Well… 90% anyway!
Welcome to Part 1 of our Carnivore Diet Experiment!
If you’ve followed us for any period of time on any of our social media platforms, you receive our newsletters or have come to an event we’ve held you’ll know we’re big fans of Paleo in terms of both eating and other lifestyle elements. Paleo, to us, has meant eating as close to how our ancestors did but in a modern way, as well as moving and living as naturally as possible.
We successfully pulled off sustainable Paleo eating and living for over 8 years and in that time it improved our health and overall well-being. But eventually we realised the food element wasn’t doing enough good for us and something needed to change.
How did we know Paleo alone wasn’t working well enough for us?
Earlier this year I noticed I was getting sick regularly again which used to happen a lot before I was Paleo and before I made a big effort to get lots of direct Vitamin D from the sun. Also, my weight wasn’t balancing out, my hormones were out of whack, my lower back pain was back with a vengeance… basically I had too many symptoms showing me clearly I wasn’t ‘healthy’ and couldn’t ignore them anymore. The final straw was when I came down with a the worst full-blown flu I’ve had in a long time, just a few months ago. It was hell! And I wanted no more of feeling so tired, moody and in pain.
So Clint and I decided to do one of our usual yearly 30-day resets which consists of cleaning up our eating for a month (Paleo eating but excluding a few other often-inflammatory foods – absolutely no sugar, no alcohol, no coffee and no sugary fruit) and focusing on getting more sleep, more gentle natural movement and allowing some healing to happen.
Just before we started Clint chose to take it a step further and try the Carnivore Diet at the same time. We’d heard a bit about it in recent months as our Chiropractor (who’s also our friend) had experimented with it earlier in the year, we’d been seeing more posts about it on social media then Clint was researching it heavily to figure out if it was something he wanted to try. So he did!
I was shocked at first and not convinced it was a safe way to live but realised pretty quickly that trying it for one month couldn’t be a bad thing. I was learning through Clint what a healthy Carnivore Diet (we hate the word “diet” but it’s kinda needed here as “carnivore” alone doesn’t give enough of a description) entailed and even started implementing it a little in my own 30-day reset!
So, what the heck is eating ‘carnivore’ anyway?
A 100% carnivore diet = 100% animal products and nothing else.
Meat, seafood, fat, offal, eggs. Plus salt.
It’s keto but not regular ‘keto’ because it leaves out ALL plant foods whereas regular keto is simply low carb foods of any kind (often really unhealthy – just look at any keto product in a chemist or supermarket… yuck. Not to mention there’s little talk of the quality of foods eaten such as organic, grass-fed etc).
Carnivore leaves out low carb cauliflower, berries, olive oil, nuts and even avocado. But a result of carnivore can easily put the body into ketosis. Especially if no sugary animal milk products (such as milk) or honey are consumed.
Sounds really restrictive doesn’t it?
In this modern time with so many (way too many actually) food choices, yes it really does seem hugely restrictive because we’re so used to having an abundance of meal options every day of the week. Obviously this is not natural as humans originally would have had to hunt and gather all of their food, not having access to the corner store to pick up even simple eggs whenever they wanted, not to mention all the other types of foods we have access to these days.
When you get your head around what you’re ‘missing out’ on and understand the science behind it, it absolutely makes sense.
Having said that, one challenge can be doing without herbs and spices for flavour, especially because we’re all so used to having an abundance of them to choose from 24/7. But our choice to be 90% carnivore means we can have some basic flavourings if we like and we’re happy with limiting them to weekends as we find the taste of meat, eggs, fat and salt pretty good on their own anyway!
What does the ‘carnivore diet’ actually look like?
Eating nose to tail; animal muscle meats, organ meats, bone broth, gelatin, seafood, fat, eggs and sometimes animal milk products (but that last one is not essential). Plus clean salt for essential minerals and electrolytes.
No fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, coconut, nuts, seeds, legumes, plant oils, tea or coffee (although, a lot of carnivores still have coffee).
That’s what a hardcore carnivore diet looks like anyway.
When you start experimenting with different meat and offal cuts and ways to prepare and cook all the carnivore-friendly foods it’s surprising just how much variety there actually is.
We don’t believe in going 100% carnivore for ourselves personally though. For a few reasons…
- We know our ancestors consumed plant foods and that it’s a natural part of living. The thing is though, and why we’re cutting them out 90% of the time is, plant foods were only ever eaten to tied people over to the next animal kill which then provided the bulk of nutrients required for thriving, therefore plant foods were more of a ‘survival’ element, not staple food sources.
- We enjoy foraging, the role it has in the evolution of humans and the connection it gives us to nature, our food and ourselves. We like going to the beaches and bushland near where we live and gathering berries, flowers, fruits pollen and seeds that haven’t been altered and modified for commercialisation. We find the whole practice from gathering outside in nature, to processing, experimenting and consuming extremely mindful, ‘slow’, fulfilling and rewarding on a deep level. We’ve been foragers for a while and always will be!
- Many plant foods contain medicinal properties and play a role in improving health and well-being.
- Our version of ‘balance’ includes consuming modern day ‘junk’ as well as conventionally ‘healthy’ foods (fruit, veg, seeds, nuts etc) sometimes because we simply want to. We like to socialise, we like to indulge sometimes, we like to cook and bake, we like to try new foods. Is this optimal for good health? Definitely not, but we’re trying to get a lot healthier, not perfectly healthy. We choose this and we accept the difficulties and challenges that come with it. But we also accept and are excited about the benefits of eating mostly very clean!
Most of what we eat now is animal-base and we’ve mostly cut out fruit and veg because…
- ALL plant foods contain natural built-in defences against being eaten by animals (i.e. including humans. We are animals), whereas animals don’t. Animals can try to run/fly/swim away from predators. Plants cannot. So they come with natural defences that are toxic to whatever consumes them. To give you an example… you’ve heard how we’re meant to soak and ‘activate’ nuts before eating them right? To try to break down the natural toxins (phytates) located on the outside, yeah? Exactly! Humans before 1. didn’t have access to many nuts and seeds in the first place, therefor wouldn’t have eaten many and 2. they wouldn’t have soaked and dried them out every time they wanted to eat some. In some cases they processed the bajeezus out of them (such as wattleseed, beans and other nuts and legumes) to make them suitable for consumption. The work that went into this was intense and time-consuming, from the harvesting to the processing and the cooking, but today we can simply pop down to the shop and buy the plant food already processed to consume in larger than traditionally normal quantities. Eating plant foods with these natural defences may not seem to affect a consumer much, if at all, but it definitely does. Poor health symptoms are usually blamed on lifestyle elements, added toxins to foods such as chemicals used in the production, indoor lifestyle, even eating meat (!) etc but the reality is the anti-nutrients in plant foods are causing us humans issues. It’s just that the information we’re fed (pardon the pun!) is lacking and misleading.
- The fact that plants contain anti-nutrients and animal foods don’t and that animal food nutrients are bio-available makes it an easy choice to eat mostly animal foods.
For a long time we’ve followed and trusted the professional opinions of many functional nutrition practitioners – from coaches to GP’s – thinking we were being really picky with where we sourced information from and we found a lot of the advice and tips from these people and resources to be hugely beneficial. We thought their information was the bees knees in terms of truly accurate insights into the ‘ultimate human diet and lifestyle’ but now we’re doubting that information and delving into a new level and way of thinking. Well, it’s not actually ‘new’ in terms of how long the information has been around and available, but it’s certainly new to us!
It’s not to say some of the guidelines we used to follow can’t be helpful to people. When I felt like I was truly healing for the first time in my life the eating plan given to me by a functional nutritional practitioner with over 12 years of practical experience consisted of a large amount of plant foods. I’m talking 100g fruit with brekkie (as well as egg yolks, a bit of meat, beef gelatin), 400g cooked veggies with lunch (small quantity of meat and fat) with 100g fruit, 300g veggies with dinner (again, small quantity of meat and fat as well) then pure organic orange juice (with beef gelatin) after dinner.
Wow that was a lot of food and a lot of plant stuff! But it worked. Within a couple of months of sticking to it about 90% of the time my period pain was gone, my weight was dropping smoothly, I had more energy and I was sleeping better. Woo hoo, success, finally!
That program worked really well for me. I loved how it made me feel. I loved that it included offal and good calories. But looking back now, I realise I felt instinctively nourished when I was including offal and gelatin more than the fruit and veggies. Also the plan did remove/reduce a lot of typical Paleo-friendly foods that are actually inflammatory over a long period of time such as pure organic cocoa, leafy greens, nuts and seeds. So that element would have made a difference on it’s own.
It’s funny because that same practitioner suggested I not play around with going keto because of the documented negative impacts to thyroid health over time, especially for those already suffering from low thyroid issues like I was This was actually one of my main concerns for going ‘carnivore’ because it leaves out all those supposedly simple and nourishing plant foods and definitely brings the body into a state of ketosis when followed properly.
But from what I’ve been learning about carnivore, the thyroid won’t be impacted in the long-term, it may just show up as fluctuations in the short-term – basically this is a long game approach to health.
And I wonder, is the thyroid ‘damage’ a symptom of nutrient deficiencies – whether on a keto plan or not – due to a lack of the vitamins and minerals available in nose-to-tail eating and just how much we actually need for true nourishment?
So where are we getting our information from and why should anyone else pay attention when it goes against so much of the ‘health’ advice available to us all?
One of the main sources of information we rely on is the factual data and opinions/experiences of Dr Paul Saladino (the surname is hilarious… Salad? I? No!. lol) who is a hardcore carnivore and backs everything up with science as well as personal experience. His Fundamental Health Podcast is brilliant; combining a heap of scientific evidence with practical advice and easy to understand information.
Another great source of information and inspiration are The Strong Sistas who share some terrific info on the benefits and how-to of going carnivore. Their diet is pretty high in fat and calories because their workout regime is intense, so it wouldn’t mimic a regular person’s diet needs like ours and yours, but their content is fantastic and they’re really fun to watch.
There are many more carnivore diet promoters and experts out there, some only eat and promote eating ‘beef and water’ which seems pretty lacking in terms of nutrients and variety, while others (like those mentioned above) advocate the nose-to-tail way, which we personally prefer.
Clint and I are about 2 months into our experiment now and finding out from trial and error what works for us, what feels good and what doesn’t, while ensuring we allow plenty of time for determining change and progress.
The next blog post – Part 2 – will be all about what we started out eating, what changes we’ve made, the benefits of carnivore and what we’ve noticed for ourselves, the challenges we’ve faced and the ins and outs of nose-to-tail carnivore eating including what “bio-available nutrients” mean + lots more. Stay tuned!
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