After a few years of eating animal based I would like to offer a longer and more updated account of my experience. So much has changed since my 1 year interview and I hope this is useful for people that are new and experienced alike. I started carnivore in July of 2015 – so at the time of writing this I am past the 5 year mark. If you would like to reach out for further questions you are welcome to message me on Instagram @rennpercival or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Initially, I started eating this way for overall health and fitness. I was unaware of some of my health problems at the time, and I believed others were not curable. I had textbook depression, which in my case was largely linked to my sleeping disorder DSPS (Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome) which I had been fighting since puberty. I learned later that I also had systemic candida overgrowth which explained my liver stress and skin problems – mainly consisting of chronic rashes and acne. Seasonal allergies in the spring were also an unpleasant experience.
For about 2 years before carnivore, I was primal-inspired low carb and then keto. I felt better on low carb/keto than I did eating any other way, but it did not help the above health issues at all – it just made them a bit more tolerable, except the candida. I think keto made my candida worse because I was eating more green plants and nuts, which inflamed my gut even more than it already was. To my amazement, switching to only animal products resolved all of the above mentioned health issues (except for DSPS which I will cover later).
Even during my first week of carnivore, the difference in my energy was like night and day – I already felt better than I did on low carb, but I still had a lot of work and adaptation to do. I think I felt such extreme relief because many of my issues stemmed from my candida populated leaky gut. This is the only way of eating that finally put me in touch with my gut so I could learn what was helping and what was hindering it from healing. After a couple months of getting used to carnivore I finally cracked down on the candida and figured out why it kept holding on. In order to finally kill it off, I had to drop ALL trace carbs for a time. No eggs, no dairy, only meat and water. The ebb and flow of die off symptoms were not fun, but after 2-3
weeks it was gone. I still stuck with only meat and water for another month or 2, just to make sure my gut was fully healed. At that point I reintroduced eggs and raw dairy, with great results and a welcome way to add fat to leaner meals. However, pasteurized dairy was a no go: it gave me a mild headache and general “off” feeling followed up later by a rash and lots of GI distress. It turns out that I react negatively to the denatured proteins in pasteurized dairy (lactose intolerance was ruled out because I have the same reaction to lactose free pasteurized dairy, such as butter and hard cheese).
I feel that I was completely adapted after the 2-3 month mark. With the knowledge I have now I think I could have adapted much faster, but Candida really threw a wrench in things. Likewise, if you are coming into this with gut issues, keep in mind that adaptation could take longer for you. Gut health is so important, and many things in our modern world can damage it – healing takes TIME. Some say to give yourself one month for every year that you were in poor health. There certainly might be some truth to that.
Moving on, for ease of reading, I’m going to break things up into common topics that I am often asked about.
MACROS & DIETARY HABITS
I have never been one to track my food intake too closely, but I am happy to track upon request as a reference for others. Upon starting carnivore I let my body decide how much fat and protein I should eat. The results continue to intrigue me as they seem to be quite different compared to some other long-timers. To me, it is also proof that you really should listen to your body (assuming you are in tune with it) instead of someone else’s advice when it comes to macro ratios. If I followed some of the carnivore advice circulating these days, I would probably feel sick. So please, don’t think that you’re failing just because the recommended fat:protein ratio doesn’t work for you. It’s so important to learn what works for your metabolism and lifestyle. Give yourself time to patiently perform some isolated experiments, so you can eliminate variables and learn what works!
My macros have changed a lot in these 5 years. For the first year, I was always wanting a lot of fat – generally much more than now, unless if I’m dealing with cold weather. Then suddenly, constant high fat stopped working – I simply no longer wanted that much fat and craved more protein. This evolved into a seasonal cycle that continues today. In the warmer months of the year I need more protein, and I physically can’t eat as much fat – if I try, my GI tract lets me know about it and I don’t feel good. But when the colder months roll around, I absolutely need higher fat again and digesting it is a breeze. The colder it gets, the more fat I need.
I also eat more now than I did during my first year. I’ll easily eat 3+ lbs a day if I’m hungry enough, and my bare minimum tends to be 2 lbs. In contrast, when I started I think my average was more like 1.5. I’m sure body composition and activity level has something to do with this, as I am more muscular now than when I started. I think regaining my health also contributed to an increase in metabolic rate.
I’ve been one meal a day (OMAD) ever since I started carnivore. There are many reasons for this, but in short it works best with my lifestyle. OMAD and fasting in general isn’t for everyone, but to those of you interested, consider experimenting with your meal timing. This is ultimately what brought my sleeping disorder under control when nothing else worked. Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is a chronic and unforgiving disorder that affects some people for their whole life – I thought I was in the same boat, and I was done fighting it by that point. My diet didn’t fix it, avoiding blue light didn’t fix it, I really tried everything under the sun but it only got worse. It was getting so bad that it might have even been progressing to N24 Disorder.
Strangely enough, when I decided to change my one meal time from mid day (1-2pm
) to evening, (5-6pm
) I started sleeping like a normal person. To this day, I don’t know exactly why this works. For the years I lived with DSPS, the amount of meals I ate per day made no difference, nor did my diet. I suffered the same when I was eating three meals a day as I did when eating one. I didn’t think timing mattered since I used to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it didn’t matter back then. But something about the hormone response of only eating in the evening fixed things for me. Your mileage may vary of course, and I know others who only eat in the morning because that works best for them. But please keep this in mind if you have a circadian rhythm disorder! I may experiment further at some point, but I’m hesitant to mess with something that was broken for so long.
So, what do I eat? This has evolved with time as well. The first 3-4 years I was quite strict (animal products only aside from herbs/spices/teas), and in the early months I was even stricter for a time, in order to to kill candida (meats and salt only). Slowly I have started learning what other foods are safe or even beneficial for me. After the 3 year mark is when I decided to try raw milk. As you know from my candida story above, I was able to eat dairy immediately after healing my gut, as long as it was raw. But I was only eating raw cheese, and I was curious if higher carb dairy would cause me any issues. So year 3 is when I decided to try raw milk and cream with good results. Year 4 I decided to take it a step further and try some raw honey, because my metabolism is healthy and I don’t have issues with sugar addiction. I thought it may be a useful energy supplement on occasion. It has proven to be a welcome addition to my palate with no adverse effects – at times I will even go weeks without eating it, because I don’t want sugar often.
On my 5th year, I decided to try coconut oil, just to have another fat option, and because it does have an impressive fatty acid profile compared to other plants. I was very unsure about this one, because I do have a reaction to other plant oils, even in small amounts. But it turned out to be a safe addition! Next year I may consider trying wild seasonal berries, but I’m in no hurry.
I’ve been happy with my food all throughout this journey because it genuinely changed my life for the better. If there’s no good reason for me to eat something, I don’t eat it. I’ve healed too much to consider going back. It may seem extreme to some – but with so much autoimmune history in my family, taking this approach is worth the reward.
So to sum it up, after 5 years of learning, this is what I currently eat (in order by frequency):
1. Animal products (including eggs and raw dairy)
2. Trace plant matter – herbs/spices/teas/occasional mushrooms (in the form of seasonings, herbal drinks, recreational purposes)
3. Raw honey and bee pollen
4. Coconut oil
Basically, I eat between 98%-100% animal products at any given time. There are days that I don’t want any plant matter, and honey and coconut oil are occasional add ons. Red meat is the staple but I do eat other meats as well as wild seafood. Organs are not a common part of my diet because I either don’t have access, or don’t feel the need. I feel my best on wild or pastured meats, but I do fine on conventional when necessary. However, I have learned that when I eat conventional meat long term, I have to be careful or I will start to experience inflammation – this can happen especially fast if I am eating a lot of conventional pork or chicken. To counter this I supplement Omega 3 – but if I don’t stay up on it, inflammation can still creep up. Some people have a gene that promotes an upregulated response to Omega 6 intake, and I think that is my issue. Aside from that, it could be that I’m reacting to the animal’s diet, which can be a problem for some hypersensitive individuals. Whatever the case, the difference in how I feel eating primarily wild or pastured vs conventional meat is obvious.
I eat both cooked and raw, depending on the type of meat and my mood. I also salt to taste.
As mentioned above, I do need to take some Omega 3, but only if I’m eating a lot of conventional meat. In order to prevent this I plan to source the bulk of my food naturally when possible.
I sometimes supplement collagen and gelatin, simply because I enjoy it.
Upon learning more about the importance of iodine (especially given that it is depleted in our modern environment) I have been experimenting with it.
All of my major health issues, both mental and physical, were resolved in the first year. In addition to that, my energy, mental clarity, digestion, skin, and strength is better than ever before. I rarely get sick. It is easy to gain muscle and stay lean. Seasonal allergies are now extremely mild, when previously they were miserable. My dental health is perfect, I only brush for aesthetic reasons now.
Eating animal based truly turned my life around, helped me grow, and realize who I was without the baggage of DSPS, depression, and a damaged GI tract. It freed me to become a better, whole and authentic person.
SOURCES FOR BEGINNERS
In my opinion the most unbiased sources on this topic are physiology, anthropology, and history. Study these three things in detail and you will understand why and how humans developed our large energy-demanding brain, the factors driving our modern health crisis, and what our species appropriate diet really is.
There is so much rampant misinformation these days, thanks to monetary influence by the same corporations that make us sick. But your body, your ancestors, and the environment won’t lie to you. Learn your roots and trust nature again.
If you are a visual learner and you have some time on your hands, I recommend this video lecture by Barry Groves PhD, which goes very in depth on physiology:
And here’s a favorite little introduction into why naturally raised meat is good (and necessary) for the environment:
When it comes to ethics and sustainability, this article offers great insight from an environmentalist and former vegan:
Lastly, a list of people who have been extremely helpful or inspiring throughout my journey (in no particular order):
Esmee La Fleur
Joe and Charlene Andersen
Very much appreciate you taking the time to write that up.
Great. Thank you
Thank you for sharing..on ruminants since August 2020, helping me greatly with my Ankylosing Spondylitis
Thanks Reanna , very good information
This was inspiring, when you eat at 5-6pm do you eat long then, since you eat up to 3-ibs?
Yes, it varies but I take my time generally. I try to be done eating by 10pm but sometimes later.
Yes, it varies but I take my time generally. I try to be done eating by 10pm but sometimes later.
Reanna, I am inspired by your well thought out and articulate post! Your emphasis on being flexible, checking in with yourself, and adapting when needed makes this way of eating very accessible and shows that we can each trust our physiologies when it comes to making meaningful and long-lasting changes.
I also really appreciated the link, among the others, to the interview with Daniel Zetah. As a yoga practitioner I myself do not have ethical struggles with eating sustainably-raised ruminants; notwithstanding, I want to intellectually and spiritually reconcile this way of eating with a spiritual practice that typically encourages veg*nism as a way to practice non-harm (ahimsa). Daniel’s explanation of how much more harm is imposed through monoculture flips the narrative in a way that I intuitively knew but could not sufficiently articulate.
Continued health to you and thank you for sharing your journey with us!
Thanks so much Christine! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Thank you! Informative & encouraging & well written. I’ve had similar gut issues, rashes, plus bloat. Congratulations! Thandiwe
Really appreciated reading this, thank you very much, so clear and concise and bad ass : D
are there any other follow up interviews like this? I’d like to hear from the others that were interviewed on the site.
Not at this time. But it would certainly be interesting to see how they have adjusted and altered their carnivore diet over time.
Thank you for dedication!
A short comment for everyone on the question why late OMADs might work better: I once read the gut biome is mainly active during the night. And when you imagine our ancestors gathering around the fire in the evening (until today: family meal time in the evenings) or even hunting in the dawn, maybe that could make some sense.
But not sure about that, only a guess.