The Carnivore Diet: What Happens When You Eat ONLY Meat?
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Diets limit what you eat, but what if you stick to just one food group?
That’s the theory behind the carnivore diet (aka zero-carb, meat cleanses, or zero-plant diet). This lifestyle focuses on eating only animal products — and a LOT of them! Naturally, fat is a hugely important part of this lifestyle (no one needs to become sick from rabbit starvation).
As we start diving into the Carnivore Code by Dr. Paul Saladino for our latest Hip2Keto Book Club selection, we’ve got meat on the mind — lots of it! We’re starting out this book review by covering the basics of the carnivore diet and interviewing two women who have found health and happiness by adopting this lifestyle.
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Dieters tend to approach the Carnivore Diet in one of three different ways:
- Most animal products: Animal meat and by-products like fat, eggs, cheese, cream, and butter. Most avoid milk due to sugar content.
- Meat, fat, & eggs only: Some individuals don’t like the way cheese or cream makes them feel, so dieters keep it simple.
- Only meat: The true carnivore diet, just meat, fat, and water (and sometimes coffee if you just can’t part ways with caffeine).
What are the benefits of a zero-carb diet?
You might be thinking, “How the heck can this be good for you?!” Well, in the same way that keto is beneficial, using fats for energy (via ketosis) is our body’s and brain’s preferred energy source — and it comes with several health benefits:
- Improved digestion from reduced fiber intake (I know, the complete opposite of what we’re taught!)
- Mental clarity from eating primarily fat and protein
- Decreased inflammation from limiting carbs and focusing on fats
- Faster weight loss from steady blood sugar levels
But it goes even further than that — the outcome of the carnivore diet can be life-changing.
Take Charlene Andersen for instance (top image, left). Charlene had a laundry list of illnesses, from Lyme disease to Trichotillomania to depression to migraines to indigestion and dozens more in between. After failed doctor visits and approaching the point of thinking there would be no cure, she turned to the carnivore diet and started miraculously curing herself of sickness.
Now at age 47, she’s looking and feeling better than ever! Even more exciting, she and her husband Joe are celebrating their 22nd “Carniversary” this year!
Then there’s Kelly Hogan (top image, right), who was overweight and had tried every weight loss method under the sun from low-fat diets to starvation (she even ate only pickles for one month – and though it did have some success, it definitely wasn’t sustainable).
She was then asked by her doctor to lose 100 pounds, so he introduced her to a low-carb, high-fat diet (hey, hey — that’s keto!) which turned into a zero carb lifestyle after five years. Along with dropping the weight, this diet even reversed her infertility! She’s since had three beautiful children and at age 43, she’s living her healthiest life!
As far as my experience, I can personally attest to the feel-good health benefits that come with eating low carb as I used to struggle BIG time with IBS and uncomfortable digestion issues.
Now I find that focusing more on high-fat, meat-rich meals alleviates these issues even more. While I try to primarily eat fatty meat and animal products (hello ribeye steaks!), I’ll snack on lean meats and almonds here and there. And naturally, I can’t resist trying out some of Lina’s amazing keto recipes!
Starting out on the Carnivore diet
Who knew that by being so “limited”, I’d feel freer, healthier, and happier than I ever could imagine! – Charlene
“I didn’t ever have that moment in time where I decided to take a plunge or commitment. My husband and I didn’t set out to ‘do a carnivore diet.’ I was very, very sick. We dropped any and all foods that made me feel worse. First grains were dropped… I felt better. Then all dairy was dropped… I felt better still. Soon all legumes, starches, and fruits also were banished. Our daily journal showed how every food dropped allowed my health to climb.
Finally, I was willing to give up my go-to food: vegetables. And with the cessation of any and all veggies in my diet my health soared to never before reached heights! I lived every day, experimenting — having LOTS of fails and small successes. My reactions and conclusions led me to a meat (specifically fatty ribeye) and water diet. I chose to feel well and not to consume anything that brought about symptoms.
So, that was my conclusion. Enter freedom!! The best takeaway was the freedom from illness, pain, insurmountable fatigue, extreme hunger, excess weight, mental anguish and darkness, and confusion. I could name over 100 things that I became free from. Who knew that by being so “limited”, I’d feel freer, healthier, and happier than I ever could imagine!”
Looking for a way out of a demanding lifestyle is what led Kelly toward a zero carb life:
“I weighed over 260 pounds before I eliminated carbs. I lost most of the weight on a very low carb diet while still calorie restricting and ruthlessly exercising. At some point, I realized that I would not be able to keep that up forever, and I was terrified of the weight coming back. I noticed that when I dropped carbs lower and lower, I looked and felt better.
I did some searching online to see if it was possible to thrive on an all-meat diet. When I found a community of people eating this way and living their best, most amazing lives, I decided to give it a try.
I was able to stop starving myself, stop forcing myself to stay at the gym for hours at a time, and to maintain the weight loss easily. I was also able to regain my monthly cycle, which had stopped two years prior. I became pregnant and had three zero carb pregnancies, which led to three of my absolute greatest benefits of a zero carb diet… My three sweet babies.”
Challenges on the Carnivore Diet
With all of Charlene’s success, she’s still had her own set of challenges on the carnivore diet:
“Before I went all-meat, my biggest challenge was imagining how anyone could be or stay lean unless they filled their bellies with lots of low-fat protein, whole foods, and (healthy?) vegetables — especially the low carb ones. One by one, I found categories of foods I had to eliminate in order to have any sort of health.
I used to eat mounds of all sorts of veggies, all the while getting sicker. Although I would never have believed it unless I experienced it, I found the most relief when I gave up the last category in my pursuit of health and happiness — vegetables. Hate me (I’ve gotten more grief from women than I could ever imagine), but it’s true.
After concluding with an all-meat diet, the challenge shifted to the anger from people: some family members, some friends, many from social media (though that was years later). We found and still find ourselves choosing to surround ourselves with supportive and positive people, rather than destructive/negative people. I think this is important regardless of who you are and what you do. But when my life was hanging on by the last strand of thread, it was vitally important to have positive around us.”
Similar to Charlene, Kelly faced her own obstacles with acceptance:
“Giving up diet sodas, making it through sugar withdrawals, and eating at friends’ homes when they had [unknowingly] prepared non-keto/non-Zero Carb meals are all challenging. But the biggest challenge for me was to continue my zero carb/pure carnivore diet while pregnant. In addition to the horrible cravings and meat aversions, I also had to deal with the lack of support from both the medical community and from people I knew personally.
We’ve always been taught to eat tons of fiber while pregnant and that lots of colorful fruits and vegetables are key. What I was doing went absolutely against all of that, and it made people nervous. But I knew how much better my body felt without carbs, and a fetus is just a small human. So I decided to stick with it and I’ve had zero regrets. But I won’t lie, it was a little scary and not at all easy. But if I were to do it again, I’d go zero carb every time.”
How to approach the carnivore diet
Charlene’s advice when approaching the carnivore diet:
“I’ve seen people achieve their best results when approaching an all-meat diet from previously having been on a Ketogenic or Low Carb diet, not that you have to do a low carb diet first. But the route has seemed to be helpful for people.
I would highly recommend that people eat enough fat on a carnivore diet — animal fat is king! Buy fatty cuts of meat, even ask the butcher to sell you untrimmed steaks. Ask the butcher to save you the fat that he trims off other people’s steaks. Fry this up in the pan and eat it with your meat if your cut is too lean.
In addition, make sure that you also eat enough meat! People have been trained over the years to feel that obtaining a lean body is all about exercise and calorie restriction. Neither is true! As a point of reference, I am 5’8” and around 122 pounds. I eat 1800 to 2500 calories a day. This is 1-1.5 pounds of COOKED ribeye steak (this would be about 1.5-2+ pounds, if raw).
An untrimmed, fatty ribeye, cooked to medium, medium well is around 80% fat by calorie (not weight) after cooking. I also recommend that people eat mostly beef (or even all beef as our family does). Fatty beef is the world’s perfect food containing all the vitamins and minerals you need in the exact ratio that you need them.
We also see many stumble and fail on a carnivore diet by including dairy. Dairy is awesome if you are an infant and you are breastfeeding. As an adult, you have zero need for dairy, especially dairy from a different species. I can’t even imagine what an act of desperation it must have been for the first human to have to get milk from a lactating ruminant!
Lastly, I recommend checking out the Facebook group Zeroing in on Health. There you will find thousands (almost 20,000 members) of others eating an all-meat diet and includes veterans who have eaten this way for many, many years. There is lots of information for studies, books, etc. to support the science behind it.”
Kelly also highly recommends finding an online zero carb group:
“I would just recommend to give it 30 days and to find a support system like the Facebook group’s Zeroing In On Health, Hip2Keto Community, or Zero Carb Health. At the end of 30 Days, simply evaluate how you look and feel. How does your skin look? How are your food cravings? How is your energy level?
Most people see weight loss, mental clarity, more even moods, glowing skin, a total loss of sugar cravings, higher energy levels, better sleep, and reduced inflammation. If you don’t feel better at the end of 30 Days, just return to whatever you were doing before. Nothing lost, nothing gained. But that’s not usually what happens. If you’re looking for even more support, you can join me over on my YouTube Channel – My Zero Carb Life“
While many can safely follow this diet, it’s important to note that everyone’s body, lifestyle, and preferences are COMPLETELY different — it might not be for everyone.
Listen to your body, consult with your doctor, and do what works best for you! Meat-cha later!