carnivore

#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“.  

Ejo #131 – My Diary: The Carnivore Experiment – Part 1

After talking to my friend Chris about the benefits of the carnivore way of eating, I was inspired to try it myself. After all, I’m nothing if not adventurous. So David and I have committed to eating nothing but animal products for 30 days. Here’s how the first half has panned out.

DAY 1 (Monday, 16th November 2020)
Not off to a great start, actually.  Oops.  I’m starting to think that perhaps I should have done a little bit more prep work for our meaty adventure.  I arrogantly thought that it would simply be a case of, “Well, I’ll just eat some meat and see how things work out”, but it turns out that a carnivore diet actually requires a little bit of meal planning, particularly if you’re a shift worker. 

I did make the effort to cook up a beef and bone marrow burger for today’s lunch at work.  But because I was working in the office and had a busy day, I didn’t have the chance to eat lunch until 1.30pm.  I was absolutely fucking starving, which goes against the ethos of carnivore: eat when you’re hungry and eat until you’re full.  I quickly microwaved my grey lump of meat and shoved it down my gob in between administrative tasks.  I will not lie.  It wasn’t very nice.  I’m definitely going to have to sit down and figure something out for work meals, especially as some days I eat both lunch and dinner in the tower. 

Dinner at home was much better.  We roasted some organic chicken thighs and melted a little bit of butter on top.  What’s not to like about that. 

Oh yeah, David and I took some horrible pictures of each other in our underwear for the “before” snapshot (and no, these photos will never see the light of day, ew!).  We also measured our chests, waists, hips, upper arms and thighs.  This was about as much fun as it sounds.  While the primary goal of this experiment isn’t actually weight loss, it will probably be a welcome by-product, and it’ll be interesting to compare our bodies after a month of eating only animal products.  I also had my blood lipids tested yesterday so that I can see the effect on those results as well.  Convention would have us expect that my cholesterol will go through the roof.  Let’s wait and see. 

DAY 2 (Tuesday, 17th November 2020)
​​​I worked in the office again today and even though I woke up feeling pretty good, a headache galloped in at around 8am.  I also started to feel really lethargic and sleepy.  I wonder if this is what’s known as “keto flu”.  I looked it up and it appears that the symptoms do include headache, as well as lethargy, irritability, nausea, foggy brain and difficulty sleeping.  Symptoms tend to appear up to a week after starting a ketogenic diet, i.e. a diet of very low or no carbohydrates in which your body switches from burning glucose to burning fat.  I’m hoping that these symptoms all resolve fairly quickly and that I start to feel some physical and mental benefits soon.  It’s only Day 2 though, so I know I need to be patient. 

I had a very tasty lunch at work today.  David and I cooked up some salmon fillets last night and I heated mine up in the microwave at work.  It was SO much better than the burger.  Definitely something to put on the work meal roster. 

When I got home I was so exhausted I basically changed out of my work clothes and crashed on the couch.  And when I woke up it took me a good couple of hours to recover.  Bloody hell. 

Dinner was another of those beef and bone marrow burger patties, which actually tasted so much better freshly cooked than reheated the next day.  Oh, and a fried egg.  Weirdly, I think I might not be eating enough.  But I’m simply not hungry.  The amount of fat we’re consuming seems to be satiating me, which is great, but I am concerned that perhaps I’m not getting enough caloric energy.  I need to do some more reading about it. 

DAY 3 (Wednesday, 18th November 2020)
I woke up feeling good again, though that could be because we’re not drinking booze. Wine is grapes, people.  Physical scan: my right elbow felt achy and my lower back hurt when I got out of bed.  I also had a pain in my lower left abdomen, which is caused by a pesky ovarian cyst.  It’s old news, but something I am actually hoping might see some improvement.  Other things I’d like to see improve?  Where do I fucking start.  I’ve had plantar fasciitis in my right foot for a couple of years.  It comes and goes, and mostly only hurts in the mornings but I’ve heard that eliminating plant products from your diet can help this to resolve.  And I have firsthand anecdotal evidence from Chris himself that it does.  Fingers crossed.  For about a year I’ve experienced varying degrees of soreness and achiness in both of my elbow joints.  Whenever I move my left arm a certain way I feel pain, deep in my shoulder joint that radiates all the way down my arm.  My left hip and pelvis almost always hurt.  So yeah, I’m hoping that all the wonderful ways in which Chris’ body became healthier and stronger when he switched over to carnivore might also happen for me.

Today my headache rang the doorbell around 3pm.  It wasn’t a particularly bad headache, but it was persistent, and somewhat weird.  Not a regular kind of headache at all. My head felt spongy and heavy.  Like a medicine ball.  I drank heaps of water so I don’t think it was due to dehydration.  Is it food related?  Who knows.  It’s early days yet and I’m really still wrapping my spongy head around everything. 

I had a deli-style lunch at work today.  Some salami, prosciutto, smoked salmon, a couple of boiled eggs and a piece of cheese.  It was nice, and actually so filling that I couldn’t even finish it all, in one sitting.  While cold cut meats are very convenient, I think we’ll eat them scarcely, if at all.  It’s not exactly stuff that our bodies were evolved to eat, so we’ll try to stick to animal products that have been messed around with as little as possible. 

Animal products

DAY 4 (Thursday, 19th November 2020)
It gives me no pleasure to talk about this, but in the interests of full disclosure, here goes.  I am pooping a lot.  Maybe six, seven times a day.  Runny, gassy, small (but frequent) amounts of lumpy shit.  Sometimes explosive.  I did read that it can take a couple of weeks for the gallbladder to adjust to higher levels of fat, so yeah, I guess that’s one more thing I need to be patient about. 

For lunch today, we pan-fried some salmon fillets in a little bit of butter and it was great.  Simple, yummy and easy.  And for dinner we ate boneless pork chops (organic, of course) with a fried egg.  So far, even though I think about veggies wistfully, I can’t say I’m missing them physically.  I’m not experiencing any cravings yet.  I wonder, will I crave them?  Hmm, food for thought.

DAY 5 (Friday, 20th November 2020)
Lectins are proteins that are found in all plants (though some contain more than others).  There’s a bit of a debate about whether they are harmful to human beings but I did read an article which posited that lectins are known to disrupt and modify hormone functions.  As you can imagine, that would fuck up lots of different parts of the body, including (drumroll….) my crappy reproductive organs.  I don’t know if a lifetime of eating tomatoes is the reason I have uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts, but after learning this information, I’m very keen to see if going 30 days plant-free results in some improvement in my symptoms, namely the constant pain in my lower abdomen. 

We are both feeling good, but not heaps different, to be honest.  Still waiting for the miracle change.  But hey, maybe it happens more slowly, over time.  Maybe 30 days isn’t even enough.  That’s why I’m writing this diary.  I want to keep track of things, and perhaps even help another fellow newbie carnivore navigate their own journey. 

For lunch today, we cooked up a burger patty each.  We bought some ribeye mince made from 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef.  It’s amazing what you can buy online these days.  For dinner we grilled some organic chicken thighs.  So yummy.  We’re certainly eating well.  Unfortunately though, I am still experiencing tummy upsets and as I prepare for my night shift, the rumbling in my belly fills me with fear and trepidation.  During nights I work in the tower alone for two and a half hour sessions.  I need my butt to behave. 

DAY 6 (21st November 2020)
I started the day feeling pretty good, despite having worked a night shift last night.  I woke up feeling physically stronger and more energetic than the last few days, as well as mentally sharper, clearer and more focused.  I banged out a great yoga session and did a few chores around the house.  After a 1pm lunch of a burger patty and fried egg, I did kind of parachute down a little bit, but I think that’s more to do with not having had much sleep in the previous 30 hours.  This is the life of a shift worker, unfortunately.  And that’s OK, I’m used to it.  What is noteworthy though, is that a week ago I would have needed a nap in the middle of the day.  It’s 6pm as I write this, and I am tired, but I’ll easily make it to bedtime.  Though it might have to be an early one. 

It’s funny, having given up booze at the same time has been eclipsed by the huge change in what we are eating.  So even though I haven’t had a drink in six days, it’s barely registered.  And that’s cool.  For snacks today we munched on a boiled egg each, and a couple of teaspoons of wild salmon roe – not only is this decadent and fucking delicious, it also provides some of the nutrients that a diet devoid of plant products may be missing out on.  Stuff like Vitamin E and magnesium.  And for dinner I’m preparing some organic chicken wings to bake in the oven. 

We would normally have these with the world’s hottest hot sauces, but hot sauces are made from chillies which are plants so we went without.

DAY 7 (22nd November 2020)
Well, today was a bit of a wild rollercoaster ride.  I woke up feeling really great.  My energy was back, better than ever.  I was bouncing around the house, full of beans!!  For lunch we had a steak cooked in butter.  Great! So what happened?  About an hour after lunch, I started feeling sluggish, and mentioned that to David.  We wondered why that would be and decided to snack on a piece of smoked salmon.  Five minutes later I felt like I was going to faint.  I wouldn’t say I’m prone to fainting, but I have fainted a couple of times before, so I recognise the signs.    

What is vasovagal syncope??  The internet defines it as: “a sudden drop in blood pressure, which causes your heart to slow down for a short time. As a result, your brain may not get enough oxygen-rich blood, which causes you to pass out”.  Yep, sounds about right.  I went to lie down for a bit, had some salt and recovered.  No big deal.  An hour later I was feeling energetic and back to normal.  I don’t know what caused it, and I’m not going to be alarmed.  I will just keep an eye on my blood pressure, which always tends towards the low side anyway. 

We’ve gone a little nuts and bought ourselves an airfryer and an Instant Pot which we are using as a pressure cooker to make our own bone broths.  We whipped up a batch each of beef and chicken bone broth.  I’m so proud of us. 

Thank you grass-fed cow, for all that you have done.
Not only is bone broth packed full of protein goodness, it also contains A LOT of collagen and gelatin, both things that our bodies love. This is what it looks like straight out of the fridge.

DAY 8 (23rd November 2020)
I’m definitely waking up feeling less achy, and today I had almost no issues with my plantar fasciitis, which is astonishing because it’s something I’ve grown accustomed to.  I just wake up every day with a sore foot.  I really feel that even though it’s all very incremental, my body is starting to feel different.  Unfortunately it’s not all good yet.  I had another “episode” today.  Early in the afternoon, I just started feeling generally unwell, and then later I felt lightheaded and weak.  I also felt nauseous, and thought that I might vomit (even though I didn’t).  I rested and David brought me some of the amazing bone broth that we made yesterday.  It was so restorative and comforting.  I took it pretty easy for the rest of the night, and I feel OK now. 

David cooked dinner in our new air fryer.  This thing is amazing.  It roasted us a small organic chicken in about an hour.  It was juicy on the inside and the skin was crispy and delicious.  We split the chicken and had half each. 

We absolutely demolished this yummy airfried bird.

DAY 9 (24th November 2020)
I’m lucky to have my friend and carnivore mentor, Chris, on speed dial to support us in our meaty quest.  He’s super keen to see us get great results from this new way of eating and I really appreciate that.  When I told him about my afternoon slumps (let’s call them slumps, OK?), he suggested that my electrolyte levels were too low, perhaps as a result of drinking too much water.  So yeah, apparently in my quest to hydrate, I’ve been flooding my body and flushing all the good electrolytes away.  Things like sodium, magnesium and potassium.  So today, I made an effort to drink less.  Which sounds nuts, but there you go.  And I also made an effort to eat more salt (I consumed 12g of beautiful, pink Murray River Salt, which equates to around 3.8g of sodium).  I mainlined the stuff.  Literally spooning teaspoons of it into my mouth.  And it made me feel better.  I still didn’t feel 100% this afternoon, but I didn’t need to put my head between my legs to stay conscious.  Let’s put it that way. 

If the idea of scarfing salt like that seems shocking, perhaps it’s because we are conditioned to think that salt is bad.  That it causes high blood pressure, and therefore increases the risk for heart disease.  But that might not actually be the case.  A 2011 meta-study dispels that myth. Salt is essential for the body, and when you stop eating carbohydrates a lot of essential minerals (electrolytes) get flushed out, leaving you deficient. Honestly, the only thing that has made me feel better the last few days has been copious amounts of salt.  I am also having magnesium supplements at night to make sure I’m not deficient in that.  The only thing I’m not supplementing is potassium because I can’t find it in any of the stores here.  I might have to order it online. 

I had a midday appointment today so we had an early, standing lunch of tinned mackerel, a slice of duck liver pâté for the huge kick of vitamin B12, and a piece of cheese.  That kept me going for a while.  When I got back home I had a cup of chicken bone broth that David had whipped up while I was gone (yes, I am the luckiest woman alive!!).  And for dinner, we enjoyed a Maryland chicken each, roasted to crispy, juicy perfection in our new air fryer. 

DAY 10 (25th November 2020)
I had an offsite work meeting at a café today.  There weren’t heaps of options available to me on the menu, but I was still able to stick with my carnivore diet and ordered three eggs fried in butter. 

If you do need to eat out, there’s usually something you can get from the menu that is carnivore.

Unfortunately I still haven’t mastered the water/electrolyte balancing act I need to avoid feeling faint and weak in the afternoons.  I know when I do it will pay off, so I’m going to persist.  I won’t let this glitch bring me down. 

During the day I snacked on a boiled egg, some cold boerewors sausage that David grilled yesterday, and a cup of chicken and beef bone broth (the combo is to die for!!!!).  Dinner was some fatty lamb chops under the grill.  Nom nom. 

Fatty goodness. Can you believe I am not missing veggies at all.

DAY 11 (26th November 2020)
OK, I think I might have figured out the solution to my electrolyte problem.  Before I even started this experiment, Chris sent me the recipe for an electrolyte replacement (kinda like the carnivore version of an energy drink).  Because I hadn’t been able to find potassium chloride, I was holding off on making it.  Silly girl.  Anyway, today David found some in the supermarket and I made up a batch and immediately felt my energy increase.  I felt like I was once again walking on solid ground, and that’s such a real relief.  I can’t be going to work feeling light headed.  That won’t track. 

So, what’s the drink?  It’s called snake juice (of course), and it’s very simple to make.  To a litre of water, you just add ½ teaspoon each of bicarbonate of soda (for the sodium bicarbonate), salt (for the sodium chloride) and NoSalt or other salt substitute (for the elusive potassium chloride).  Mix it all up and drink a glass and you’re good to go.  I’ve drunk two glasses of it already and I feel great again.  Huzzah!!! 

Today’s lunch was a Scottish salmon fillet pan-fried in a little butter.  And dinner was smash burgers.  Very yum. 

Smash burgers are what they sound like. Grab a fistful of mince, chuck it in a pan and smash it with a spatula. Bob’s your uncle.

DAY 12 (27th November 2020)
I had a morning shift today so was up at 4am.  Bleurgh.  I felt great for most of the day and was actually jumping around in the tower (though the five espressos I had might have had something to do with that).  It was a relief to have so much energy and clarity because I NEED to not feel lightheaded when I’m working.  I can’t be having any fainting spells.  If that felt even close to happening, obviously I’d have to give up this experiment. 

Despite feeling good at work, and despite drinking snake juice all day, when I got home I just flopped onto the couch for an hour, fatigued and weak.  I am very keen to figure out what’s causing my mental and physical afternoon slumps so that I can do something about it.  It’s so frustrating feeling so let down by my body. I’ve read about how long it can take for your body to transition though, and I’m not giving up. It takes some people six months before they adjust. I’m hoping it won’t take me that long. When I woke up David brought me a cup of chicken bone broth.  I felt really good afterwards and we enjoyed a very tasty air-fried roast chicken for dinner while we caught up on Season 2 of The Crown.     

DAY 13 (28th November 2020)
I really wanted to attack this dizziness problem today, so mid-morning I pre-emptively had a cup of chicken bone broth, since it seems to always perk me up.  I’m starting to think that I’m not ingesting enough protein, so the broth is perfect for that.  And it did help.  David has really taken to our new kitchen appliances which is so awesome. He made us scotch eggs for lunch.  And even though I did have a bit of an energy slump after eating them, I kept up my electrolytes and salt intake and powered through without needing to rest.  Is this a turning point for me?  I fucking hope so because I’m getting pretty sick of it. 

DAY 14 (29th November 2020)
I woke up with a goddamn hangover today.  Well, not literally because I haven’t drunk any alcohol in two weeks.  But it felt like I’d been hit by a freight train.  I had a headache, I felt swollen and puffy and I was groggy.  Ugh.  WTF!!!!!  Thankfully a coffee, followed by a yoga session helped brush away the cobwebs, and before I knew it I felt great.  I didn’t experience any major energy slumps or dizziness for the rest of the day so hopefully I’ve turned a corner. 

Today we decided to eat lunch before work (which means we ate at 11.30am). I’ve never done this before. I usually eat lunch at 2pm when I’m working an afternoon shift, but hey, I’m prepared to roll with the punches.

Chicken thighs panfried in butter, makes for a delicious lunch.

DAY 15 (30th November 2020)
I feel great today.  Back to normal.  Better than normal.  YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Fucking yay!!  You’ll also be pleased to know that my gall bladder has stepped up to the plate and started properly processing all the extra fat I’m eating.  This means we don’t need to talk about my bowel movements anymore.  Phew! 

David and I went shopping at the local organic store and saw a cut of pork called neck steaks, which we bought for lunch. I’ve never cooked with this cut of meat before and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was, and how goddamn delicious it turned out. YUMMO!!! How wonderful that this experiment is introducing me to new foods, and things that I probably would never have tried otherwise. We also made up a fresh batch of chicken bone broth, which I’ve come to regard as an elixir.

After panfrying these about five minutes each side, I let them rest and then sliced them into strips. Every mouthful elicited a moan of culinary pleasure.
Chicken bone broth. Life giving!!!!!

And for dinner, more of those incredibly tasty smash burgers, topped with cheese and grilled bacon. LOL!!! What did you have for dinner? 😉

Continued in Part 2.