On trying an animal based ‘carnivore’ diet
It has now been 18 days since I ate any fruit or vegetables, except for the occasional use of olive oil and some experimentation with seasonings (e.g. thyme or paprika). Everything about this experiment has been delicious and my only regret is blueberries.
As I said a couple of posts ago, I started on this experiment because I was sick of feeling sick all the time: heartburn, indigestion, stuffy sinuses (and corresponding face puffiness), insomnia, low mood, eczema, and asthma. I wanted to see if this ultimate of elimination diets would help, and it has!
The indigestion and asthma cleared up the minute I stopped eating fruit and vegetables, and the eczema soon after. The heartburn was markedly better immediately, but it took about ten days to fully dissipate. My sleeping and mood have mainly been good, and my nails are significantly stronger. Finally, my blood pressure and resting heart rate are back to my normal ranges (e.g. 103/63, 54bpm).
The tricksy bastard has been my sinuses. I have been playing about with different cheeses (easy and delicious fat), and so far it seems that the only ones which don’t make my sinuses stuffy are a good quality, traditional halloumi or feta (i.e. sheep and goat milk only), or buffalo mozzarella, and even then, I can only tolerate small amounts. Other forms of goat’s and sheep’s cheeses are surprisingly triggering. In addition, I have occasionally been trying different herbs and spices as seasoning, experiments which often also result in sinus stuffiness.
Because of my awareness of how my diet affects me, I have always listened to my body and how it reacts to different foods. For instance, as well as the eczema reaction to cow dairy, I would know that if I felt sluggish or tired after a meal, or got dark circles under my eyes, then I had eaten something I shouldn’t have. However, the most interesting thing about doing this elimination diet, is how obviously even very small amounts of foods (e.g. some paprika on some chicken wings) affects me. I have been feeling so well on this diet, that even the smallest amount of deviation from that is noticeable.
The thing which has surprised me the most about this experiment, is how intense the carb cravings are. This was shocking to me since my carbs were almost exclusively in the form of fruit and vegetables, with very small amounts of brown rice or amaranth. I assumed that only people who ate a lot of refined carbs would experience cravings, but alas no. It’s been difficult at times to not shove my hand in the dried fig jar, but I have womaned up and persevered! Still now I have some small cravings, although they have mainly passed.
In case you are interested, I have only eaten: beef, lamb, chicken, trout, bacon, pork crackling, beef marrow bones, lamb and beef liver, chicken and beef bone broth, goat’s and sheep’s cheese, egg yolks, lard, butter, and salt. I have also drunk two cups of coffee a day and drank large amounts of water. As mentioned, occasionally some olive oil and some seasoning experiments, but I have tried to only use lard as my cooking fat and, fyi, it RADICALLY improves the taste of chicken, especially when you aren’t using seasonings.
On the downside, I definitely had some issues metabolising the massive increase in fat at first, so I decided to take some milk thistle to aid my liver (which I suppose could count as a vegetable – ha!). That seemed to help, and for the last week I have been able to tolerate between 60-75% of my daily calories in fat, no problem. I have been tracking my macros with an app to ensure I am getting enough calories, as I don’t want to emaciate myself like last summer. So far, so good: I have lost some weight (which I am okay with as I put on 4kg), but I haven’t dropped a lot.
Another downside is that I spend an awful lot of time meal planning. I buy quality meat from a butcher, and I need to order in advance to get it. As I am still not sure how much I eat when I don’t eat fruit and vegetables, I feel somewhat obsessive about my meal planning. Hopefully, as I become more accustomed to eating like this, I will understand what an adequate amount of food to order is.
Related to this is an issue around meal sizes. I generally eat a lot, but usually little and often and I would tend to graze on either almonds and dates, or dried figs and walnuts in between meals. It’s kind of hard to snack on a carnivore diet, but at the same time, I am struggling to eat as much as I need (in terms of calories) in three meals. This has so far resulted in eating massive quantities of cheese as a snack, hence the continued stuffiness. Hopefully this is something which will also level out over time and my body will adapt to eating larger meals.
However, an upside is that there is hardly any washing up to do as I cook most things in my Ninja Speedi. It’s also proving to be cheaper than eating fruit and vegetables. WIN! (Although now I am concerned about my planned vegetable garden…)
But otherwise, the primary upside is that I feel incredible! I have so much more energy, I feel like my muscles are less tense, and I am definitely more flexible when doing yoga. I also feel light inside and my hair is so beautiful, bouncy, and shiny! The quality of my skin has also improved, but not to the extent of my hair. I did a 17.5km walk last weekend, and still felt like I could go for a run by the time I got home, such were my energy levels (and thank you to Hoka and my physio for saving my achilles).
I was only going to do this experiment for a month to try to reset my body, but I think I will carry on for longer than that. Ultimately I would like to introduce some fruit back at the very least, especially my beloved bloobs. But I will wait for perhaps two or three months before trying that. Stay tuned for the next edition of How To Feel Incredible When You’re Nearly Fifty.