Do You Need Supplements on a Carnivore Diet?

Polyphenols! Antioxidants! Vita-mints!

(As usual, nothing in this blog post is to be taken as professional medical advice or instruction. Even the parts where I call your doctor an idiot should not prevent you from consulting your doctor about any changes you make to your diet or exercise. I’m a hillbilly mommy blogger. Take me just as seriously as that warrants, and we’ll get along just fine.)

I am often asked what kind of supplements I have to take because meat is basically the only thing I eat. The first time I was asked this, I was kind of surprised. I never really thought about it because it seems obvious: I’m made of meat, therefore meat should have everything in it that I need to eat. Of course, this is a silly gut feeling and not a deeply researched conclusion. So I have done a little research over the last year or so, just to be sure I’m not missing out on something that only broccoli can give.

While my instincts led me to the correct place, the reasoning I laid on top of the intuition to explain it wasn’t very good, was it? You could just as easily think that because the animals I eat are also made of meat, and they eat plants, then I should eat plants, too. But many of the animals I eat turn out to be not very much like me, having things like crops and extra stomachs to add umph to their digestive workings. As it turns out, those animals are doing a great deal with their digestive systems that I can’t. I then eat them, so that I can get the nutrients from plants in a form that I can use.

As one guy whose name I can’t recall said “My eyes are in the front of my head, and I only have one stomach.” My stomach acid is that of a predator, not a ruminant animal. I don’t have the enlarged cecum of an herbivore that would allow me to digest large amounts of fiber like a gorilla does. I am clearly designed to hunt and eat meat. Since going carnivore, I can tell you on a personal level that my results bear out my gut instinct, however silly it may have seemed to begin with. I’ve never been so consistently healthy and happy in my life.

But what about those vitamins, huh? Especially Vitamin C, which is apparently the only thing standing between me and certain death. Everybody swears by mega-dosing with C, including some very smart people, but I’ve concluded that nobody actually needs to do this, provided they’re willing to make the changes necessary to keep their bodies healthy without supplementation. Even if you’re trying to avoid getting a cold or think it will help with cancer, I don’t see a lot of value in just shoveling in more supplements to cover for a detrimental diet.

There are couple of little secrets the food nannies haven’t let us in on for some reason. Among the best-kept is that there is C in fresh meat. Yes, there is. So there’s that, but the other secret is even more interesting. You see, vitamin C and insulin compete for the same receptors in your cells. When you’re chronically consuming carbohydrates, and thus chronically raising your insulin, your cells are less able to use whatever vitamin C you consume, making higher and higher doses necessary to get any of the needful nutrient into your tissues. As you become more hyperinsulinemic, you become more vitamin C deficient.

Some people do need a vitamin C supplement. Those people are not carnivores. All the stories about limes saving sailors from scurvy have very little to do with the limes, and much more to do with their insanely deficient diet. They ate dried meats, beer, and refined carbohydrates all day long. Of course they got scurvy.

Instead of spending extra money and time to take more and more of something that you’re actually getting plenty of, if you’d only stop wasting it, why not just lower the carbohydrate load to a point where your glucose, and thus your insulin, no longer impede your body’s use of it? You could even lower your carbs to zero for maximum effect.

Besides C, though, there’s a plethora of vitamins and minerals that we’re told we need to worry about. People who want you to assume that meat is bad for you conveniently leave out the fact that meats have every single nutrient you need in them. Do you know which people need a whole lot of supplements to survive? Vegans and vegetarians. There are a number of nutrients that you simply can’t get from plants. B12, DHA, iron, Vitamins D, A, and K, and many minerals like selenium are missing in a vegan diet, and remain inadequate in a less strict vegetarian diet with eggs. Even those plants that are touted as having a lot of nutrients often have them in the wrong form for humans to absorb and use. Some plant foods block the absorption of vital nutrients, as black beans are known to do for zinc. Plants are not your friend if you’re trying to get vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. I know this is hard to hear. I used to like black beans, too, especially with tortillas and salsa.

What about all the other super-food things? Don’t I need the polyphenols in chocolate or the antioxidants in blueberries to keep me from getting cancer or something? The simple answer for me is no. You should do your own research, of course, but I have read a lot of the literature on these things. Go ahead and eat those superfoods if you think they’ll help you. I doubt there’s much harm in many of them in the amounts you’ll be consuming them–the low-sugar foods like berries, anyway. But there is, as far as I can tell, no advantage in consuming these things, provided you get a totally unbalanced diet of meat, meat, and more meat.

I’ve concluded that those polyphenols are probably better termed “toxins”, as the power that they have seems to be in inducing a hormetic response, rather than providing something that you actually need in order to be healthy. They’re almost, to my thinking, a tiny dose of chemotherapy on a fork. That might be an ok thing to throw in there if you’re filling up on insulin-raising, immune-system destroying, cancer-feeding “foods” all day long, but I prefer to keep myself healthy by not doing things that require medicinal correctives to begin with. Your mileage may vary.

Hold on, though. I do think there is a place for supplementation! I take a couple of supplements at the moment. Depending on where you live and what diet you’ve been eating all your life, you might need some supplements, too, at least in the short term. I take the supplements I take, not because the carnivore diet is lacking, but because my environment is lacking. I simply can’t get enough sunshine or iodine where I live right now. Chances are you can’t, either. Meat helps, even with this, though, and I need far fewer supplements than I used to.

There are only two supplements I need right now: iodine and Vitamin D. Other people might need boosts of other nutrients, depending on their own location and physical needs.

I take Lugol’s 2% solution for iodine because the plants around here don’t have enough iodine in them for it to get into my meat. Everybody who lives inland and subsists mainly on meat from land animals should probably take an iodine supplement, regardless of diet. (Magnesium is also a good addition for some people for similar reasons. I don’t seem to need it, but Get Along Husband certainly does.) Most carnivores don’t even do this much, though, and they seem to be fine. With my thyroid history, I think it’s probably helpful, and I don’t see how it can hurt. The CW is that iodine is dangerous to the thyroid and we have to be very careful, but the CW is so ass-backward most of the time that I admit I just discount it out of hand now. And if that’s so, what’s with all the iodized salt in everything?

Vitamin D is just a good idea for everybody in the winter months. I use a brand that couples the D3 with K2, as D can wreak havoc with calcium absorption if there isn’t sufficient K. Some people trust that there’s enough K2 in their grass-fed meat and dairy, but I don’t feel too sure of that. The cows aren’t getting any more sun than I am right now, right? I take it once or twice a week in the winter months. This, however, is a far smaller dose than I needed back when I was consuming plants, because my diet contains more D than it used to, and I absorb all my nutrients to a far greater degree than I did when I had all that fiber clogging up the works. I used to struggle to keep my levels up, but now they stay right where they ought to without much effort at all. Just 5000-10000 IUs per week is sufficient now that I’m more replete. I suspect that I won’t need a supplement at all next winter, as long as I keep getting my sunshine, liver, and egg yolks all summer long. I get my D levels tested every fall to see what my needs will be going into the cold and flu season.

Rather than adding more and more “good” foods and supplements as medicine to offset the damage we’re causing to our bodies with harmful foods, the most effective way to be healthy is to keep from doing dietary harm in the first place. First, do no harm. Now, where have I heard that before?

Get your sunshine and eat your meat. It’s as simple as that.

(You’ll notice I’ve included no links. You have the same internet I have, so dig around and you’ll either find that I’m right or wrong. I’m a mommy blogger, but I’m not your mommy. I don’t have a lot of time to find links, but it’s a very searchable topic. Have fun finding out for yourself!)

 

How to Save Not a Dime on Food

but sleep like a baby.

There are ten people in our family. The volume of consumables that goes through that many alimentary canals on a daily basis can be an intimidating prospect for those who have to procure that much food. Our single-income family grew faster in the beginning than our income did, so I learned to cut as many corners as I could. Couponing, gardening (poorly), eating vegetarian for several meals per week, avoiding restaurants and convenience foods, bargain shopping at big box stores, and buying in bulk were all weapons in my money-saving arsenal. I felt like kind of a genius at saving money, honestly. I even blogged about feeding a large family on a budget back in the day, saying appalling things like “use meat as a condiment, not a main course” or “organic is a rip-off”.

A number of the things I did to save money were both sensible and healthful, though, so it’s not like it’s always a binary choice. A bag of Cheetos costs similar to a bag of apples, and any fool can tell you which one will give you a better bang for your buck. We still avoid restaurants, even more than before, though it’s less about the money now than about the low-quality ingredients they sneak into everything, even in some the high-end establishments.

Alas, most of the strategies I’ve employed to make my husband’s hard-earned money stretch farther have fallen by the wayside as I’ve learned the keys to healthy living. Now, of course, the whole family’s diet is meat-heavy. There are no coupons to be found for the foods we eat now. (Though I did once win a year’s supply of coupons for FREE STEAK back in my sweepstakes days. That was an awesome win.) And I would feel kind of guilty serving vegetarian meals just to save money now, even though I once thought that it was healthy to do so.

Penny wise, pound foolish. Like most penny-pinchers (and I still very much like the sound of loose change in my pocket), I used to think of food as an expense to be kept to an absolute minimum. I’ve come to realize, however belatedly, that food is an investment. It is a very basic fact, and thus one that I’d overlooked in my zeal for perfect budgeting, that every cell in my body is made of what I put into my mouth. Those cells’ proper functioning depends upon being made of the correct components, which come only from real food.

Sadly (for those of us with limited means), real things do cost more than fake things. Real Hot Wheels cost more than the plastic matchbox cars my children spurn; real diamonds cost more than fake ones; and real nutrition costs more than fake food. For years of my children’s growth that I can never recover, I mainly bought food that would give our family some calories and a sense of fullness, but from which our bodies couldn’t extract sufficient nutrition. Almost everything you find in the center aisles of the grocery store, where food is “affordable”, is fake. All of the nutrition has been refined out of it so that it will be shelf-stable. Much of it is made with industrial waste products that we’ve been tricked by underhanded industries into ingesting. You can eat that mac and cheese powder stuff. You may even enjoy the taste. But it’s not food.

I pay about 1/3 more for groceries now than I did three years ago. Some of that may be due to inflation, but most of the increase reflects the higher quality of the food. While I was saving a lot of money back in the day, I was already seeing the ill effects of a poor diet in my children. I just didn’t recognize that fact yet. Focusing on my food-dollars to the exclusion of any other consideration amounted to a storing up of biological debt that my children would certainly have to pay later.

No matter how much I brushed and flossed their teeth, my children were getting cavities, due not to the sugar in their diet, as I’d assumed and stringently restricted, nor to bad genes, but instead because of inadequate fat-soluble vitamins in their diets. Those vitamins come almost exclusively from animal foods. Some of them have needed orthodontic correction because their jaws grew too small in their early years. Their growth was not what it could have been, as I’ve seen in my strapping youngest ones, who have a much more protein- and fat-rich diet than their elders siblings did. One of my children was developing inflammatory bowel symptoms from the overload of grains and fiber. Now that their main source of fuel is fat, their moods are on a much more even keel, and they never crave snacks the way they did when bread was on the menu. Inexpensive industrial seed oils were building up in my children’s tissues, sure to wreak havoc later on in the form of diabetes, cancers, and who-knows-what else.

Y’all, I’m a conscientious mom. I never thought I was harming my kids. I thought I was being a good steward of both our resources, and their bodies. I was doing everything the pediatricians and dentists said I should do, right down to the insanity of six to eleven servings of grains per day. I’m talking about homemade, no-additive, no-preservative, whole grain, lower-sugar food that was made with as much love as a mom can muster. But I was making many of my food decisions based on cost, thinking that it didn’t matter very much, as long as our tummies were full.

Knowing what I know now, I can’t in good conscience make money my priority when feeding my family. Doctors and dentists are expensive. Either I’ll pay for it now, or we’ll all pay more later, in both money and misery.

Love your neighbor by eating well?

Besides the overwhelming financial strain that the burgeoning health-care sick-care industry is putting on every one of us, there is both a spiritual and practical advantage to increasing the quality of your food. The best way to improve quality is to buy fresh, seasonal, local food. Big box stores do offer a better price, and I still use them when local offerings aren’t available. But I’ve come to realize that loving my neighbor means more than treating him nicely and praying for him. It also means frequenting his business and not penny-pinching him to death. I now buy local food, especially my meat, as often as possible, which doesn’t help my budget at all. It does help me in myriad other ways.

You can ask your local rancher how the cows are fed and encourage them to look into better practices. You won’t be getting melamine-enhanced tooth paste from someone who has to look you in the eye the next time she goes out, even if that tooth paste (or powder, in my case) does seem a bit pricey. You also build community allegiances and in-group loyalty that goes far beyond the kind of big-money grants that the corporations use to bribe communities to let them come in and destroy Mom and Pop.

And, perhaps most importantly, you are ensuring that the local food supply will be up and running smoothly, and hopefully ready to scale up when the global system inevitably fails. Local products, especially meat, certainly do “cost more” in fake Federal Reserve notes, but they cost a lot less in real terms than the consequences of continuing to disemploy our neighbors in favor of imported, slave-produced goods.

I won’t even get into the environmental aspects of things. We can go down that rabbit hole some other time. Suffice it to say that I believe we can take care of the world God gave us much more efficiently both by eating more meat, and eating local.

A penny earned is a penny saved.

Let’s not just look at groceries as a spending problem, though. Many people find after switching to a whole-food, or even a ketogenic or carnivore way of eating, that they have a great deal more energy, less pain, and a sharper mind. When you have these benefits, you may find yourself able to produce more and better than you could before. I certainly have. Not long after I started a ketogenic way of eating, I started feeling well enough to do things like building (however amateurishly) my own chicken coop and raised garden beds. I’ve raised meat chickens as well as egg chickens. I can do a better job at nearly everything because I’m more reliably energetic and happy to have honest work to do.

There’s a very good chance that you might find other parts of your budget breathing a sigh of relief as you increase the pressure on the food side of things, just because healthy, community-connected people are more productive.

Of course, I do realize that sometimes the money just isn’t there to go totally local. Like I said, a large portion of our needs are still supplied through freakin’ Walmart. (I have never said the word “Walmart” without “freakin”. I hate it.) But that’s the system we’re in. You can’t break out of it all at once. Our family has been poor. Right now we’re a bit less poor, but we’ve had to make sub-optimal choices aplenty. I’m not trying to make anybody feel badly about what they simply can’t avoid. I wouldn’t feel guilty at all if we ended up subsisting on beans and taters again out of necessity. I can at least grow those without harmful chemicals and get some delicious sunshine while I do it, right?

Poor folks don’t have as many choices, now do they? But when we have choices, we ought to make better ones. If you can scratch together just one locally raised meal a week, or one locally produced tooth powder, you’re making both your body and your community stronger.

Buying More Meat on a Budget

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I eat a steak almost every day. That is absolutely an expensive way to go about eating a carnivore diet. I don’t deny it, and sometimes I feel like I’m being a little bit extravagant. At the moment, though, for reasons I won’t get into right now, it’s what I do. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying to save as much money as I can. I can eat a lot of meat and still get within shouting distance of a reasonable grocery budget. I would never want to see someone forgo the idea of a carnivore diet because of the cost. Here are some ways I keep things manageable:

Buy in bulk. If you’re buying the packages of one or two ribeyes from the grocery store, it is going to cost a ridiculous amount of money. I do buy my steaks that way when I have to, and resent the heck out of it. Thankfully, there are usually better ways to go about getting steaks. My primary source of beef comes from a local ranch that sells me a whole beef at a time. Our whole family can eat on that for about three months, so I get my steaks and roasts for quite a bit less than you might expect. When my freezer runs low, or I just want to stock up on ribeyes, a local grocery store frequently has either whole boneless rib roasts or boneless strips on sale for $4.99/lb. Those roasts carve up into 12-16 ribeyes or New York strips for around $55.

Buy cheaper cuts. If you want beef steaks, they don’t have to be ribeyes. You can get sirloin or skirt steak and enjoy them just as much if you learn to prepare them properly. Just be aware that the cheaper cuts are typically the leaner cuts, and you’ll need to add fat accordingly. I make sure the butcher knows I want the fat trimmings from my cow. You can often buy suet or rendered fat from local farms or independent butchers, as well. Sometimes they’ll just give you the rib fat trimmings for free, because they’re just going to throw them out, anyway. We really do live in clown world.

It’s ok to get the 10 lb. chub of ground beef from Wal-mart. As important as it is to buy local, and to support a sustainable meat supply in that way, there is no getting around the need to live within your means. There’s very little evidence to support the idea that conventionally raised meat is less nutritious than the grass-finished, and you’ll get along just fine on the cheap stuff. Kelly Hogan, one of the most amusing and adorable carnivores in the online carnivore community, eats a whole lot of inexpensive hamburgers–even McDonald’s hamburgers. It really is good for you, so go ahead!

Eat all the meats, not just beef. You can eat an all-animal sourced diet without ever having a steak at all. A lot of carnivore/zero carb adherents are perfectly happy eating fish, chicken thighs, canned seafood and other meats, pork rinds, and even (gasp!) bologna. I stick to beef and eggs almost exclusively right now, but I’ll eat anything that ever moved if I’m hungry and it’s all I can find at the moment. Eat whatever meat you like. Chances are you can find something you can afford.

Eat the organs. I always get the organs and offal from the whole beef that I buy. Liver, heart, tongue, kidney–you name it, we’ve eaten it. (Except lung. I think I’ll ask for that this time, too.) Some people don’t like organ meat, and I don’t think they’re strictly necessary for everybody. But they are cheap, and, in my view, superfoods. You can have liver ground into your beef to both hide the taste and stretch your meat a little farther.

Do not fear the egg. Whether you buy them or raise your own chickens, nothing beats the nutritional punch of eggs. I know you’ve been told that they’re terrible for you, but…well, I’ll get into why they’re good for you some other time. Right now, just ask yourself: when’s the last time the “experts” told you the truth about anything? One brand of eggs I’ve bought says “Two a day are OK!” on the package. That’s stupid. Twenty a day are ok, if that’s how many you can eat. They are a perfect nose-to-tail diet, easy to cook, easy to digest, and cheap. I raise my own chickens and buy some eggs, too. Dirt-scratching, insect-eating, happy chickens give you better eggs, but you’ll do just fine on the cheap eggs, if you need to. Splurge a little on the free-range ones, if you can afford it. Or just get to building your chicken coop now. Spring is coming! I’ve got 20 more chicks coming in a couple of weeks!

It’s still going to cost more. Even with all these tips, I’m sorry to report that I have not seen any way to wrestle my grocery budget back down to the size it used to be. Meat really does just cost more, and my next post will explain why I think it’s well worth the investment. I hope that some of these tips make it seem less scary to eat a meat-heavy, or even meat-only diet. I’ve found this to be the most satisfying and healthful way to live, and want to see more people discover its benefits for themselves.

A Carnivore-ish Meal Plan

A few people have asked for a sample meal plan for what the kids eat. If you like printables, here’s a good one for meal planning. To be honest, I’ve been kinda winging it lately. It doesn’t go as well when I do that, though, so I made a proper plan this time, just for you. Here’s our likely week this week. Looks like I’ll run out of food before I run out of week:

 

Gosh, that’s a lot of scrambled eggs, isn’t it? It’s the fastest way to feed a crowd, and nobody seems to mind, so it’s what I do.

You’ll probably notice that that’s not “paleo”, as it contains beans, legumes, and seeds. I’m not totally anti-seed, like many paleo people. (I don’t even believe in cavemen; I’m a creationist, as a Christian ought to be.) I do try to keep seeds down to a couple of times a week, and only those kinds that I think all the tummies handle well. As a rule, there are no grains in our diet, but if we’re out somewhere and someone hands them a corn chip or a rice cake, that’s ok by me.

For the strict carnivores:

My own plan amounts to “procure, cook, then eat meat and/or eggs”, so there’s not much planning to do. I’m currently taking a high-fat approach to eating, so breakfast is a medium-rare steak of some kind and one whole egg plus 4 yolks cooked sunny side up. My second meal is usually 4-6 quarter-pound burger patties, with the rendered fat poured back on. If I’m still hungry at supper-time, I will have a bite of whatever meat the kids have, or an egg cooked in butter, or more hamburger patties. This is a maintenance amount of calories for me on a normal day with a workout and walking. I have a little bit less on a low-activity day.

It sounds a little bit monotonous, doesn’t it? But I’ve found that when I’m actually hungry, I’m never sorry that I have to eat just meat. If I don’t want to want to eat it because it sounds boring, that’s a clue that I’m not truly hungry, but bored or just seeking food out of habit.

Jesse eats the same breakfast as the kids, minus the fruit or veg. His lunch is either sandwich meats (mostly roast beef) or hamburger patties, plus boiled eggs and homemade coconut oil mayonnaise or herbed butter. (Mayo recipe follows shortly, if I ever get the pictures taken.) His dinner will be steak and fish, or hamburger patties, or whatever meat the rest of the family is having.

Honestly, there was a time I’d have laughed at anyone who thought there was something wrong with grains, seed oils, or any other food our culture sees as normal. Just give them all the things! Food can’t hurt anybody! Eat the rainbow!

You can see that there is a fair amount of repetition in the children’s diets, too. Some of them reject the vegetables entirely, so it’s even less varied for them. I’m good with that.

Until fairly recently, historically speaking, the insane variety in food choice we take for granted was something even kings couldn’t take for granted the way we do. The human race did just fine–nay, thrived–on just meat and local, seasonal produce, so that’s how I try to feed my kids. I admit, we eat more like the kings than the peasantry, and I’m tickled that we’ve been able to do so thus far. I thank God for that, and I pray that our food system can adapt to handle everyone’s need for more meat. Most people really aren’t eating enough protein to thrive.

Variety tends to be more seasonal than daily, but we do change things up from time to time. There will be more salads and berries in the spring, cucumbers and melons in the summer, and squash and grapes in the fall. Hopefully, I’ll be a somewhat better gardener this year than last, so some of that will even come from our own land!

How Does a Carnivore Mom Feed Her Children?

Friends and family who know how restrictive my own diet is often wonder if I’m doing the same sort of thing for–or to–my family. Well, yes and no. Some members of my family are 100% carnivore, some could be defined as paleo, and ketosis is something we all experience on a daily basis, as healthy humans should. I don’t aim for ketosis anymore, as I did when I was trying to lose weight, it’s just a metabolic fact around here.

I know of a number of carnivore parents for whom that way of eating extends to the whole family, and I do firmly believe that children–and anyone else in the world–can thrive on nothing but meat. Not only does their health not suffer, I think it’s probably superior, if you can pull it off. If your family is very young and you just don’t eat plants much, that will be normal for your kids.

But my older kids were raised on quite a bit more variety, so to take all the extras out of their diets would cause quite a ruckus. And as much I like the simplicity and safety of the carnivore approach for myself, there’s no good reason that all plants should be eliminated unless you have some damage to your body that requires drastic measures. I believe we’re blessed with the ability to make full use of what the world has to offer, and many of the plants are good for food and medicine. The trouble starts when we over-process our foods, find ways to eat things that shouldn’t be eaten, and start messing around with our microbiomes, hormones, and immune systems through antibiotics, vaccinations, and plastics. Many of the things that our society thinks of as “progress” are truly toxic.

If someone is healthy (and that is increasingly rare in this world) he should simply avoid the things that cause damage and eat whatever real food he likes.

I have a few guiding principles for feeding my children:

  • Whole foods only, except for special occasions when we will veer off into some processed foods like keto birthday cake, or maybe even a gluten-free sugary birthday cake.
  • No seed oils, ever, under any circumstances.
  • Fats and carbs. Healthy people are made to get their energy from both fat and carbohydrates, so I allow my children both substrates. It’s not necessary to eat carbs the way it is fats, and we do prioritize fats. But there’s a sweet potato or an apple, for example, at least once or twice a day. There’s no good reason to restrict whole food carbohydrates in healthy people.
  • Nose to tail. I don’t force any of the kids to eat organ meats, but they’re available several times a week. I encourage them to at least take a bite and see what they think. I do think organs and offal are superfoods, but they seem to only taste good when a person has a real need for the nutrients, so I leave that to the individual palate.
  • Most vegetables and fruits should be cooked or fermented. There are a number of good reasons for this that I won’t bore anybody with for now.
  • No wheat, and other grains are eaten only when unavoidable (corn and rice are, at present, on my “ok if we have to” list). Because of auto-immune problems with several of us, we have to adhere strictly to gluten-free eating.
  • Carbs are on the low side when compared to most children’s diets. We have one or two whole-food starches per day.
  • I don’t make my children eat their vegetables or finish everything on their plates. A person’s hunger is what should drive him to eat, not guilt over “waste” or insulting the cook, or whatever. If you don’t need the food, it’s a waste to eat it! This is one thing that I’ve flubbed in the past. I insisted that none of my children will be picky eaters, and they’ll eat some of everything that’s offered. Now I think that’s ridiculous. One of my “picky eaters” turned out to have IBS, and needs a 95% carnivore diet to control it. I was harming him by making him eat foods that he knew didn’t agree with him. A child absolutely should be in control of how much and which foods they eat, provided that the foods on offer are real food. My job is to make sure that my kids have a healthy range of foods to chose from, and let them learn to listen to their bodies. Compared to the standard American diet, I offer a much smaller array of choices, but they are learning to make good choices, and not learning emotionally or socially-driven eating behaviors.
  • Meat and eggs are the main thing, and sometimes the only thing. Many of the meals are 100% carnivore.
  • No snacking. Who has time for grazing, anyway? If you’re feeding children appropriately at the meal, they can go a very long time without needing to fill up again.
  • Foods that cause noticeable symptoms are avoided, even if the symptoms are supposedly harmless. For instance, most beans bloat my littlest one’s belly up to a ridiculous size, so we limit beans and legumes to lentils and chickpeas, which don’t do that for some reason. Some of us can have dairy, and some can’t. One child gets excruciating stomach pain from white potatoes, so he skips those if they’re offered.
  • No stressing about perfect eating. It’s the pattern, what was eaten over the course of the day or week or month, that matters, and not the single food item. If we went to a birthday party and ate ice cream, then we just thank the Lord that we had a chance to hang out with our friends. If poor choices become habitual, poor outcomes are sure to follow, so we make sure that these kinds of things are far from our daily routine, but an occasional deviation is not a big deal.

When I type it out like this, it seems like a lot of rules, and probably looks at first blush to be a very difficult way to eat. And, to be honest, when we’re traveling or visiting others, it does present some challenges. At home, though, I spend less time in the kitchen than I used to, not more. I don’t often do more than add salt and pepper to some meat and veg, and then throw it all in the oven or crock pot, so its not at all time-consuming the way it used to be. It’s really a very simple and satisfying way to eat.

But it is thought-consuming. It takes a good bit of research to decide who in the nutrition world is making the most sense right now. So many opinions are out there, and I have to figure out what works best for our situation. I am emphasizing physical health in a way that my parents certainly didn’t. They didn’t have the information I have, and our food environment wasn’t yet as toxic as it is today. Health extends far beyond food, of course, but we can talk about the other stuff some other time.

Everybody has reasons for eating what they do. I’d like to know what you guys are doing and why, if you don’t mind leaving comments.

Do any of our food “rules” seem overly restrictive to you? Too permissive?

Is Carnivore an Extremely Restrictive Lifestyle?

Yes, I’d say it is. Look at all the things it has restricted from my life: 

In no particular order, here are the things that I don’t have going on at all anymore, as long as I stick to my current way of eating:

  • Hidradenitis suppurativa
  • Asthma
  • joint pain and swelling (never diagnosed, but probably arthritis)
  • brain fog
  • depression
  • trichotillomania (y’all, I have eyebrows.)
  • severe social anxiety
  • generalized anxiety
  • constipation
  • eczema
  • unexplained recurring skin lesions
  • compulsive cleaning (My house is less clean. This is a good thing. Trust me.)
  • mood swings
  • PMS (I do still suffer fools a little less gladly during that time.)
  • Heavy periods with several extra days of spotting afterwards
  • emotional eating/food cravings
  • overweight

A number of other things have greatly improved, and continue to:

  • Hashimodo’s thyroiditis (I’m currently experimenting with no thyroid medication, and it seems to be going well. I’m cautiously optimistic.)
  • bunions
  • ADHD (I have improved self-control in every aspect of my life, but let’s face it: I’m always going to be a little bit squirrely.)

And that’s just me. For privacy’s sake, I won’t be able tell you most of what has changed for my family as I’ve narrowed down their diets to what works for them, and should work for just about anybody. We’re still figuring some things out. I’ll just tell you that it is 100% true that everything, right down to those old-lady bunions you’re getting, is affected by the way you eat.

Why is restrictive bad? Fences are restrictive, but they keep the bull from goring every passerby, so I’m good with those restrictions. Marriage is restrictive. The yellow lines on the road are restrictive. Lots of things are.

But do you know what’s really restrictive, in a very negative way? Having to fill in your eyebrows with a pencil before you feel ok letting other people look at you. Being stuck at home because of social anxiety. Using inhalers. Paying expensive doctors to give you even more expensive medicines that don’t work. Getting hideous boils that restrict movement and make you just miserable. Being unable to exercise because your energy is non-existent. Being so OCD about the house-keeping that your children don’t get as much of you as they deserve.

Does any of that sound like healthy living to you? Because that’s what I get when I loosen up my way of eating.

My small children often ask me “Could you eat this, Mommy?” and the answer is “Of course! I can eat anything I want. But why would I want something that would make me feel bad?”

You can think of carnivore, or keto, or low-fat, or water fasting, or any other eating pattern as restrictive, but the question for me is, is your diet making you better or worse? Just that, and nothing more, is how you should judge your eating choices.

How restrictive do you need to be?

Very few people jump straight to a carnivore diet, because it seems too far out. For me, it has been a very quick path to health. What consequences you do feel comfortable with? Do you love your raw kale salad so much that you don’t mind suppressing your thyroid function? Is cheese so important to you that you don’t care that it gives you brain fog or constipation? That’s entirely up to you! Do you look at that healthy, tasty, whole grain bowl of oatmeal, and then your out-of-control blood sugars and say “Yeah, I think diabetes is a fair trade for this breakfast experience. Shoot me up with that insulin, doc!”? Fine. Up to you. You are the one that has to live with that choice.

I’m willing to deal with the slightly disturbed sleep I have after wine, so I drink a couple of glasses occasionally. For a while there, I felt comfortable enough with that last patch of eczema behind my left knee to go on feeding my coffee habit. That was worth it to me. But once I found out that coffee inhibits T4 production, I had no trouble letting go of that plant toxin. I’ve eased myself off of T4 medication over the last few months, so I need optimal functioning. I’m now coffee free, and eczema free. Hopefully, I’ll find that my thyroid labs look good, as well. Certainly I feel good–better than I did with the T4, surprisingly. I’ll let you know how this particular experiment turns out, either way.

I listed everything that the carnivore way of eating has taken out of my life, but it really should be stated more positively than that. I have better skin, better poop, no pain, a great mood, better relationships, clearer thinking, better productivity, more fun (FUN! I never had fun before!), fantastic body composition, more stamina, impressive strength for such a little gal, and the emotional freedom to explore the world God made for us.

How could anybody ever call that restrictive?

How’s Your Poop?

And other totally appropriate questions. 

I have a minute while my carnivore meatloaf (for which an very easy recipe should appear shortly) is in the oven to discuss a few diet-related things.

When I first switched to an all-meat diet, I would explain that I only eat meat, but I’ve had to change my approach a little bit. Now I tell people that I don’t eat plants. For some reason, the former way doesn’t quite sink in, and nobody fully realizes what I’m saying. It’s like saying the earth is flat. Nobody quite believes you really mean it. The latter way, they seem to understand more quickly. And the comments I get have become every bit as predictable as the many reactions I’ve gotten to having a large number of children. People just can’t help themselves. This sounds insane!

Besides My word, why would you do that?, the most frequent question I get from everybody–whether I’m talking to my best friend or the mailman–is the poop question. As a mother of eight, a dog-mommy, and a chicken rancher, poop has been a going concern in my life for well nigh 17 years now, so I don’t mind talking about it at all. It’s a good thing I don’t mind, because everybody else wants to talk about it. If you don’t, though, close this tab and I promise I’ll try to be more tasteful with my next post. Clearly everybody else finds this to be a steaming hot (sorry) topic, so why shouldn’t I?

Before I talk about poop, though, I want to say this: it is astonishing how personal people are willing to get when they find out you only eat meat. I tell people I’m a Christian, they change the subject. A Trump supporter, either a high-five or a cold shoulder. A homeschooler? Meh. Everybody’s a homeschooler these days. But tell people you only eat meat, and whew, suddenly everybody is your doctor, your psychotherapist, and your mother, all in one convenient package. It’s not worse than the golly-that’s-a-lot-of-kids conversation, but it’s close.

So, poop! Do I? Yes, once a day and quite comfortably, and thank you for asking. Seriously, love the question, stranger.

Carnivores do poop. Typically, they poop just fine. The result is quite diminutive compared to that of plant-eaters because the intestine is able to absorb a far higher percentage of meat foods than plant foods. So much of the meat is absorbed that I’d bet more than half of what comes out is cell turn-over from the GI tract, rather than waste product. (And isn’t waste product an oxymoron?)

The expectation that the current upside-down nutrition advice has set is that you need fiber–indigestible, bulk-building fiber–to be able to go comfortably. Constipated people are always told to put more bulk in their diet. I ask you though, how do you think putting more useless bulk through an already struggling system helps anything? Constipation isn’t, as it turns out, a result of not having enough waste to pass, but of the gut being unable to either process or move whatever is already in there. You should be more selective about what you put in your body, absolutely. Nutritionists have that correct. Don’t select for bulk, though. Select for digestibility.

Digestibility is where meat beats every other food.

I was introduced, to my horror, to something called a “poop knife” yesterday in a carnivore group on MeWe. We had a pretty good laugh, but goodness. Imagine needing to keep a knife in the bathroom so your ridiculous amount of waste can be flushed safely. Guys, if you’re wasting that much, you’re probably not absorbing as many nutrients from all your “superfoods” as you think you are. You’re probably very sick, actually, even if you don’t know it yet.

Poop Knife

Don’t spend time playing in the toilet (something I teach my children not to do), hacking your poop into smaller chunks. Back off on the fiber. Eat whole, unprocessed foods, mainly meat.

Now, the poop question isn’t all roses and sunshine. Some people do experience diarrhea in the transition to carnivore. Some people aren’t very happy with their poop for several months, in fact. I have a few thoughts on why that might be for any given person, and how to avoid it, but since we’re all individuals with different needs, I’m not going to bore you with all that. If you try a carnivore way of eating, and you have problems, I think I can help you troubleshoot. (Gosh, the puns nearly write themselves, don’t they?)

All I can say is that, for me, and for at least thousands of other meat-only eaters that I’ve interacted with in one way or another, the poop is fine, and we never have to touch it.

So, how’s your poop? Just kidding. You don’t have to talk about that if you don’t want to.

But do ask me anything you like, or give me your very strong opinions about my carnivore/zero-carb way of eating in the comments, and I’ll store up your questions for further blog posts.