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Switching to a Healthier, Meat-based You

We’re now ready to discuss some detail about common strategies to transition into the diet. There are pros and cons to these methods, and no solution is going to fit everyone. Your starting diet may help dictate which method you want to pursue.

 

Hard-Core Carnivore

This method is pretty much a direct drop into the purest form of the diet. If you go hard-core carnivore, you go straight to meat and water all the time right from the get-go. Many long-term carnivores recommend using this technique, which is analogous to removing a bandage by quickly ripping it off. There might be more discomfort in the short term, but the overall process often is quicker than easing into the diet.

With this method, on day one, you start eating nothing but meat and drinking nothing but water, and you repeat until you’ve adapted. This approach works best for very motivated individuals and those who are transitioning from a mostly animal-based ketogenic diet (because they’re already pretty well accustomed to fueling on fat). The downside of this cold turkey approach for many people is that the symptoms associated with the transition can be more severe than with a more gradual switch. Consequently, some people quit because the transition is too difficult.

 

Carb Step-Down Strategies

If you’re coming from a carbohydrate-heavy background, a good strategy may be to first adopt a lower-carbohydrate diet for at least several weeks before transitioning to a full carnivore diet.

If you’ve been on a standard American diet, which is high in carbohydrates, and you’ve been taking medications to address high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain, or depression, you should visit with your physician to discuss potential medication changes that might need to occur as you shift your diet. I’ll use blood pressure medication as an example: Many people find that medications to treat blood pressure can lead to dangerously low blood pressure as your body adapts because the diet can normalize blood pressure. The result is that the medication becomes unnecessary or needs to be reduced. The body can make similar adjustments for the other types of ailments, and it’s important that you and your doctor make corrections to your medication as necessary.

For some people, a good transition strategy is to include more meat-based meals gradually over time. One example schedule is to spread three fully meat-based meals throughout the first week. The next week bump up to eight carnivore meals. In the third week, try two days of only meat-based meals, and spread ten carnivore meals on the other days. In the fourth week, you should be able to handle five days of carnivore meals, and by the fifth week, all but two of your meals will be meat. In week six, your transition to full carnivore will be complete.

Alternatively, you could set short-term challenges to go full carnivore three days out of a week. The next challenge is to go one full week of eating only meat. The third challenge is to go for two weeks; finally, you attempt to go carnivore for thirty days in a row. This method is pretty much what I used, and it was a fairly smooth process.

The third technique for a gradual transition is to fade the vegetables and starch off your plate as you increase the amount of meat you eat each day. A drawback to these gradual techniques is that for some time, you still have access to addictive or otherwise problematic food, which may make it harder for you to let go of those things. It’s kind of like having an alcoholic quit drinking by only having alcohol twice a week.

However, as long as you continue moving closer to a fully carnivore diet, you will likely feel better, and those cravings will subside over time. Also, the gradual withdrawal of fiber- or oxalate-rich foods might make the transition easier. By gradually reducing fiber from your diet, your colon may better adapt to being able to absorb fluid and minerals efficiently. Gradually tapering from oxalate-rich foods may help you avoid a potential rapid precipitation of oxalate crystals into your joints, skin, or other tissues.

 

The Beginner Phase

 

How long does the beginner phase last? It can vary, but here are some signs that identify you as an experienced carnivore rather than a beginner:

 

  • Food no longer rules you, and you no longer see food as a form of entertainment. Instead, it’s a deeply satisfying form of nutrition.
  • You have no problem passing up a food that was previously one of your favorites.
  • You can go out socially and not cave to pressure to eat something just to satisfy someone else.
  • Nothing other than meat seems like food.

For some people, these signs are evident within a few months. Other people need years to reach all these milestones.

 

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Starting The World’s Simplest Diet

One of the hardest concepts to understand about the carnivore diet is how simple it is. Do you need to track macros or calories? Do you need to weigh your food and calculate micronutrient amounts? Do you need to be hooked up to daily blood monitors and check your lab results every few months? I would argue that you don’t need to do any of that. If a diet requires constant monitoring and calculation, then it is arguably not a very good or sustainable diet.

One big misconception about the carnivore diet is that it’s a way to lose weight. Certainly, weight loss can and often does occur, but it’s not guaranteed. Some folks even gain body fat. I have mentioned that malnutrition is a huge problem because people tend to eat energy-rich but nutrient-poor; this diet tends to fix that imbalance. If you approach this diet with the focus of weighing a certain amount or fitting into a certain size of jeans, then you will likely struggle. It’s not that those things won’t happen, but they’re secondary to improvements in nutrition. Nutrition
precedes health; health precedes body re-composition.

Here are some simple rules for getting started on a Carnivore Diet:

  1. Take one day at a time. You’re not committing to a life sentence when you start a carnivore diet, and you’re not joining a race. Enjoy life! Each day is a new chance to learn and experiment. This experience should be about you finding out what it takes for you to feel and function your best. There is no one way to follow the plan, but there are common paths. Remember that failure precedes success, so don’t beat yourself up about any miscues.
  2. Enjoy the process. I often tell people to count how many meals they enjoy after starting the carnivore diet. You should enjoy most of your meals. If you don’t enjoy what you eat, you’ll never stay with any diet long term. Learning how to cook and prepare meat can be a wonderfully enjoyable process. When you’re starting, variety can be your friend, so experiment with your choices. There are thousands of different cuts and types of animal products to enjoy.
  3. Eat enough. The vast majority of issues that occur with transitioning are a result of not eating enough. Many people come from a background of restricting calories or macronutrients, and that habit is often hard to break. That style of eating leads to a poorly regulated appetite and a ton of anxiety. (I’m going to keep repeating this idea: If you’re constantly managing your appetite, you will not be happy.)
    When you’re hungry, you should eat! (Shocking, I know.) However, think about it in the context of any other physiologic function. When you need air, you breathe. It’s as simple as that, and eating to satisfy hunger can be the same. While adapting to the diet, eat until you’re full, and repeat as often as needed to keep yourself out of the cupcakes. If you try to limit your intake, you’ll rapidly fall prey to old habits and cravings.
  4. Don’t make comparisons. Your results are your results, and they may be different than someone else’s. Constantly comparing yourself to others is a quick path to misery. Be objective about who you are, where you’re starting, and what’s important to you. You’re more than a number on a scale or a collection of lab values. Your physiology is dynamic and unique to your environment.
  5. Remember that you’re eating for you. The pressure to fit in socially can sometimes be enormous, and many people collapse on a diet so as not to disappoint a friend or loved one. People who truly care for you will understand that you’re embarking on a trial to improve some aspect of your being, and they’ll respect what you’re doing.
  6. Focus on feasting. As stated in rule 3, you need to eat enough, and I’m referring to both the frequency and the quantity. After some time on the carnivore diet, most people tend to fall into a pattern of eating meals less frequently. I typically eat once or twice per day, but that presumes I’ve eaten enough not to be hungry between feedings. If you focus on the delicious food and ensure you get plenty of it, you won’t need to set a stopwatch to tell you when to eat again.

    7. Not everything is diet related. As you become more attuned to how you respond to food, particularly as your diet begins to become narrower, it’s sometimes easy to fall into the trap of analyzing every single health-related issue and trying to attribute it to diet. Diet is hugely important, and I can’t overstate its effect on your health. However, constantly worrying about every blemish, belch, or sneeze is not productive and will turn you into a miserable hypochondriac. Things will happen—many good, some bad. Some will be diet-related; many will not. Take the big-picture view and learn to relax. Put your energy into thinking, “How does my health compare to three months ago?” rather than thinking, “How does my health compare to yesterday?”


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Social life tips by coach Tracy K

Planning is the biggest key here! Plan, plan, plan! If you have a holiday or a birthday approaching, you’ll want to know exactly how to handle that scenario so that you do not fall off of your plan!

One idea to help you through is to eat before you go to the event. If you have some meat on board, you will be less likely to want to eat the tempting carby foods that are usually at every party. Even if you do not eat an entire meal, at least eat a piece of meat, some bacon, an egg, or other easy food. It will curb your hunger and keep you smiling at the same time!

Another idea would be to bring a meat dish to share! Cook up some chicken legs and thighs, or maybe bite sized pieces of steak on a platter. You could even make up a meat and cheese tray with boiled eggs or stuffed eggs to nibble on for you and your fellow party goers! There are many ways and many dishes that could be taken along with you so that you have foods that satisfy your hunger and give the best nutrients to others. It’s a win, win situation!

Social life tips by coach Elizabeth B

if you are eating out or with friends, again, make sure you don’t arrive hungry. Most hosts or restaurants will want to provide different choices, but as in grocery stores, there will usually be more carbohydrate and sugar foods than carnivore foods. 

 

I often eat some fat and protein before I arrive so I can be sure I won’t be hungry during the event. You can focus on the carnivore foods, if provided or offered, and avoid the rest. This way you can relax and enjoy the company and the conversation.

 

As a former restaurant owner, I can attest that it is always easier for the kitchen to remove an ingredient from a dish than to switch out or add one. Because of how prices are calculated, you may have accept paying the price on the menu, even without the rice or pasta. 

 

Removing dairy is usually easy because it is added to sauces at the last minute. Some sauces contain sugar and, unfortunately, the owner, if they aren’t the chef, may not even know this, and won’t be able to tell you if it does or does not, so it is best to avoid sauces. Ordering a plain steak or fish is always safest.

Social life tips by coach Dana S

Try to schedule social events away from food.



Avoid trigger foods.  Avoid putting anything sweet in your mouth, especially if you are a sugar or carb addict.



If your social situation is around food and it is appropriate:

    1. Eat before you go – eat fully to satiety.
    2. Bring something everyone can enjoy that you know you can eat.
    3. If you are comfortable enough and it is possible, discuss options with the host ahead of time.

 

At a restaurant

    1. If possible, call ahead to discuss options with the manager or cook. 
    2. Order meat (steak, burger, chicken, fish etc.)
    3. Ask meal to be cooked on a clean grill or pan with only butter, ghee, tallow, or water, or do the best you can with what they have. 
    4. If you can tolerate spices or herbs, fine but many seasonings have added problematic ingredients.  Otherwise ask for salt only
    5. Instead of non-carnivore sides see if they have add-on menu items or ala cart animal items.  You can sometimes order two ala cart steak or burger patties as an example, sometimes cheaper than a whole entre. You can add bacon and / or cheese /sour cream / butter.   If you can’t get them to swap your sides for something else, have them leave them off or put in separate dishes to share with the other diners. 
    6. If you know a non-carnivore food will not be a trigger and will not give you problems, it is okay to indulge.  What you don’t want is to derail yourself.  Just choose wisely.

 

  1. Remember, your diet is your choice.  People will have opinions both positive and negative. 
    1. If discussing your diet choices makes you uncomfortable or puts you on the defensive, avoid the topic. 
    2. Depending on your level of comfort discussing the topic, if asked, you can share as little or as much as you want.  A good option if asked is to share you are eliminating certain foods right now for health reasons. 

Social life tips by coach Michele F

If you know that you have an event coming up on your calendar, during which food will be involved, it can be a great idea to pre-eat before attending the event. Pre-eating will ensure you have the nutrients you need for your day and that you’re full and satiated, during the event. When you’re nourished and full, you will be much less likely to be tempted off your plan and away from your goals. Additionally, if someone offers you a food you don’t wish to eat, you can simply respond politely, “Thank you, but I’ve already eaten.”

 

If you’re attending the social function with a friend or close family member, you can notify them in advance that you’re working on a specific goal or way of eating. This way you won’t be caught off-guard or feel a need to explain to your friend/family during the social situation.

 

Holding a glass of water during the event may also help limited uncomfortable inquiries or interactions. People often feel naturally compelled (out of politeness or concern) to check that their guests have food or drink, and if you’re not holding a beverage, they seem to be more compelled to insist you must need something. Holding a beverage at an event, has helped me to visually convey to others that I’m well and satisfied, and it helps to avoid a conversation about why I’m not eating or drinking other things. 

 

If the event includes meat, fill your plate and enjoy!  Dr. Shawn Baker recently commented about the “decoy broccoli” – I love this phrase. If it helps to allow the restaurant to serve your steak alongside a piece of vegetable, go ahead and allow it on your plate (just not in your mouth)! It’s amazing how people will feel calmed by coach seeing the decoy broccoli (or decoy lemon wedge, or decoy carrot, or decoy anything!) on your plate. People are less likely to interrogate you about what you’re eating, if your plate looks more like their plate. Over the long-term, we become more comfortable with our choice and less concerned about what others think, but when initially making a change, there is some value and benefit in “blending-in” as it may help you reach your goals.

 

Lastly, but very importantly, when in social situations, remember to focus on the reason you are attending the event. Your purpose is generally about seeing friends, loved ones, or associates and it is not about the food. This is a good time to practice staying mindful in the social situation. Observe others and their interactions. Ask questions and really listen to people’s answers. And enjoy yourself!

 

You will have more energy to have a good time, socialize, and be an interesting guest because you’re not focused on food. 

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