Sarah

Are you currently Keto or Carnivore?

Carnivore

How long have you been keto/carnivore?

4 years

Describe what a Typical Day of Eating Looks like for you.

I typically eat one to two meals per day. It is usually grass fed ribeye steak with added fat like tallow right now, as I’m still dairy sensitive. Sometimes sashimi salmon–with added fat of course!

Since I’m healing from some autoimmune issues, I will reintroduce pork belly and eggs as I continue.

Describe the health changes you have experienced since going keto/carnivore.

When I first started I initially lost weight. I’ve done different variations where I wasn’t eating enough fat and was eating too lean. During that time I lost my cycle. However, once I added enough fat and really lowered the carbs, and measured myself being in ketosis I saw a huge improvement. Better body composition, better sleep, and less G.I. problems. I work out much less than I used to and eat more nutrient-dense foods.

Your Keto/Carnivore Story

Like most girls growing up I wanted to be skinny and was always worried about how I looked. I was not overweight but compared myself to models in magazines (before internet). I grew up in a low-fat household because that was considered healthy. My mother had tried many diets over the years and also struggled with her weight.

Nutrisystem, slim-fast, weight watchers, you name it, she tried it. Even my grandma lost a lot of weight on Jenny Craig, which was proportioned frozen meals and a low-fat approach. This was how I always thought health was achieved–eating low-fat and low-calorie.

My first attempt to lose any weight was through Weight Watchers in high school. I counted points and drank slim fast for breakfast and ate lean cuisine frozen meals. I ate turkey and carrots and pretty much very low-calorie foods.

During this time as a teenager, I struggled with acne. I tried all the creams and lotions and washes. With no success, I went on the birth control pill and saw dramatic improvements in my skin.

In college, I was also a cheerleader for some time and a bartender. Of course I wanted to look my best. Like most college students, I ate lots of dining hall food, and drank alcohol. So I saw an increase in my weight. Not surprising. Most times, I would eat chicken salads all week long but by the weekend, I would eat pizza and chicken fingers and everything because I was undernourished and starving.

After I graduated from college I wanted to lose weight, so I joined weight watchers again. The system at the time was eat low points and lose weight. Did you know that you can eat low-fat popcorn, low-fat chips, and wine and still lose weight?  My diet consisted of Lean cuisines, low calorie flatbreads with low-fat pretzels, fake butter, low-fat cheese, diet soda, low fat soups and wine. The lowest point foods were usually carbohydrates and vegetables. So to feel full, I needed to eat a high-volume of foods. Also, you got more points to use if you exercised, so I did a lot of cardio and the elliptical. I saved my points to drink on the weekends. Yes, I had veggies and lean chicken too for meals, but it was all the lower calories the better to save up for treats and drinks on weekends. This was my pattern of restricting and bingeing.

I remember my first check-up after losing a lot of weight. I was down about 25 pounds. My Doctor said that my blood pressure was very high and I needed medication. What? I just lost all this weight, and now my blood pressure is high? I was in my early twenties, so they ran all kinds of tests to see if there was something else causing it. I said I would try limiting caffeine and salt to avoid medication. This didn’t work, so I started taking blood pressure medication. Next, my thought was maybe I should try coming off birth control. I had been on it for over ten years. Immediately after stopping it my skin became my biggest problem. I suffered from severe and cystic acne.

Looking for answers, I sought out a dermatologist who had me go on antibiotics for over a year. My skin cleared up and I got married during this time. It was nice to have clear skin for that. To be fit and lean for my wedding, I again restricted calories. I also incorporated strength training with my cardio.

I did look great for the wedding, so I thought this was the right diet and approach for me for the long term. Eat less, move more.
But after the wedding I knew being on antibiotics was not a long-term solution. I went to a new dermatologist and went on Accutane. This is a rough medication. You need bloodwork each month and have to use two forms of birth control because severe birth defects as a possibility. Your skin and lips are crazy dry and peel. Between the long-term antibiotics and Accutane I’m still undoing the damage they did to my gut. I also had problems where my hair was breaking. People kept asking if I got a haircut which I had not.

Despite restricting calories and working out all the time I still had trouble staying at an ideal weight. So I decided to take a different approach and that’s how I found what I thought was keto. It called for removing all sugars, and carbohydrates and eating mostly protein with vegetables.

By cutting the carbs and not eating enough fat, aka not doing keto right, and working out every morning I started losing weight. But after about a month, I noticed I was starting to lose a lot of hair. I kept asking what I was doing wrong, and the most common answer was to eat more protein and lots of veggies. I ate tons of cauliflower and zucchini to be full. I would cry every time I washed my hair because so much hair would come out. I would wash it as little as possible. Looking back, I know my caloric intake was definitely too low. Finally, the hair loss stopped, and I thought I had keto figured out.

In January 2019 and still not at my desired weight, I  heard about Carnivore. I tried it during world carnivore month. I lost fat and had a great body composition eating a grass-fed ribeye and ground beef with eggs mostly. Carnivore is so filling and satiating. And though I thought I was eating plenty of fatty foods, I was still most likely under-eating and still drinking wine most weekends. Another weird symptom that I didn’t understand was melasma. For those that don’t know, melasma is dark pigmentation. I had a very dark upper lip all a sudden that looked like a mustache. It was embarrassing, and I wore makeup to hide it. I even went to get it lasered off twice, and it came right back. Now I know this was due to hormone fluctuations. I did feel much better, but still I wasn’t getting enough food, so if I began eating too much and I gained weight. So come January 2020, I restricted calories again.

I learned that you gain or lose weight on carnivore. Calories do matter and so do hormones. From March 2020, for about a year, I went extremely high fat with very low protein and gained a lot of weight. While fat is healing and so good for us, forced amounts of it were not healthy for me. I became very overweight. Forced feeding tons of fat with no fasting, along with meals and snacks throughout the day didn’t work. I learned a lot about how fat was good, but I knew how I was doing it wasn’t right. I wasn’t listening when my body was nourished and full.

To lose weight, in 2021 I jumped on the protein-sparing modified fast carnivore train. At first it worked great when I was losing weight. Unfortunately, I suffered from severe hair loss again, and lots of gut problems and food sensitivities. I would have loose stools all the time and bloating. I was waking up at night wide awake when before I had always slept great. My cycle became irregular and then stopped all together. I was exercising HIIT training 5-6 days a week, eating tons of lower fat meats and basically calorie restriction eating tons of lean protein.

You must be thinking haven’t you learned? Do you notice a pattern? I lost and gained weight many times by doing the same thing if you think about it. Restrict calories, loose weight, and then gain to undo hormone problems and hair loss.

You can lose weight by eating popcorn and wine, which I’ve done. You can lose weight and suffer damage eating carnivore by overeating or not eating enough.  Losing weight and losing fat are different. You can lose bone and hair and mess up so much by restricting calories. Weight can be a false representation of health. Body composition is a better gauge.

Finally, in Sept 2021, I really dug into the advice of Judy Cho and Dr Kiltz. They are both advocates for higher fat, especially while healing. They both talk about how our hormones are built from cholesterol which comes from fat. It finally made sense. I started eating about 75- 80% fat and enough protein but also enough calories.

I cut way back on exercise and focused on strength training a few times a week and walking every morning. Not surprisingly, I lost weight eating the correct ratio and amount of fat. I wasn’t starving anymore by eating tons of lean meat. I naturally fasted to eat two meals a day and sometimes only one.

Dr Jason Fung, who is the fasting guru, talks about how when you restrict calories in, your body is smart and will adjust calories out. Meaning it will adapt and slow down other metabolic processes if it knows you are only going to give it so much. Fasting surprisingly increases your metabolic rate. I started fasting from a state of ketosis to preserve my muscle. A lot of carnivores are in ketosis because of eating zero carbohydrates.

Eating enough and fasting have taught me so much more about my body. I am still a work in progress, focusing now on my gut and other food sensitivities and balancing all I have done to my body over and over. My cycle has come back but not perfectly yet.

I loved how much I learned from Judy Cho and want to help others not have to learn lessons the hard way like I did. I want to share my knowledge. I am in school to be a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner like her. The program is really focused on bio-individuality. What works for one person may not work for another at a given time. I’m looking to be another set of eyes and give tips and possible recommendations. There are similar principles but also different seasons for everything. It all depends on you, your terrain, and where you are in your journey. I graduate in November of this year and will be taking on clients soon. I look forward to helping others in their journey, especially women with a history of under-eating most of their lives.

The final stage of healing is using what happened to me to help other people. I have learned that our health is a never-ending journey. It’s never “once I reach this goal I’ll be done and be happy.” We are always learning, adapting, and becoming better versions of ourselves.

What is the best (or top 3) pieces of advice you could give someone starting their keto/carnivore health journey?

Eat enough. By adding fat you will be less hungry and have the energy you need. Focus on fatty meat and add fat.

Fasting naturally is great once you adapt. Listen to your hunger signals.

Workouts should be strength-based if you are looking for body recomposition. Overdoing exercise and training caused me more problems than benefits.