of these changes created digestive situations that aren’t always super fun.
Still feeling great, but still no better or worse than during my standard AIP lifestyle. I did notice a slight improvement in my vision, which also happens when I fast or get into ketosis for short periods.
Pros I notice: my appetite is lower. I’m not really thinking about food much. Sleep quality seemed slightly better this week. Vivid dreams and feeling refreshed upon waking.
Cons I notice: Skin is looking a little tiny bit duller than usual
Feeling ok, but not as good as I typcially feel during my standard AIP lifestyle. There are a few things that have popped up.
Pros: Still really enjoying the simplicity, and not caring about food is a great feeling. This is surprising to me, as I love food! But having the freedom of not thinking about it is nice, and gives me more time throughout the day to focus on other things
Cons: My sleep is spotty, and I’m waking up multiple times throughout the night. My blood pressure is higher, and inversions during yoga are uncomfortable (that’s never ever been a issue for me.
My skin is definitley suffering. I notice a few deep lines where there were none before.
Also, my resting heart rate is higher than normal.
I didn’t complete week 4 because I can tell that my body isn’t enjoying this way of eating anymore. I’m tuned into my internal cues enough to know that I’m not going to “turn a corner” and magically feel better.
During the best times of this diet, I felt as good as I typically do during AIP. However for me, there was a point of diminished returns. By the end of the third week, I can see that my body wants vegetables and starchy carbs with my meat. I just feel better on AIP than I do on carnivore.
Ways you can use this diet
You can use this diet as a way to reset your digestive system. You can also use this diet to get your SIBO under control.
A great way to use the carnivore diet is to do it for a week or three to cleanse your pallette and get your appetite balanced. You can also use it to heal up a flare of autoimmune issues.
There is a growing population of people following the carnivore diet long term, but I’m still not quite sold on that approach. Historically, humans have been omnivores. Even the inuit, who mainly ate meat, still scavanged for fruit and other plant foods. There is not a single civilization in human history that didn’t eat some form of plant matter at some point during the year.
Because our goal is to eat in a way that optimizes our bodies and honors our genes, it’s always a good idea to take cues from our ancestors. This is why I love the AIP diet, and where carnivore gets it right. The reason that so many people are having great success on the carnivore diet is because of what is being eliminated; grains, dairy, and junk food!
If you’re not ready to jump headfirst into the carnivore diet, I encourage you to try the AIP diet. You’ll likely experience all the benefits of carnivore, plus the additional benefits of nutritional variety that will support your digestive system and cells.
Mistakes to Avoid
Crash Diet Mentality – The carnivore diet can be just another crash diet, and that’s my primary concern with it. Crash diets aren’t just hard on the body, they’re also quite devestating to the mind and spirit. Going into a diet with a spirit of deprivation and “skinny at all costs” will always yield an unsavory result.
When we take on a diet out of desparation to get skinny, while disregarding our intuition and health, this leads to the dreaded rebound effect. As a nutritionist, I really cringe at extreme measures to attain a certain aesthetic because even if those aesthetics are achieved, they’re so short lived you usually don’t even get to enjoy it.
If you want to attain a healthy bodyfat percentage and look fantastic in a bikini, the only way that’s possible is with consistent lifestyle changes that you’re able to stick to every day of your life. The corny-sounding cliches of drinking enough water, eating vegetables at every meal, and walking 10k steps will get your the body of your dreams and allow you to actually keep it far more than taking on an extreme diet for six months.
Ignoring the bigger issue – Many people are using carnivore diet to reduce binge eating. And there’s absolutley merit to this approach. Binge eating is partly a physical phenomenon. Processed carbohydrates do trigger binging in certain individuals. However, binge eating is never just a physical phenomenon. Binge eating is very much emotional and spiritual.
If you struggle with binge eating, that means you’re suppressing parts of your emotions with food. The opportunity here is that we can actually release these emotions with a mindfullness eating practice. We can sit with the discomfort, sadness, emptiness, lonliness, and fear as they arise and actually get to the bottom of these emotions. We can allow them to be felt and moved through the body. This is a chance to grow and evolve.
The carnivore diet may help to assuage the binge eating for a time, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the emotions that triggered that behavior in the first place. If we don’t deal with those emotions, they will resurface in some other area, or eventually sabatoge our eating patterns again some time in the future.
For support on clearing energetic blocks that cause binge eating, join my School of Transformation with the 7 day free trial. We do regular meditations and releasing sessions that will support you in your healing journey.
The carnivore diet is not a long term option for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it has its place. If you’re struggling with autoimmune issues and have already tried AIP without success, the carnivore diet might be perfect for you. I also think the carnivore diet can be great for anyone dealing with any chronic digestive issues, or even other health issues related to inflammation.
It’s also a great option to help regulate appetite and reset your relationship with eating. So, overall I think it’s something worth a try if it really calls to you.
I personally thrive and feel better with the AIP Diet, but everyone is different, and you should always follow your intuitive hunches. They will never steer you wrong!
If you want to start healing with the AIP Diet, I created my new course Healing With Food for you. It has everything you need to start living the AIP Lifestyle today, and to enjoy a life of vibrant health and energy. It’s also a fantastic way to lose weight without the “diet culture” nonsense. No counting, no tracking, just eating healthy and delicious food!
Regardless of what path you take with your nutrition, know that your body is a magnificent machine that thrives off of love. If you send yourself Love everyday, your dietary changes will work even better, and your body will be in a state of vibrancy.
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