In May 2019, I attempted to solve lasting depression and anxiety with a ketogenic diet. In January 2022, I failed the carnivore diet.
Here’s what happened in between.
How I Failed the Carnivore Diet
As I was walking purposelessly in the Santa Fe Mall of Medellin, Colombia, I suddenly got an idea. What if my mental struggles were due to the food I ate? It was the 28th of May 2019.
On the 29th, my keto journey began.
A ketogenic diet is restricted to vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Dieters aren’t allowed to eat more than 30 grams of carbs per day.
You are allowed to drink tea, coffee, water, milk, and no-carbs alcohol (vodka, etc).
And nothing else.
It worked! Within two weeks, all depressive symptoms had disappeared. I felt much better.
And as with all things that make me feel good, I wanted more of it.
I wanted to see how far I could push it.
In mid-October 2019, I decided to go animal-based. The animal-based diet forbids any plant food – the exact opposite of the vegan diet.
I was eating meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. The only issue was that dairy being my only source of sugar, I was addicted to it. I ate between 1kg and 2.5kg of Greek yogurt and kefir…per day. I couldn’t get enough of it!!
So, on the 17th of April 2020, I went full carnivore. I only ate meat, fish, and eggs. And nothing else.
I am not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. I was hungry despite eating enormous quantities of meat (8-10kg per week) and eggs (8-16 eggs per day).
I was sleeping 11 hours a night.
I thought it was normal and that I had to give my body some time to be fat adapted.
And it did.
I came to love my diet. Grocery shopping was straightforward, cooking was easy, and I never had to wonder what I was going to eat. I ate pork in the morning, and beef at night.
I belonged to the cool carnivore community and we were making fun of vegans.
I was different, and really proud to be.
That was on the outside. On the inside, it felt different.
In September 2020, I started to get digestive issues, namely, constipation. I did some research, and while mainstream science was advocating fibers back into the diet, I found other sources that explained fibers mainly pumped the water inside the stomach and dried stools even more.
I tried to reintroduce olives in December of the same year, but couldn’t draw any significant results. I knew I was missing something, but what was it? Should I go back to vegetables, or restrict the diet even more?
Since I had already come this way, I decided to double down. The only version of the carnivore diet I had not tried yet was the lion diet. The lion diet is a diet made out of red meat (beef, goat, lamb), salt, and water.
And nothing else.
I went lion on the 20th of January 2021. On the 20th of February, I started eating pork again, then fish, eggs, etc.
My constipation problems were getting worse. Stubborn as I was, I wanted to see the end of it without having to eat fibers. I tried to drink more water, exercise more, sit less….
But I never managed.
I started eating olives again in April 2021.
I reintroduced dairy multiple times but it never really worked (I am sure that if I did it over a longer period of time, it would. I just need to reactive the bacteria in my stomach).
Unfortunately, olives weren’t enough to put an end to my misery. Paralyzed, I kept this diet until I was faced with two choices:
- Ass surgery
- Reintroducing fiber-packed vegetables
I went with the second option and in January 2022, I decided to go back to the ketogenic diet. I reintroduced tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, and…beer.
Within one week, my digestive problems were gone. I no longer had to sleep for 9 hours a night, and got more energy.
What to Make of It?
Ironically, my article on the benefits of the carnivore diet is one of the longest and most-researched articles I have ever written.
I still stand by everything I have written. In absolute terms, you will be more likely to survive on beef alone than carrots.
The truth probably lies in the middle: you need both.
So, why did I fail my carnivore diet?
1. I am wrong and plants are a part of the human diet
A lot of people also failed carnivore and added fruits back into their diet. Carnivore Aurelius is one of the biggest advocates for a meat + fruit diet.
Maybe plants are part of the human diet, and always have been? Maybe balance really is the key?
2. The body has already evolved
While we were fully carnivores some 15 000 years ago, maybe a hardcore grain diet has had an impact on our body such that we can no longer do without fibers.
After all, as highlighted in my carnivore diet article, plants have already influenced our jaw, the size of our brain, and more.
Did it also influence our gut flora, transforming us into omnivores?
3. I didn’t have the lifestyle of a caveman
I highly doubt cavemen sat on their chairs 12 hours a day every day.
Maybe a lack of exercise was the main cause for constipation, and if I had had a more active life, I would have been able to digest normally.
While I went to the bathroom every 7 days or so, I know some carnivores go every day.
Maybe I was the odd one?
4. We’re all different
I really want to believe that there is one diet that suits everybody. I thought it was the carnivore diet and now, I think it’s the ketogenic diet.
But I am likely wrong again.
There is at least one person on earth allergic to each ingredient that exists. And while red meat is one of the rarest foods giving allergy…some people are actually allergic to red meat.
Maybe the optimal human diet is not about the foods themselves but what’s inside. Maybe the optimal ratio is 50% protein, 40% fat, and 10% carbs.
Or maybe it’s 30-50%, 20-40%, 10-20%, depending on the individual.
5. Extreme diets can’t be natural
Nassim Taleb once said the human diet was cyclical. He said we were supposed to eat meat during a certain period of time (such as winter) then swap it for fruit and vegetables the rest of the time (summer).
It is an interesting idea, for several reasons.
First, I hardly imagine how cavemen could have eaten beef or mammoth all day every day. At some point, they must have run out of it and eaten something else.
Second, both vegans and carnivores declare they feel much better a few months into their diet. They feel negative effects approximately after one year (depends on the people), then almost all of them quit it within the next 2-5 years.
Third, humans lived through seasons. It seems unlikely that their diet was made out of the same food throughout the year. Strawberries don’t grow in winter.
These observations would confirm that our diet could indeed be cyclical. 80% of meat 6 months per year, and 80% of vegetables the other 6 months.
I thought I had found the definite diet.
I didn’t. I failed the carnivore diet because it wasn’t adapted to me.
Luckily, I never encouraged anyone to adopt this diet either. In fact, I advised against it.
I am now back on the keto diet and I must say, it feels pretty good.
I don’t feel more depressed or anxious than when I was on carnivore.
I can eat more stuff and go to the restaurant with my friends.
And I can drink beer.
Overall, it was a nice experience, very instructive.
I still think the carnivore diet can be good for people struggling with auto-immune disorders, as it has been shown thousands of times by folks within the carnivore community. I also think the carnivore diet opens some promising paths towards the remission of diabetes.
But…I don’t think the carnivore diet is, or should be treated as a long-term diet.
Of course, I may be wrong again.
After all, out of all diets, the paleo diet is the one that makes the most sense. Ironically, it’s the one I ate the least.
Because if there is one thing I learned, it’s that I can’t do sugar.
Even from fruits.
I just can’t.
And this lesson was worth it.
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