"That doesn't sound too bad!" declared several friends when discovering I was starting the Carnivore diet. "You get to eat steak every day!"
Nope--it was JUST that bad. I mean, think about what makes steak good. Seasoning it—cooking it in oils and butter—eating it with mashed potatoes or rice. And maybe—not eating it EVERY DAY.
The Carnivore diet is just what it sounds: MEAT. The strictest version is only meat and salt. More relaxed versions allow any animal products, including eggs, cheese, dairy products, spices, tea, and coffee (not an animal product but apparently accepted out of necessity). I blended the versions by doing only beef, salt, Gatorade, supplements (magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin D) and tea* for 2.5 weeks (essentially eliminating all dietary variables) and then added all types meat for the remainder.
*Tea is NOT technically Carnivore, and I made it precisely 1 day before realizing that I, quite literally, COULD NOT cut out every single source of food-related joy in my life. I had to leave myself one thing. Tea is accepted on the relaxed Carnivore diet, and it's spiritually, emotionally, and physically a very strong part of my routine; so I decided my one thing would be tea.
Why Carnivore? Purely out of desperation. For seven years I've had a variety of health issues, including: constant GI distress; respiratory issues (asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis—I've literally displaced ribs by chronic coughs); weakened immune system; psoriasis/frequent mystery skin rashes; insomnia and fatigue; etc.
A quick google search into the Carnivore diet shows hundreds of people claiming the Carnivore diet made a miraculous difference in all these areas and many more—some even claimed it cured (or put into remission) their autoimmune disorder.
This is all anecdotal, and that's the problem with the Carnivore diet—there isn't much scientific information on it. It's mostly people sharing their stories. But I've spent thousands of dollars on doctors and specialists, tried naturopathic doctors and chiropractors, tried Pinterest-esque folk remedies like apple cider vinegar, essential oils, eating raw cloves of garlic, supplements, etc, and stuck to vegetarian, dairy, and gluten-free diets, with no results—I was desperate. When a friend of mine did Carnivore and loved their results, I decided it was time to try.
1. Week One
A couple weeks before starting the Carnivore diet!
Week 1: Only beef, salt, water, and tea. I started the Carnivore diet weighing around 115lbs (I'm 5'2" and in pretty good shape).
I felt mentally foggy this entire week. GI issues WORSENED significantly: no stomach pain, but NOTHING solid came out on the other end. I ate steak, hamburger patties, ground beef (used ghee to cook), and bone broth, but I was sick of beef after the second day--which isn't great, if you're on a diet of exclusively beef. My mother saved me by loaning me a crockpot and I did roasts in a bone broth which was the yummiest I could make beef taste.
I added Gatorade (zero sugar) on the 3rd day because I had such brain fog and keto flu but still needed to go to work and classes. The moment I took a sip of Gatorade, I felt every single cell in my body light up and the fog lift from my eyes and that was enough to persuade me to accept Gatorade.
It's not technically a part of the Carnivore diet, but I also needed to be able to function on this diet—and so I was mindful of my salt intake and only used Gatorade as needed--but, I used it as needed.
2. Day seven.
Day #8 on Carnivore.
By the 7th day, I was thoroughly sick of beef and had lost 5lbs. (Some of that is water weight, no longer needed because I'm not eating carbs and sugar.) I was also never hungry. Even when I didn't eat my first meal till 5 pm, I experienced 0 hunger pangs this entire week.
The meat did not sit well in my stomach. I ate pot roast and broth at 7 pm, went dancing at 9:30 pm, and had to leave because the meat was not happy in staying down. Part of being never hungry was surely because the meat just sat like a lump in my stomach for hours.
3. Week two
Day 13 of Carnivore.
Week 2: It's encouraged to water-fast (drink only water) for a couple days on the Carnivore diet. I was thrilled. A couple days where I don't have to eat beef? Yes please!
Brain fog continued. GI issues same as above. Apparently diarrhea is not uncommon when first acclimating to the Carnivore diet, but that doesn't make it any more fun. I ended up water fasting for 70hrs because I was so unmotivated to eat beef and only broke the fast because I decided I should. I was literally not hungry.By day 13, I weighed 104lbs. I wasn't sleeping any better, I noticed no difference in skin or sniffly allergies, nothing.
4. Week three.
Day 18 of Carnivore.
After 2.5 weeks, I added chicken to my diet, and then fish and sashimi. My body instantly responded. My brain fog lifted, and I felt good and alive.
Day 15 I weighed 101lbs, day 18 (2 days after adding other meat) I weighed 103lbs. I was both happy to have the best abs I've ever had, and unhappy that I'd lost so much weight—I knew this wasn't a healthy weight for me, it was literally because I wasn't able to eat enough calories, and that I'd need to gain it back. (Note that on the Carnivore diet, you're supposed to eat whenever you're hungry, and as much as you want. I was just never hungry, and didn't want meat. Just a regular serving of steak completely filled me up.)
This is also 100% diet. I didn't add any exercise to my routine during this time. I'm fairly active and eat fairly well--my weakness is ice cream and sweets, but my regular diet includes intermittent fasting, veggies, fruits, and healthy grains multiple times a day--and I've always wondered what the difference in my body would be if I cut out my almost-daily ice cream (or treats) habit. Well, now I know! 100% great abs, 0% food-related happiness.
I had a couple tiny pimples, so there goes the Carnivore diet's reputed magical clearing-up-of skin. Bowel movements improved but only barrrrrely. I also started experiencing hunger again—it could be because fish and chicken isn't as filling as beef, but it also could be because I was so excited about eating anything but beef. Before Carnivore, my hunger would often manifest as pain—even intense pain—in my stomach, eventually making me feel faint if I didn't eat; but this hunger was more a desire to eat rather than a pain compelling me to eat.
6. Week four
Last couple days!
Definitely starting to eat more regularly and be hungry. I was also traveling with friends for five days, and missing out on the social aspect of food was really difficult, so the hunger was possibly predominantly socially triggered.
My weight stayed around 102 for the remainder of the 30 days. Toward the end of the diet I felt so snackable: I was wanting to eat all the time. Again, not because of hunger pain, but just because I wanted to eat. I would go through unreasonable amounts of jerky because I didn't pack enough fish/burgers/ chicken for work.
7. Breaking the Carnivore diet.
Day 1 off Carnivore.
My original plan after the 30 days was to ease back in to normal foods: add one food or food group at a time, with four day intervals.
However, my blood tests came back at the end of my 30 days, resulting in me needing to schedule a procedure to test for celiac disease and other allergens in three weeks—which meant I needed to add back in gluten and all those other foods right away in order for those tests to be accurate. So I did not ease back in to normal foods: my first day off, I ate carrots and broccoli and cake; the second day, fried eggs with rice, sautéed garlic and onion—and after this, gained 5lbs. I know cake's not great, but I definitely didn't eat five pounds' worth of it. Water weight's a bitch.
8. Having a REAL meal at TeaHaus.
My 2nd day dinner with my mother to celebrate being able to eat real food again. Yes, I did NOT ease back in.
My body's reaction to regular food (fruits, veggies, grains, ice cream, bread) was fascinating. Although I could tell that a part of my digestive system was overloaded by the shock of all this food after just meat and feeling weighted down, other parts of my body were thrilled. My cells felt alive, my heart was so happy to have back food that brought me joy, my energy levels—even with adding back in sugar and refined foods—significantly improved. My GI system also notably improved: there was no longer lumps of meat just sitting in my stomach for hours, and my bowel movements returned to normal.
9. Would I do the Carnivore diet again?
Day 4 off Carnivore. Baaaaack to normal!
Many people have had amazing success with the Carnivore diet. I did not. I experienced nothing extraordinary health-wise, or even anything incrementally better; on the contrary, I was in more GI distress and brain fog than usual.
However, the weight loss results were amazing—not necessarily because I lost 5+ pounds a week, but because I wasn't hungry the entire time. The worst parts about diets and trying to lose weight is that you're often hungry during these diets. On the Carnivore diet, you're encouraged to eat whenever you're hungry—and I ate as much meat as I wanted (granted, that's not saying a lot), never experienced hunger, and still lost 15lbs total. I didn't have 15lbs to safely lose, so that ended up being a con for me. But if I'm ever in a space where I want or need to lose weight, I would totally do the Carnivore diet again as a way to efficiently lose weight and not deal with hunger during it.
I also appreciated that I completely eliminated any chemical addiction I had to carbs and sugar. Granted, I happily went right back to them again. But breaking totally free for 30 days--and realizing I could--was a good experience.
Interested in checking out the Carnivore diet? I'm not a doctor, and neither are most of the people talking online about it—so talk to your doctor, evaluate what your body needs, and proceed with caution! I firmly believe I feel most alive when I'm eating fruits and veggies, and going Carnivore confirmed this. However, I knew trying the Carnivore diet wasn't going to kill me. I wasn't going to develop scurvy or experience organ failure in 30 days, and I researched the vitamins that meat didn't have and took supplements to make extra sure I wasn't nutrient deficient.
Some people have reported miraculous results. I didn't. However, the Carnivore diet was an interesting experience and I'm glad I experimented with it!
And it makes me appreciate my kale and blueberries and ice cream even more.