Good Life

Ejo #137 – My Green Babies (or Plants Are People Too): Part 1

I’m fairly confident that in my last ejo I made it crystal clear that I am not the motherly type. But that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of being motherly. Or loving. Or that I can’t care for, or nurture, another living thing. I am absolutely obsessed with dogs, and utterly devastated that I can’t have one of my own. I accost the dog owners of our local community on the daily, shouting, “PUPPY!” at every adorable canine I see. But sadly, the wanderlusting lifestyle that David and I have chosen precludes us from owning a pet. But… it doesn’t stop us from owning plants.

As most of you know, my mother had a spectacularly green thumb. Her garden was legendary. I’m not sure I’ve inherited her horticultural abilities, but I don’t think it would be too bold to say that I am pretty good at keeping houseplants alive. That hasn’t always been the case, and many (too many) blameless green darlings have met their untimely demise whilst under my care. I have felt each one, as a dagger in my heart. I love my plants, as I would love my own children (and I will wrestle to the ground anyone who dares to challenge that premise). My plants are my babies, and no, that’s not weird. You’re weird.

My Mum’s glorious green wonderland.

Over the years I have learned to care for a variety of beautiful plants, through the aforementioned trial and error. I can now confidently and intuitively assess what each of my kiddies requires to thrive (or at least not die). The biggest secret I’ve learned? A little bit of tough love won’t kill ‘em. Overwatering is a far bigger assault than letting them dry out a bit. However, it’s not simply a case of popping them in a corner and watering them once in a while (though some plants are easier to look after than others – I’m looking at you Adele!!!). The needs of plants differ from one to the other, and from one day to the next. Houseplants may seem inert, but they are dynamic, living things. They get hungry, thirsty, hot, cold and sick. They can also be happy. I must say that I find it very fulfilling, having something to look after. I enjoy being responsible for these beautiful living organisms. And in turn they repay me with purified air, fresh oxygen and exquisite beauty. Who is looking after whom? Naturally they all have names, but I do want to point out that I don’t ever name them myself. They tell me what their own names are, when they’re ready. Sometimes that’s a couple of days after we adopt them, other times they whisper it to me from the supermarket shelf they’re sitting on. They are all unique and wonderful and I simply adore them. And so, just like a proud mummy showing off her precociously talented youngsters, I would like to introduce you to my green kiddies.


ADAN & LULU

Adan means Garden of Eden in Arabic.

Adan is an Aglaonema silver queen, also known as a Chinese evergreen. And LuLu is an Epipremnum aureum, also known as devil’s ivy. She’s also sometimes called golden pothos and she is ridiculously easy to care for and grow. Adan and LuLu are my “other” plant family. Some people have work husbands or work wives. I have work children. And yes, they are mine. Whenever I would visit the office levels of our building, I’d see all these amazing large potted plants around the place and that made me jealous for us tower folk, bereft of any greenery. So I asked facilities to please bring up one or two big plants for the tower, and what we got was Adan. Better than nothing. I’ve taped a little sign on him asking the other controllers to not water him, so he’s doing really well. He gets a lot of indirect sunlight and is rather delighted to be up in the tower rather than being stuck on a desk in some stuffy office.

It’s lovely to have a pop of colour in the dreary tower.

LuLu is actually a cutting of golden pothos that I rescued from someone’s workstation. She’s unusual in that she can grow in water and doesn’t need soil to survive. Clever girl, LuLu.


ADELE
Adele was a Spathiphyllum, commonly known as a peace lily. More like a grief lily, if you ask me. Adele has been my third attempt to care for a peace lily and she will definitely be the last. No matter what I do, I just cannot keep these little bitches alive. I don’t even think they’re that hard to look after. The folks at gardeningknowhow.com reckon that, “When it comes to indoor plants, peace lily plants are some of the easiest to care for.” What absolute bullshit. Just ask Adele. And Lillian. And Sylvia. I’m pretty sure they would disagree. Look, in the interests of full disclosure I will admit that of the three, Lillian’s death was probably my fault. Mea culpa. She was whining and wilting, so I popped her outside in the sunshine for a couple of hours in the hope of reviving her. How was I supposed to know that direct sunlight would kill her? Involuntary manslaughter, at worst.

I spit on your grave, Adele.

But Adele was supposed to be different. She was my chance at redemption. I kept her away from direct sunlight. I watered her with filtered water, I misted her. I caressed her. I spoilt her rotten. To no avail. She finally carked it a couple of weeks ago after a quite obnoxious, and melodramatically protracted, deathbed scene. That’s it for me, no more. Peace (lilies) out.


LUCY

A fifteenth chance at life.

Lucy is a Dracaena marginata, commonly known as a Madagascar dragon tree. I can’t even remember where I got Lucy, we’ve had her for so long. She’s grown from a wee baby dragon lass of about 20cm tall to the gorgeous Amazonian beauty you see today. But it hasn’t been an easy road with her. She really put us through the wringer, and there was a time that I wasn’t even sure she was going to make it. You wouldn’t know it looking at her lush foliage now, but for a few years she was simply unable to shake a mealybug (or scale) infestation – pests that cause plants to stop growing and start dropping their leaves, eventually leading to their death. I did everything I could. I would pick the little fuckers off individually, by hand. I sprayed her with a special soapy vodka solution. I put her outside. I moved her around the house. I would just sit with her. Nothing seemed to work. She would get better for a while and then the bugs would come back. At my lowest point, in desperation, I told David that if she didn’t get better I would just leave her outside and let someone else take her. Someone who might be able to look after her better. I’m not proud of that moment. But it happened, and I think it’s important that we talk about it. I’m so grateful that (with a lot of love and support) she managed to kick that bug habit to the kerb. After years of being feeble and sickly, she is now absolutely flourishing, strong and beautiful and I absolutely adore her, all the more for what she put us through. Her illness could have torn us apart, but instead it brought us closer together. And the biggest lesson she taught me: never give up.


DORIS
Doris is a Dracaena fragrans, commonly known as a corn plant. Doris is another old girl that once nearly died (though she was never as ill as Lucy). She just suffered from a general malade, and it took me a long time to figure out why. It was Doris who taught me about the dangers of overwatering. You feel that giving them more water is an act of love, but it’s actually a death sentence. Their roots start to rot and they slowly lose the will to live. I look at Doris now and marvel at the difference a cup of water a month makes.

The dry tips of Doris’ leaves mean that I’m still overwatering her. 😦


EUGENE
Eugene started off as a Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, which Google tells me is also sometimes called a ruby ball cactus. That’s because they’re supposed to look like this:

This is what Eugene is supposed to look like.

And Eugene did indeed start off looking like that. I have no idea what happened to him; perhaps he was bitten by a radioactive mealybug. But very shortly after he moved in, his ruby ball started to rot and wither away. Even though he was just a two buck ornamental toy cactus, I felt kind of ripped off. To be honest, I expected the rest of him to follow the ruby ball into an early grave, but shortly afterwards Eugene started growing in his own unique way. He grew so much that he started falling over so I decided to do some horticultural sculpting, practicing shibari, the ancient Japanese art of knot-tying on him. Every few months a cactus segment will grow out the side, so I lovingly and gently, but firmly, wrap the long, woody tendrils around the other ones, tying them all together. I have no idea how long we can keep this up, but I can guarantee that it won’t be me who says the safe word first.

This is what Eugene actually looks like.


SYBIL
Sybil is an Echeveria agavoides, also sometimes known as a wax agave. Sybil started off as one of those cute miniature succulent pots but she very quickly outgrew her home because she kept multiplying. This made her depressed and anxious, and she started dropping leaves so I did what every good mum would do and moved her into a nice big bowl where she has plenty of room to grow her own little babies (very adorably known as pups). You can call me grandmamma, I don’t mind!!

Sybil started off as one, then became two, and now she’s three.


STEWIE
Stewie is an Alocasia mortfontanensis, also known as elephant’s ears. He was another supermarket purchase and actually came in the big while bowl that Sybil is now residing in. The problem with the bowl for Stewie is that he likes a lot of drainage and the bowl doesn’t have any holes, so his roots became too wet and he started drooping and looking a bit wistful. I knew that I had to take immediate action, so I repotted him and moved him to a different spot (these two things really are the best first aid a plant can get). He has rewarded me with three gorgeous new leaves, and I reward him with cuddles and my unconditional love.

You can see why they call them elephant’s ears.


THE GANG

They’re called adult collectibles. I will not be answering any further questions.

Meet the gang. Sarah is a Dracaena trifasciata, also known as a mother-in-law’s tongue, or snake plant. She is a super slow grower which is probably for the best because apparently she has the potential to grow up to eight feet tall. Woah there Sarah, slow your roll girl!

Rico is a Goeppertia makoyana, also known as a peacock plant. What I love about Rico is that every night he becomes quite erect!!! I mean, literally. His leaves all stand to attention like little soldiers. It’s quite amazing to see. Also, when I took his picture right now to identify him correctly, the plant-Shazam app, Picture This, told me that I am a horrible mother and that plant services have been alerted. God, this parenthood jam just never lets up, does it.

I promise I’ll water him less from now on.

Fran is a Nephrolepis exaltata, also known as a Boston fern. I don’t do so well with ferns, and I’ve definitely killed more than my fair share. But I somehow managed to keep Fran from dying, pulling her back from the light at the eleventh hour. It really is a miracle that she’s still alive, to be honest. She has about twenty fronds right now, but after I conducted life-saving emergency surgery on her (with a Stanley knife, no less) she was left with just one sad, droopy little frond. As you can see she is slowly growing back. I mist her once in a while, and she seems to like that so I’ll keep doing it.

Sally is a Schefflera arboricola, also known as a dwarf umbrella tree. Sally is not my favourite plant in the world, and I have a feeling she knows it. She’s just so goddamn boring. Which is the exact reason I’m so glad I never had kids. What if I’d had a boring one!!! A tiresome child that I just couldn’t be arsed with. Imagine wishing (as I do with Sally) that I’d never brought the little bugger into the world/my home to start with. And now I feel guilty so I have to lavish her with some attention to make myself feel better. She’s still fucking boring though.

Fakey is the “plant” next to Sally on the bottom row (see what I did there). I own a couple of fake plants because I really love having greenery in the bathrooms and unfortunately our bathrooms are completely devoid of any natural light, which plants obviously need to live. Here are the other ones. They don’t have names, obvs, coz they’re not real.

I don’t love having fakeys but my brain still gets off on the green factor, and as far as fakeys go, these ones aren’t too bad.

To be continued…..

#134 – Cholesterol Countdown for WHAT??!!

Remember late last year when I had my annual medical exam for work after a month of eating carnivore, and the doctor was absolutely appalled at my cholesterol results?  They were the highest figures he had ever seen, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that he was absolutely terrified for me, urging me on the phone to please start taking statins immediately so that I wouldn’t drop dead on the spot.  I objected.  I am extremely reluctant to willingly go down the slippery slope of a lifetime course of medication unless there is absolutely no other option.  And I knew that in this case, I could lower my cholesterol with diet.  So I asked him for the chance to do that, and I was given two months to prove that I could.  

To be honest, I may be a little bit proud of how ridiculously high these numbers are, especially the ones in red.
For reference, here are the average recommended cholesterol levels.

So why was my doctor so distraught for me?  He’s a super lovely guy, who’s been practicing medicine for more than 40 years and is very good at his job.  He’s a very caring doctor.  But, he’s old school and he’s operating on old information.  Doctors are incredible.  They study for many years to learn about the extraordinarily complex ways in which the body works, and I have a great deal of respect for them.  But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realise that it’s not a GPs job to keep up with all the latest medical research.  In my experience, doctors are generally useful for one of two things: issuing sick leave certificates and prescribing medication.  Actual treatment for an ailment is what referrals to specialists are for.  In Dubai particularly, you can’t see a doctor without walking away with a prescription for at least one medication.  Even if it’s just Panadol, docs be peddlin’. 

I’m glad that I resisted taking the statins.  After our appointment, I took a much deeper dive into the world of cholesterol research, and the role that statins play.  What I found, particularly pertaining to women, was eye-opening.  Author Nina Teicholz says, “In 1992, a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute expert panel reviewed all the heart disease data on women and found that total mortality was actually higher for women with low cholesterol than it was for women with high cholesterol, regardless of age.”  Hmm!  And that was nearly 30 years ago.  Not coincidentally, it also turns out that there is absolutely no benefit to women of any age taking statins, and this report, published by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, supports that. 

Dr. Kendrick is a well known author of several books about nutrition, one of which is called The Great Cholesterol Con.  The dude knows cholesterol.  And this is what he says about it for people of my age, “As you get older, the higher your cholesterol is, the longer you will live.  This is a fact.  People with lower cholesterol are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and other neuro-degenerative diseases.” 

If that’s the case, then how is it that we just “know” that cholesterol is bad?  How do we “know” that LDL cholesterol is even worse (it’s even called “bad cholesterol”).  No really, how do we “know” this stuff?  Spoiler alert: we don’t.  We are conditioned to believe it.  We are indoctrinated.  How on earth can something that our own body produces, be bad for us?  Around 30% of all our cell membranes are composed of the stuff.  And approximately 25% of the dry weight of the brain is cholesterol.  It’s so vital to its functioning that the brain actually makes its own.  We need it, or we will die.  Lierre Keith, author of the amazing book, The Vegetarian Myth, points out, “One of the main functions of the liver is to make cholesterol because life isn’t possible without cholesterol.”  So why would anyone want to reduce it?  

Probably because we are still being told that we have to.  Doctors use an algorithm to predict a person’s risk of developing heart disease based on factors like age, sex, ethnicity, blood pressure, LDL and history of illness.  If you get a score of 10, doctors prescribe you statins.  But, check this out.  According to the algorithm, once you hit 60, that’s an automatic score of 10, and doctors will prescribe you statins anyway.  Even if you are in perfect health, even if you have perfect blood pressure and optimal LDL.  WTAF!  It’s a huge double dip for the pharmaceutical companies.  You get the statins if your cholesterol is high.  And if you’re “old”, you get the statins anyway.  Which is absurd considering that there’s a proven, inverse association between LDL cholesterol and mortality in people over the age of 60. 

That cholesterol is even considered a risk factor for heart disease is sheer dogma.  The Lipid (or Cholesterol) Hypothesis, developed by Ancel Keys over 65 years ago (more on this mofo later), posits that high cholesterol causes vascular damage and/or dysfunction which leads to a build up of plaque on your artery walls, restricting blood flow, triggering a clot and ultimately leading to a heart attack.  It has been taught in medical school for over half a century, and most doctors (including mine) act on that information for the rest of their careers because they simply don’t know any better.  They never seek out clarification, and they never look for evidence to support the hypothesis.  If they did, they would discover that there is none.  In fact, there has never been a clinical study that has proven that cholesterol causes heart disease. Ever.

So let’s look at an alternative theory of correlation between cholesterol in the body and atherosclerosis.  It’s called the Response to Injury Hypothesis and it views the high level of cholesterol found in an atherosclerotic artery as the body’s way of responding to an artery that’s already been damaged.  Let’s say the artery was damaged by a high level of glucose in the blood, caused by insulin resistance.  The LDL rushes to the site as a protective “response to injury”, but unfortunately it is damaged when it becomes oxidised due to the presence of that high blood sugar.  This is when LDL actually does turn into bad cholesterol.  Oxidation takes a protective molecule (LDL) and turns it into something that contributes to harm.  LDL doesn’t cause heart disease, unless it becomes oxidised.  And, as long as you’re not a smoker, your cholesterol will never oxidise on a high fat, low carb diet.  It’s impossible. 

If you want to know how the medical profession became so trapped in an abusive marriage to the unfounded notion that saturated fat and high cholesterol are risk factors for heart disease, follow me down this rabbit hole.  The villain of the story is Ancel Keys, an American scientist whose dubious beliefs about saturated fat determined the dietary guidelines of an entire country which, more than sixty years later, is full of overweight diabetics dying of heart disease.  In 1956, Keys undertook the world’s first multi-country epidemiological trial (known as the Seven Countries Study), in order to prove his Lipid (or Cholesterol) Hypothesis.  By the time the massive study was published in 1970, he had become a master at cherry-picking through the copious amounts of data and fudging them to suit his hypothesis, leaving out all the data that didn’t support his theory.  For instance, data was actually collected from more than a dozen countries, but it was only the seven that proved his beliefs that were included in the final published paper. 

The study was flawed from the very beginning because Keys’ theory was one that he wanted to prove, desperately.  And that’s not how science works (or at least, not how it should work).  The study was never peer reviewed, and it was never replicated.  It was a shoddy paper that, despite never actually demonstrating causality at all, was framed as though it had.  Years after it was published, Alessandro Menotti, the lead Italian researcher in the trial, reviewed the data and discovered that, lo and behold, sugar was more strongly correlated to heart disease fatalities than saturated fat or cholesterol. 

But, due to a number of influencing factors at the time, Keys’ study was accepted as gospel, and subsequently adopted by the US government.  This happened despite prominent scientists protesting the study’s legitimacy at a congressional hearing.  And despite several other studies proving the exact opposite to be true.  Ancel Keys was an asshole and a bully, and he had powerful friends in the US government.  He had become so influential in the political and scientific worlds that he was able to quash any dissenting voices, ruining the careers of many promising scientists along the way. 

And so, from Keys’ study, the egregious USDA food pyramid was created and shoved down consumer’s throats.  The food manufacturers got on board the low-fat bandwagon and started producing items that were low in fat but, in order for them to be palatable, had to be high in sugar.  Funnily enough, the agricultural industry also suddenly became very keen to promote, and protect, the grain-heavy food pyramid, which shockingly still looks like this.  And here we are today with supermarket shelves packed full of products that our bodies don’t even recognise as food.  And people keep on getting fatter and sicker, and more dead. 

Flip this shit upside down, then we’ll talk.

It actually really boggles my brain that one man could have yielded so much power, and with such a profoundly fucked up result.  The idea that science should be pure and objective is a beautiful one.  When I studied Science at Monash University, we would conduct experiments with no bias, no agenda and with the truth as our ultimate goal.  Unfortunately, science in the real world is driven less by the urge to impress your professor, and more by inflated egos, frenzied publishing, heated competition and of course the influence of billions of dollars.  Of course there are many studies that are scientifically and objectively conducted.  But a large chunk of trials are funded by industry.  One such example is Coca Cola funding a study “proving” that Diet Coke is healthier than water.  Pharmaceutical companies funding studies “proving” that statins reduce the risk of heart disease, with little or no side effects, is another. 

There were several other studies from Keys’ time that clearly showed an inverse relationship between cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, but for some reason most of them were unpublished.  Buried, literally gathering dust in garages for decades, and only recently coming to light (did anyone say Minnesota Coronary Experiment?).  Now why would this be the case? 

I believe it’s because there’s too much money to be made from statins.  In the course of my research, I was shocked to learn that statins are the most prescribed medicine in the world, with over 200,000,000 people taking them every single day.  And the kicker is, once you start taking these meds you are stuck with them for the rest of your goddamn life.  So, statin prescriptions are increasing exponentially, cholesterol levels are plummeting.  And we’re all eating from the food pyramid, right?  But somehow heart disease is still the leading cause of death everywhere on the planet.  According to WHO, “The world’s biggest killer is ischaemic heart disease, responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths.  Since 2000, the largest increase in deaths has been for this disease.”

So, if millions of people are taking statins, and heart disease is still the biggest killer on the planet, who is actually benefiting from all those little pills?  Is it the patient?  Sure doesn’t look like it.  Is it the doctor?  Well, they might be getting a little kickback.  Nope, the big winner here is Big Pharma.  And they have absolutely no incentive to disavow us (or doctors) of the idea that we all need statins to survive.  And, of course, they encourage us to keep eating from that crappy food pyramid. And they’ll just keep handing out pills like candy (which, incidentally come with their own smörgåsbord of significant, negative side effects).  Shockingly, in 2010 a cardiologist published a paper suggesting that statins be handed out with Original Recipe Chicken Buckets and Big Macs.  Let. That. Sink. In. It’s absolutely diabolical. 

Pharmaceutical companies are famous for obfuscating the data from their in-house clinical trials.  Transparency is not in any of their mission statements.  And so, most of us are simply uninformed, or worse, misinformed.  And most of us don’t ever question the authority of our doctors.  Which is why people are so happy to commit to a lifetime of taking statins when a doctor prescribes them.  They are under the impression that the pill will save them from heart disease, and extend their life.  Isn’t that what we all want?  To live a long and healthy life?  A study, however, has shown that for those with a history of heart disease, taking statins extended their lives (on average) by only five days!!  And for those with no history of heart disease, their life expectancy was increased by an average of three days.  THREE FUCKING DAYS!!!!!  That’s the reward you get at the end of a lifetime sentence of daily pill popping (never mind the cost, never mind the side effects).  No thanks, you can count me out. 

And look, it’s not as if the medical profession hasn’t got it wrong before.  As Lierre Keith elegantly argues in her book, lobotomies, leeching, hormone replacement therapy, thalidomide, electric shock therapy etc. were all once considered fine medical treatments.  We know better now, and I have a feeling that one day we’ll know better about statins too.

So, while I am vehemently opposed to reducing my cholesterol, unfortunately we had to do it to keep our jobs.  So, the cholesterol had to come down.  And it had to come down a shit-tonne. So, how did we do it?  Every day, before lunch we’d start with a tablespoon of chia seeds that had been soaked in a cup of water for an hour.  This is fibre, and it scrapes out your gut.  We did intermittent fasting, meaning we skipped breakfast.  Every day for five weeks lunch was oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon, blueberries, almonds and walnuts, all known to reduce cholesterol.  We used almond milk instead of cow’s milk.  It’s absolutely horrendous for the environment, but hey, it’s fat free.  When we were peckish (which was often) we would snack on nuts and kiwi fruit.  And for dinner we mostly alternated between salmon, pan-fried in little bit of olive oil, which is an unsaturated fat, and soup with lentils, lemon and spinach.  Lentils, again, are rich in fibre, so we were shitting five times a day (and I’ve gotta admit, that part was pretty satisfying).  This sounds like a relatively “healthy” diet right?  But, knowing what I know, I literally felt like I was poisoning my body.  My joints started aching again, my stomach was constantly cramping and bloated, I was gassy as hell and I gained back the inches that I’d lost from around my waist, despite losing a couple of kilos. 

We needed to throw everything at this problem, so that we could pass our cholesterol tests and go back to eating food that’s actually healthy for us, and the environment: pasture-raised meat, eggs, yoghurt, cheese and butter.  So, we levelled up with supplements.  Every day we took milk thistle, plant sterols and stanols, and red yeast rice extract (and, because red yeast rice blocks the body’s own production of CoQ10, which is essential for heart and muscle health, we also had to take CoQ10 supplements).  Like I said, we were in this to win.  Neither one of us wanted to have to go back for another check-up in two months.  So we gave it 100%. 

And it worked.  Here are the results after five weeks of eating a diet which I am passionately, and diametrically, opposed to.  My total cholesterol reduced by an astonishing 60%.  And my “bad” cholesterol, LDL, went down by a pretty fucking crazy 73%. Was I healthier?  No.  But my doctor thought I was.  Was I less at risk of dying of heart disease than I’d been eight weeks before?  Absolutely not, but my doctor was delighted.  He signed our medicals, gave us both a figurative pat on the head and sent us on our way. We went out and had steak for lunch.

I’m no doctor, and this is no medical advice, but cop an eyeful of those number. David’s end results were even better.

Ejo #132 – My Diary: The Carnivore Experiment – Part 2

DAY 16 (1st December 2020)
Before we started this experiment, Chris was kind enough to send me some advice.  He’s been doing carnivore for over a year so I figured I’d better listen to what he had to say!  Here are some highlights, in case you’re interested in trying it out for yourself: 

  1. Jump in, both feet;
  2. Commit to at least 30 days of eating this way, and see how you go.
  3. Before starting:
    1. get bloods taken
    2. take pictures of yourself
    3. take measurements of arms, thighs, waist etc. plus weight
  4. Your body will go through a transition from being powered by carbs/sugars to being powered by fat.  Fat is a more efficient fuel but some people will get symptoms in this transition.   If you feel weak, dizzy, tired, lethargic, cramps or headache this is all salt related.  Have a teaspoon of salt, and wait 30 minutes.  The other side to this is that drinking too much water simply flushes out those electrolytes, so keep water drinking in check with how much salt you’re putting in.  Yes, water can dehydrate you!!!
  5. If you are hungry, eat.  
  6. Find beef which is unprocessed, and has no fillers or additives.  Steak is good, but I like mince/ground beef.  Preferably grass-fed if you can find it without breaking the bank.  Ribeye is a great protein to fat balance.
  7. Listen to your body.  It will start communicating with you. 
  8. If you can, do some HIIT and AMRAP training.  You can add plenty of muscle and tone on carnivore.  My recovery between exercise now is, quite frankly, insane.  If you can’t exercise, don’t worry, it’s not going to impact much.

I read an article today that described the transition period when you first start a carnivore diet as the “trough of despair” and I’d say that’s a fairly accurate description of my experience.  David and I were already eating relatively low carb, and the adaptation phase hit me like a tonne of bricks.  So, based on that, I’d be inclined to suggest a more gradual easing into a meat based diet.  Some can tolerate the bumps along the way better than others (I’m looking at you, Mr. Bamford) but why put yourself through that if you don’t have to. 

DAY 17 (2nd December 2020)
While I was at work last night, David slaved in the kitchen at home, preparing a juicy cut of pork belly for our lunch today.  And let me tell you it was bloody delicious.  I love pork belly but it’s always seemed a bit difficult to get the skin just right.  Our oven is a temperamental son of a bitch and I just don’t trust it with such a beautiful cut of meat.  The air fryer on the other hand, was totally up to the task.  The crackling, as you can see, was phenomenal. 

Crackling you could bounce a quarter off.

Dinner was oven-roasted chicken wings.  For the sake of convenience, we used a bit of olive oil rather than butter.  And for the eagle-eyed amongst you, yes, this is technically a cheat, since olives are not an animal product.  And since I’m confessing my sins, I’ll also admit that we add cracked black pepper to almost everything we cook. Nothing to lose sleep over.

DAY 18 (3rd December 2020)
I’ve been feeling achy all over today, which might be my body dumping oxalates.  Oxa-whats?  Oxalates, found in many vegetables, as well as seeds and nuts, are toxins and cause a range of problems in the body, varying from pain, stiffness and inflammation to mineral misbalance and kidney stones.  These fuckers can even cause mitochondrial dysfunction (in other words actually messing with your DNA).  Common fruits and veg, the foods that are supposed to be good for us, can actually cause us harm.  Before starting this experiment, I told Chris that I was eating at least a handful of almonds a day, and he was actually worried for me.  And it’s not just almonds, people.  Potatoes, peanuts, spinach, beets, beet greens, blackberries, kiwi, figs, black beans, buckwheat, quinoa, oranges, soy and tofu, black tea, sweet potato, rhubarb and whole grains are all packed full of oxalates.  Starfruit contains so much oxalate it’s actually dangerous to eat.  I think this is worth paying serious attention to because, simply put, if you eat too much oxalate, you will die.  And I am not even joking.  

The other crappy thing about oxalate crystals is that they build up in your body, and when you stop eating the foods containing them, you start releasing the build-up as waste. And that hurts.  This might be the reason my elbows are feeling really sore today.  As one health researcher put it, “The nanocrystals of asbestos and oxalates have basically the same level of harm. It’s just that we don’t eat asbestos three times a day and call it health food.”  Mic drop!

DAY 19 (4th December 2020)
Today was seafood day.  For lunch we pan-fried some plump scallops and ate them with grilled streaky bacon (pigs can swim, right).  For dinner we ate Scottish salmon fillets with crispy skin.  We also snacked on some salmon roe during the day.  There really is a lot of variety to be enjoyed when you’re on this diet.  It’s not all steaks and burger patties.  We’ve tried heaps of new foods and cuts of meat and it’s been really fun experimenting and discovering new things to eat and new ways to eat them.

See food, and eat it.

It’s also been a good reset away from food as comfort, or food as reward, or food as social lubricant.  Yes, it can still be all those things but it no longer feels like a crutch.  I’m developing a relationship with food now that feels healthier, and more effortless.   

DAY 20 (5th December 2020)
This morning we went for a 3km walk followed by a half hour yoga session, and I felt great.  But in the afternoon, around 4pm I could barely keep my eyes open and just had to have a nap on the couch.  It’s disappointing to still be getting these energy slumps but I’ve learned enough to know that I just hadn’t had enough to eat.  I am still learning how to listen when my body talks.  Hey body, yoo-hoo, I’m finally paying attention.

So, I got into a Twitter fight with some vegans last night.  Ouch!!  I’m lucky that my vegan friends (who may not love that I’ve converted to eating only meat and meat products, but aren’t admonishing me about it) are open to discussion.  They aren’t militant about their veganism.  Unfortunately, I’ve come to realise that not all vegans are so reasonable.  Some are militant.  Some are aggressive.  And some are just plain ol’ nasty.  I was ganged up on and called names by these people, but I’m proud to say that I managed to rise above it, keeping my cool (and keeping the snark to a bare minimum).  Following are some of the things they said to me when I tried to engage them in a conversation about regenerative agriculture:

You self-serving, apathetic moron.”

Piss off.”

Were you dropped on your head as a child.”

And when I asked why vegans were so angry all the time (OK, there was a little bit of snark), I got this response:

Peepeepoopoo, carnivore got upset vegan doesn’t wanna deal with your irrelevant comments.”

And then there’s this guy.  He seems nice. 

Please remind me to never again waste my time trying to have a civil discussion with vegans on social media. About anything.  Ever. 

DAY 21 (6th December 2020)
I know I said I was done talking about my bowel movements, but jeez, I guess I’m really not done talking about them at all.  It’s not that I like talking about my poo.  It’s just that a lot of people have different toilet experiences when they start this diet, and I think it’s important to document all aspects of our experiment in a scientific manner.  For instance, David seems to have jumped ahead of me to the stage of lamenting the loss of his satisfying, daily morning shit.  He’s pooping less often, and pooping less each time, which seems to be the norm for carnivore.  Me?  I’m still all over the fucking place (albeit not as bad as the first couple of weeks).  We’re eating exactly the same food, so I guess that’s a good example of how people respond differently to eating this way. 

DAY 22 (7th December 2020)
I lost weight pretty rapidly the first week of this experiment, but it looks like that might have mostly been water weight, as I’ve plateaued, and even put a little bit back on.  Like I said though, it was never about weight loss.  What I am noticing is my body fat being redistributed, which may sound gross, but actually looks quite good in the mirror.  I’m not going to measure anything yet, but my waist and belly are definitely smaller.  I’m still squidgy, but I’d say that this diet is somehow “sculpting” my body.  And this is good because the visceral fat that accumulates around the abdomen is the worst kind of body fat.  It’s a precursor to all sorts of horrible ailments like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and stroke.  Byeeeeeee, belly blubber. 

DAY 23 (8th December 2020)
Today was my first really good day.  Hallelujah, and about fucking time!!!  I didn’t need any electrolytes, or added salt (though I did liberally season my food with it).  I didn’t experience any energy slumps at all.  I felt clear-headed all day.  During exercise, I felt physically strong, and fit.  I wasn’t sore or achy in any of my joints.  And I felt calm and level-headed from the time I woke up until now, just before bedtime.  This is very exciting.  It’s a turning point, and a point at which I can’t imagine going back to the way I ate before.  The concept of being carnivore seems more weird, and absurd and overwhelming than the actual reality of it.  It actually feels really natural.  It feels good.  I was prepared to try it because hey, what did I have to lose. I have spent the last 36 of my 49 years alive unhealthily obsessing over food and never actually feeling in the best of health.  I understand for the first time now what people mean when they refer to their body as their temple.  Like I said, hallelujah.

DAY 24 (9th December 2020)
Today I danced around the house full of energy.  Also, I ate butter with a spoon.  These two things are related.  We need fat to survive.  We need protein to survive.  But there is no essential carbohydrate that your body needs for survival.  So why do we even eat carbs at all?  It’s no coincidence that the size of the human brain shrunk by 10% at the exact same time as the agricultural revolution took place.  No coincidence that humans became shorter, developed dental problems, structural bone issues and other degenerative diseases.  We are simply not designed or evolved to eat wheat, corn and rice.  And yet, these crop foods make up half of the calories consumed in the whole world every single day.  Obesity, cancer and heart disease have closely followed.  I don’t want to suffer from these ailments which is why I think the right thing for me is to keep eating this way.  Today David and I were asked the question, if we only had a few days left to live, would we keep eating this way or would we go back to eating carbs.  We agreed we’d keep this up.  It’s not as if we’re depriving ourselves.  The food we eat is so delicious and satisfying.  Why would I want to spend my last days splooged on the couch in a food coma?  Spoiler alert: I wouldn’t. 

Pork Neck: Part 1
Pork Neck: Part 2
Pork Neck: Part 3

DAY 25 (10th December 2020)
David is looking amazing.  He’s lost the puffiness around his face and torso, and is looking a lot leaner (and, I might add, a lot younger – hubba hubba).  While he was at work today, I spent the evening diving down the rabbit hole of online carnivore testimonials.  While there are yet to be many studies done on the benefits of eating only meat, there are so many astounding stories of health reversals, life changes and physical and mental benefits.  It’s truly inspirational to hear what other people have to say about their experiences. 

DAY 26 (11th December 2020)
Today marks 26 days without alcohol.  Our last booze-free record was 25 days, and that was over three years ago.  Trust me when I say there’s been a lot of wine under the bridge since then.  It’s been a pleasant surprise to find how easy it’s been to go without alcohol the last three and a half weeks.  It’s taken no effort at all, and I don’t even miss it.  Weird, huh?

I’ve found a couple of really great online meat stores with same-day delivery in Dubai. Today we received 4kg of organic grass-fed ribeye from Les Gastronomes. And a 1.2kg grass-fed ribeye cowboy steak from Carnistore.

Good ol' Australian beef.
This thing is 6cm thick and weighs 1.2kg. We grilled it for 20 minutes on one side, and 15 minutes on the other side, resting it for ten minutes afterwards to let the fibres relax. And then we gorged.

DAY 27 (12th December 2020)
While I don’t mind eating organ meats, I’m really not that comfortable cooking things like liver and brains and so I made the decision to buy some supplements made entirely of desiccated, organic, grass-fed Argentinian beef livers.  If cows produce the most nutrient rich food on the planet, the cow’s liver is the holy grail of nutrients.  A lot of carnivores say they do fine without the extra kick of essential vitamins and minerals but as long as I’m still experiencing the occasional transitional symptom I’m happy to pop a few of these a day.  

Speaking of the transition, I’ve had a few comments about Part 1 of this ejo, with people saying they are a little put off or worried about how difficult it seems to have been for me.  I guess I felt that too, while I was going through it, but having (mostly) emerged on the other side I actually think it’s more of an indictment of my diet before the experiment rather than of how I’m eating now.  The body is an amazingly complex instrument, capable of adjusting and normalising almost anything you subject it to, including a typical western diet.  Sure, it can handle it, but that doesn’t mean it likes it or that it’s good for it.  So it makes sense that when you make such a big change, even if it’s for the better, there are going to be some glitches while your body readjusts.  I’d say please don’t be disheartened by my experience.  Perhaps, instead, take inspiration from how easy it’s been for David.  He’s breezed through it like an absolute champion.  And keep in mind, he never even signed up for this shit. 

DAY 28 (13th December 2020)
The way that we eat now has become really easy.  We generally eat twice a day, and snack only if we’re feeling hungry.  Even cooking feels like less of a hassle than before (though in the interests of full disclosure I will admit that the washing up is a bit more of a chore).  And even though we do repeat dishes frequently, it’s no more often than when we ate veggies and salads with our meals.  There’s a simplicity to our diet now that I really like. 

DAY 29 (14th December 2020)
One of the great things about eating carnivore if you have any digestive problems is that it’s the ultimate elimination diet.  When you eat only meat, you’re removing lectins, gluten, phytates, oxalates, alkaloids and salicylates.  Things all known to cause issues.  You can then (if you like) re-introduce foods one at a time to figure out which one was giving you grief.  You see, it’s a fun fact that hardly anyone is physically allergic to, or even intolerant of, beautiful nutritious grass-fed beef.  I am a firm believer that eating the right kind of meat is actually a way of giving your digestive system a rest.  We think we’re eating “better” and “cleaner” when we eliminate meat, but plants and fibre actually cause our digestive system more stress than meat does.  Reducing fibre gives your gut a welcome break. 

Prior to starting this experiment David and I very rarely ate red meat, and I never craved it.  Now it’s all I want to eat, and the thought of a big juicy steak gets my mouth watering.  Whilst I really did love eating veggies before, and in particular greens, I have not craved them once in the last month, and that’s because I’m getting all the nutrients I need from meat.  I could actually go without veggies for the rest of my life.  Who needs ‘em!!!! 

No, really, you actually don't need them*.

So, let’s get real.  Are veggies actually bad for you?  I used to whip up a very delicious smoothie for lunch every day using my beloved NutriBullet.  I’d chuck in a cup of raw spinach, some cucumber, an avocado and some almonds and almond milk.  It was delicious, and I thought I was being healthy.  Look at me with my thick green smoothie, I’d virtue signal to everyone.  Sure, I always had an upset tummy afterwards but it never lasted too long, so I just put up with it.  Then one day earlier this year I read that raw spinach was actually bad for you, especially if you have too much of it.  I was flabbergasted.  I did some more research and yep, turns out that Popeye’s favourite green can actually cause a slew of problems if consumed raw.  Things like interfering with the body’s ability to absorb other minerals.  Stomach aches (yeah, tell me about it).  Build up of uric and oxalic acids, which can cause kidney problems.  Skin conditions.  Gout!!!  All this from virtuous spinach!!!!  I immediately gave up my smoothies, and immediately stopped having daily stomach aches.  I honestly believe that there are a lot of things we take as gospel about food, and in particular veggies, that may not actually be accurate.  I don’t purport to know what the truth is.  But I do know that I am going to question everything from now on.  Nothing is gospel anymore

DAY 30 (15th December 2020)
So, today is judgement day.  As an air traffic controller of a certain age, I am required to undergo what’s known as a Class 3 medical examination every year.  This is to ensure that I am in peak physical condition and don’t drop dead on the job.  It involves a mental health questionnaire, audiogram, eye test, ECG, BMI measurement, blood pressure and, of course, a blood lipid test. 

A sticking point for me every year is my naturally very high cholesterol (thanks Mum).  Having said that, my ratios are usually very good, and within range, which means I always pass my medical.  This year my regular doctor wasn’t available so I made an appointment to see David’s guy.  Today.  After 30 days of eating nothing but saturated fats.  Let’s allow that sheer and spectacular show of arrogance to sink in for a second. 

Everything went well and the doctor was pleased with my general health.  He was about to sign me off for another year, and then… he saw the results of my cholesterol test.  Haha.  As expected, he was horrified.  I recall him saying something to the effect that in 40 years of practising medicine he’s never seen such high cholesterol numbers.  He wanted me to start taking statins!  Yesterday!!  I pointed out that while yes, the numbers were indeed astronomical, the ratio was still within range (albeit on the higher side).  I managed to talk him down from reading me my last rites and shoving statins down my throat, to giving me a pass on my medical on the condition that I go back in a couple of months with drastically reduced LDL figures. 

I am intent on continuing to eat this way, but I will do what I need to do to lower my cholesterol in the next eight weeks.  To achieve that I’ll probably need to reduce my intake of saturated fats and increase unsaturated fats (which means no more butter by the spoonful). But to be clear, I’m not worried about my cholesterol.  I’ve done my research.  Blood lipids go up on the carnivore diet, not because of an increased risk of heart disease, but for a myriad of other, biologically complex reasons.  Also, incidentally, low cholesterol is associated with reduced life expectancy in the elderly, an increase in cancer risks and increased odds of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, mental health issues and impaired cognition. 

Look, I don’t want you guys to worry.  To be on the safe side, David and I have both got referrals to see a cardiologist to ensure our arteries are clear. And if there are no issues there, I reckon I’d be a fool to go back to the way I was eating before.  So many other things have improved since doing this experiment. For instance, my joints are no longer constantly aching.  My plantar fasciitis is all but gone.  My left shoulder mobility is vastly improved.  Because my insulin is no longer spiking every time I eat, my sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) are more stable.  I no longer wake up every day with pain in my lower abdomen, and this one is huge for me.  The pain emanating from my nether regions has negatively affected the quality of my life for years.  When I was first diagnosed (we’ll talk about it in a future ejo, I promise), I’d been told that the only treatment for my condition was a hysterectomy, and that if I didn’t want to rip out my uterus I would just have to find a way to manage the pain.  And I have.  The last couple of years though, I’ve been pre-menopausal, and my rioting hormones have wreaked havoc “down there”.  The pain has, in recent times, become worse, and more constant.  The reprieve from that feels like a miracle.  It feels like a gift.  In addition, I’ve lost almost 4kg and David has shed a whopping 8kg in 30 days.  He looks fucking amazing.  And, both of us have lost several centimetres from all over our bodies, but most notably around our bellies.  I’ve dropped a pretty impressive 14.5cm from around my waist and David has lost 12cm.  I find this remarkable and the best indicator that we are actually doing something right.  So, cholesterol be damned, I shall keep calm and carnivore. 

My new, absolutely favourite, cut of meat: skirt steak. We sear this 2-3 minutes each side on a sizzling hot pan and it's good to go.

* The chart is courtesy of Maria Emmerich’s book, “Keto: The Complete Guide to Success on The Ketogenic Diet, including Simplified Science and No-cook Meal Plans“.