The Carnivore Diet Dangers, Anecdotal Evidence & Trolling

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So those of you who orbit in the instagram fitness/nutrition universe along with me may have noted the recent controversy surrounding ‘The Carnivore Diet’.

Yup, that’s right, a diet advocating essentially only eating meat (and possibly eggs).

Now you don’t need to be a genius to work out that ANY DIET advocating extremes of ONLY EATING ONE THING or cutting out other major food groups is problematic.

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The Nerdy Nutrition Science Bit – why eating only meat is ridiculous

Why? Because we humans need a variety of not only the major building blocks for our bodies, macronutrients – protein, healthy fats and carbs, but we also need the smaller stuff in smaller amounts, micronutrients – all the little vitamins, minerals, things like iron or selenium or Vitamin A etc (see books The Food Medic by Hazel Wallace, Jr Doctor or ReNourish by Rhiannon Lambert, nutritionist).

A picture of optimum health involves a balanced plate, as advocated by Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert – which means eating a rainbow, the easiest way of achieving your micronutrient goals – focus on different coloured fruits and veggies! – and a balance of the macronutrients – palm size of protein, thumb of healthy fat, firstful of carbs (ideally things like wholegrains – brown rice, quinoa etc).

The carnivore diet cannot provide you with these micronutrients, which include antioxidants and phytochemicals, the stuff in certain fruits and veggies which helps influence your epigenome to avoid cancer and other serious health issues.

The carnivore diet is also not providing people with complex carbohydrates, the main nutrient our brains use for energy, not to mention key to the production of seratonin (tryptophan can’t synthesize to make seratonin without carbs people!), often known as the happy hormone, and often considered to be lacking in people with depression.

The carnivore diet is also missing fibre, key for the internal digestive system and weight management, and a critical part of a healthy diet.

The diet has been widely condemned by nutritionists and health experts. So please, please… don’t jump on this ridiculous bandwagon!!

What’s wrong with believing anecdotal evidence?

“Mrs X tried the carnivore diet and within weeks her cancer was cured!”

“I tried the carnivore diet and my psoriasis cleared right up – nothing worked for years before that!”

“I tried everything to lose weight but only the carnivore diet worked!”

So let’s look at anecdoctal evidence. Someone says something worked for them and people rush out and try it because we all want an easy mircale that provides perfect health – it’s too boring to acknowledge we have it well within our power to exercise, eat balanced meals and control lifestyle factors like stress and sleep!

Anecdotal evidence is an issue because:

  • They cannot positively know what caused the change without having tested it logically and systematically against everything else: this would mean only having one variable, for an experimental period of time, and keeping everything else EXACTLY THE SAME. Then doing the same to test other factors. To establish ONE THING as a root cause / cure, you need to eliminate the confusion of other factors. So if their sleep, stress, diet, job, commute, anything changed within that period, it has the potential to skew results. How do you KNOW the diet changed things? You can’t reliably separate it from other variables. You also ideally need a control group, and a group which has variables tested to see how patterns emerge, and whether correlations exist at all.
  • Even if you do test out variables as systematically as possible using the scientific method, you are a sample size of ONE. This is NOT ENOUGH to establish something as true for the rest of humanity. Sample size is key! 1,2,10, 20… they’re all pretty small groups when you think about it!
  • Additionally, we’re emotionally and cognitively biased towards people we know, so if our best friend says ‘OMG I tried this and it worked for me!’ we’re much more likely to not be questioning and critical and just take things as true, which is an issue!

On a slightly separate note, I find it so frustrating when people say they’ve tried ‘everything’ but just can’t lose weight – this usually means every fad diet, and therefore it’s no wonder! They’re not healthy, they’re not sustainable, they encourage deprivation-binge cycles and disordered approaches to eating, and typically once they’re over people return to their ‘old’ ways without ever wondering if their ‘old’ ways were this issue in the first place! Their version of trying everything doesn’t usually include the unsexy but simple and EFFECTIVE balanced eating, movement, and moderation with treats.

Trolling

The final thing I wanted to touch on in this post is trolling. Rhiannon Lambert is a highly educated, highly qualified professional, and she came out on social media to denounce this diet (quite rightly!) because it’s making dangerous false promises, not to mention encouraging unhealthy eating habits.

The trolling she received was not ‘healthy debate’ or ‘offering an alternative perspective’. It was personal. It was vindictive. It was unnacceptable. I know that ‘keyboard warriors’ are supposedly emboldened by being hidden behind a screen to say things they’d never say to someone’s face, I know technology ‘de-personalises’ things – but that’s no excuse, not in a million years, to troll, attack, bully and dissect an individual, full stop.

Further, in this case Rhiannon was RIGHT and putting forward a highly qualified professional opinion (although note even people who are WRONG deserve to be treated with respect and dignity!) backed up by PLENTYYYYY of scientific evidence.

If you want to debate in a healthy way, don’t shout, don’t troll, don’t attack. Harness legitimate evidence (so in this Carnivore Diet situation, studies – although there aren’t any credible ones that support it, so you’ll have a hard time), reason logically and calmly, and while being adversarial is okay in THEORETICAL terms – argue with VIEWPOINTS, attack VIEWPOINTS, not people.

Plenty of other nutritionists have come out with exactly the same view, but Rhiannon’s public profile makes her a target for abuse and it’s totally unacceptable.

Are we done now…?

I hope this cleared up a few points on the Carnivore Diet, and why I 100% believe you shouldn’t be following ANY fad diets – as ever, I’m not a qualified nutritionist, but I take my views and everything I’ve written above from my nutritionist who is INSANELY qualified, from other nutritionists, from my personal studies and from scientific journals.

I hope this also highlights why you need to be smart about ‘anecdotal evidence’ and recognise it’s actually just a story and doesn’t prove anything!

And finally, it shouldn’t need to be said, but it seems that it really does in today’s day & age – trolling, bullying and harassing people is just not on kids.

be nice

Sending tonnes of love to you all, and to Rhiannon, and here’s hoping that we can share and spread POSITIVITY and arm ourselves with facts and information! Positing new ideas, theories, hypotheses is TOTALLY OKAY but before citing anything as true we need to DO THE RESEARCH!

B xoxoxoxox

 

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Live Well With Louise: An Honest Review of the Made In Chelsea star’s new health book

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Photo credit: Live Well with Louise imagery from www.amazon.com

Louise Thompson was initially best known for her role in pseudo-reality TV show, Made in Chelsea, but now arguably she’s equally well known for her abs so impressive you could grate cheese on them! The pocket rocket is also one of the founders of Pocket Sport, a luxe fitness clothing brand.

Louise never looked unhealthy but admits to having all kinds of issues, not least with her relationship with alcohol. Subjected to public scrutiny in the extreme, she ended up suffering with anxiety and having very poor self-image.

Her brand new book Live Well with Louise documents her journey, from struggling with body image and unhealthy habits to transforming her mindset, ditching the booze binges and loving workouts and healthy food.

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It also contains recipes, and workout routines (approved by her PT boyfriend Ryan Libbey (also of MIC fame!), of course!)

So… what’s the low-down? Yet another unqualified celebrity book, or worth a read?

The Verdict

What could have been just another celebrity offering diet advice is actually a relatable, down-to-earth account of an unhealthy relationship with health, to a total transformation which yes, while it’s very aesthetic and ‘abs-y’ also conveys the important message that health, taking care of your body, good nutrition and MOVEMENT can be cool… and that binge-drinking and hangxiety are actually not all they’re cracked up to be.

While your average girl or guy can’t relate to being a celeb, I personally relate SO HARD to Louise’s use of alcohol for confidence, and going a bit too hard in my teens to early twenties.

Louise’s transformation from non-stop ‘ragers’ as she calls them where she’d drink so much she’d black out, to a healthier focus on fitness and health with the occassional social red wine with friends and family at dinner parties or with a cracking Sunday roast is something all of us who went to uni, damaged our livers and need a kick up the butt in terms of healthy living can relate and aspire to!

The recipes

Here I was dubious – on opening the book I thought here we go, another book by a non-nutritionist purporting to give dietary advice… But she doesn’t! She openly states she’s not a nutritionist but openly shares what has worked for her. She goes by what I feel is a very simple and similar philosophy to my Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. Louise advocates filling half your plate with veggies (rainbow, variety, you got this!), quarter with complex carbs (ideally without the beneficial fibre stripped out, so rather than white bread and rice go for wholegrains, legumes, brown rice, sweet potato…) and a quarter with lean protein.

YES PEOPLE, LOUISE THOMPSON EATS CARBS AND STILL HAS A STUNNING, LEAN PHYSIQUE. I am so happy to see celebrities endorsing healthy, balanced meals and helping combat the media myth that carbs are bad. (See my stance on carbsand why they’re essential here!)

Louise’s recipes are surprisingly varied, and there are tonnes of them!

It’s not a slim and flimsy book with a couple of dinner ideas – it’s jam-packed with tasty, balanced meals, and YES it includes desserts and dinner party appropriate dishes!

The recipes are easy to follow, and the photography is gorgeous.

The workouts

I did feel this section could have been more extensive, but the circuits are decent with beginner, intermediate and advanced options, and approved by her PT boyf.

Louise breaks down each move for anyone who’s new to exercising, with clear photographs and descriptions of how to execute the movement, and tips for upping the intensity if it gets too easy.

All in all, while there aren’t loads of options, her 11 minute ab blast is great, and then she offers 3 circuits – easy, medium, and hard – which are enough to get you started, and you can always use her book as  a base to create your own.

Best of all, they’re do-able from home, no gym or super-fancy equipment required!

Overall?

Definitely worth it for Louise’s personal story, and the recipes… and I do love her ab routine, so I’d say it’s worth the (affordable and fairly small!) investment.

Hope that helps!

B xoxo

How to stop mindless snacking! EMOTIONAL hunger vs PHYSICAL hunger

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I doubt there’s anyone out there who hasn’t experienced that 3pm ‘must have a snack’ feeling, or who has had [insert meal here] but then absolutely *must* have something sweet to finish the meal… you catch my drift!

What NOT to do

Now I am 100% not for crash diets and depriving yourself. You guys know what I’m about by now. But for optimum health (and the side-effect bonus you get with that – aesthetic goals!), you need to get back in touch with your body: more specifically, learn to better read your hunger signals.

I am not about tracking macros or calories (I get that some people, especially competitors, find this okay, but personally as an ex-ED sufferer, it’s not good for me, and also for many people I’d argue it takes the joy out of food – but you do you!)

I am not about prescribing set cookie-cutter advice, e.g. “everyone should intermittent fast!”, “everyone should go keto!”, “everyone should go paleo!”

In general, I think that stuff is absolute bullsh*t. Different things work for different people, but personally, I’ve been my healthiest and happiest following my Harley Street nutritionist‘s holistic approach of being balanced! It’s that simple! All the major food groups – lean protein, healthy fats and YES, CARBS! (read more here about why they’re not the devil and how eating more can help you stay leaner!) and lots of fruit and veggies…

No ‘cutting out’ sugar.

No ‘cutting out’ carbs.

No ‘quitting’ X, Y, or Z.

Simply following the 80/20, or 90/10 % rule. The majority? Foods which are as WHOLE and natural as possible (i.e. not processed, in their natural form – this way their chemical compounds and nutritional value is optimal for utilisation by the body, in general terms), and for that other cheeky 20%-10%? Don’t worry, be happy. Have a little bit of what you fancy. My 10-20% tends to be pizza, champagne, and occassionally a chocolate brownie (maybe with some rum, salted caramel or hazelnut icecream involved!)

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Learn the ideal portion sizes

Generally speaking, with a little give and take because, y’know… life (!), each of your 3 daily meals should consist of:

  • 1 fistful of complex carbs (think grains – these are great! But white potato, sweet potato, brown rice are all absolutely fine!)
  • 1 palm-size of lean protein (chicken, red meat [ideally only once a week!], tuna, prawns, cod, turkey, you name it!)
  • 1 thumb size of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, fish oils like salmon)

This is your baseline. It’s not something to panic over, but it is a guideline that if you follow broadly, will help you ditch diets and embrace not only healthier living, but a better, more energised body (and over time, if you are carrying excess body fat, if you stick to this and move a moderate amount, you’ll lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way!)

Read more about this in ReNourish.

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Snacking – should I eat?

My approach here is very simple.

Am I hungry?

Physical Hunger

What kind of hunger am I feeling? Is it in my stomach? That kind of growling, urgent, physical feeling, that’s a bodily sensation and not attached to the idea of a specific food? Then yes, I should probably eat something.

Emotional Hunger

Am I craving something specific i.e. ‘ooh I really fancy a biscuit!’? Was I hungry before I saw that office email about cake in the kitchen? Am I assuming I’m hungry because it’s a particular time of day (e.g. 3pm, so therefore I just assume I’m having an afternoon slump despite the lack of any physical symptoms)? Is there ANY SENSATION AT ALL in my stomach? No? It sounds like this is mental or emotional hunger. I don’t really need to eat.

If you’re still not sure, ask yourself this:

Would I just as willingly eat an apple/some carrot sticks/ some celery?

If you’re physically hungry, these things will sound fine! If you’re emotionally hungry, chances are you only want a bit of cake, or something “nice”…

In these instances, I think it’s beneficial to avoid snacking. To be clear: there is NOTHING WRONG with eating when you’re TRULY HUNGRY. But one step to optimising our nutrition is avoiding those emotional hunger snacks which are usually sugar-laden-processed-not-that-great-for-us-pick-me-ups.

Is there an alternative to never eating when I’m emotionally hungry?

Of course! You can do whatever you want! Sometimes, if you really fancy it and someone’s brought a rainbow Hummingbird Cake into the office, as long as you don’t do it on a weekly basis, just eat it and enjoy! Life’s too short. This isn’t about a ‘punishing’ or restrictive regime. This is about sustainable solutions and tuning in with your body.

If you’re really struggling mentally and want to snack, replace it. Some great options are:

  • Carrot sticks and hummus
  • Celery and almond butter
  • 2 ryvita with cream cheese & a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • A handful of nuts, a handful of sunflower/pumpkin seeds & a handful of blueberries sprinkled with cinnamon
  • A bio-live yoghurt with added raspberries, blueberries or goji berries
  • A green vegetable smoothie
  • Banana and peanut butter
  • 1/2 banana, a few dates & some greek yoghurt
  • Avocado sourdough / rye toast
  • A small fresh fruit salad with greek yoghurt

How to make the switch

So you’re feeling emotionally hungry… how do you ‘overcome’ the craving?

I like to go through the questions above as a mental checklist. Be really honest with yourself. It’s totally okay if to begin with you struggle to recognise if it’s physical or emotional hungry – after years of eating disorders and alcohol binges it took me years to get back in touch with my body and properly re-set!

Think about the food you’re craving – cheesecake, or whatever it may be. Decide now if this is when you want to use your 20% treats. IT IS NO BAD THING IF YOU DO! THERE IS NO GUILT HERE! Just be honest with yourself if now is truly a mindful treat time, or if you’d rather have a glass of wine, or pizza, or brownie with friends at the weekend, or tomorrow on a solo lunch break with your favourite magazine when you can enjoy it.

If it’s mindful treat time, ENJOY IT. Eat it mindfully. Savour it. Don’t scarf it down at your desk and barely notice it!

However, if you decide this ISN’T one of those 20% treat times and you don’t actually need it…  If you are truly hungry, try swapping it for one of the ideas above, or your own healthier upgrade. Imagine how you’ll feel after eating something that nourishes your body rather than spiking your blood sugar.

If it’s emotional hunger, sit with the feeling for a moment. Identify how you’re recognising it. Identify your reasons. Either say it aloud if you can, or if you share an office and don’t want to sound mad (!), write it down.

“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’m bored”

I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’m stressed”

I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’ve gotten into the habit of always wanting chocolate with my coffee at 3pm”

“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because someone just emailed that there’s birthday cake in the kitchen and now I just have to go and see what type it is…!”

I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I don’t want to be hungry later!” (my fave excuse!)

Once you’ve identified your why, sit with the feeling. Breathe deeply into your belly. Try and wait for the impulse to pass. (This gets easier and happens more quickly with time! I literally rarely have to exert willpower here now, it’s just a habit!)

If you’re still struggling, think about the healthy alternatives listed. Think about their positive impact on the body – maybe the antioxidants in the blueberries which help fight free radicals, reducing your likelihood of getting cancer. And think about how good they taste with cinnamon. Focus on how great healthy food can taste – and eat a half snack serving, as we’re trying to train ourselves out of eating for the sake of it, but it’s totally cool if the reflex takes a while to beat.

Intuitive eating

I hope some of these tips help you re-tune your brain into your body… we’ve been so conditioned by the media and our pesky emotions that often, especially in our culture, food becomes something we scoff mindlessly for the hell of it, and we’re usually not chowing down on kale…!

The key is to address our habits by recognising them, and what drives them, to ensure we don’t obssess and still treat ourselves (remember – 80/20 or 90/10%!) and to adapt accordingly.

No-one is perfect. Literally, nobody. But we can all feel our best if we take care of ourselves, and this is a maybe controversial tool, but a super helpful one to get to a point where we can eat what we want, when we want because we’re eating intuitively – in tune with our bodies’ actual needs, rather than steered by media messaging and emotional binge-prompts.

If you’d like more help with this, the amazing Mel Wells has written two incredible books (one is The Goddess Revolution which helps you ditch diet culture for good and fuel your body and nix your addictions with ease and sass, and one is Hungry For More which delves further into the psychology of food and WHY we turn to food for more than just fuel – read my interview with Mel Wells here!)

*As ever, the usual disclaimer applies – I’m not a nutritionist, please remember there’s no one-size-fits-all and consult a medical health professional and ACTUAL nutritionist for personalised, tailored advice. Do your own research, don’t mindlessly believe cowboys (or girls in my case haha!) on the internet – anyone with a computer can blither on about something… be safe and street-smart, and don’t trust stuff without question – even best-intentioned pieces (like this one!) can make mistakes. But I am essentially adapting advice I’ve received from my nutritionist, with my own spin on what works in my experience, and I am studying a Professional Diploma in Nutritional Therapy, so while I won’t become a nutritionist, I’ll have a qualification enabling me to better advise in a more official capacity.*

Hope you found this useful!

B xoxo