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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An apology

DEE7D881-3233-469C-BE55-FA38D47677C7Something has been on my mind over the last few months, and exams and various things have meant it’s taken me FOREVER to get around writing this.

But over the last year or so, I’ve MASSIVELY re-educated myself about nutrition, about self-care, about the science of health and looking after ourselves. I’m so excited that Instagram is starting to have healthier advice from qualified professionals seep out there – from @thefoodmedic, a junior doctor to @rhitrition, a Harley Street nutritionist, and from there it’s trickling down to influencers and professional bloggers, and also out to the wider world – including your at-home-normal-girl-online (like me!) who just takes an interest but doesn’t work in the field.

This dawning realisation of how qualified advice is key, and of how to truly look after 12801480_10154017394389571_243980647230974058_nmyself made me realise something: even when I thought I’d recovered from eating disorders I was still obsessive, counting calories and macros made me miserable, I tried crazy tips and tricks I’d find online…  I was exhibiting damaging behaviours, but because I have always documented my journey on Instagram, I was sharing them. 

I am not an “influencer”. I’m just a girl online. I’m not a nutritionist. I’ve never pretended to be able to give advice in any official sense, but the problem with sharing our lives on social in the health and wellness sphere is inevitably there will be people who give something you’ve tried a whirl.

Social gives you a channel that if what you say reaches even one person, it can have an effect.

So I am writing this to say I’m sorry.

Obviously everything I’ve ever written is just my opinion and so I can’t be responsible for anyone copying or trying anything, I know that, but I still want to write this to make clear that moving forward I want to distance myself even more from the obsessive ‘weight loss’ and ‘clean eating’ online movements… clearly each and every one of us takes responsibility for our own health (unless you hire qualified practitioners who then presumably assume responsibility for any good or ill effects of you implementing their official advice), and I’m not under any ego-centric illusion that me essentially sharing my health and fitness ‘diary’ has changed lives…

12809559_10154022763194571_8624223923645781642_nBUT I am sorry for sharing things about my journey, my experience, any informal advice or tips when they were wrong (as I now believe them to be – obviously at the time I was excited by them, and believed in them! And there are evidently people who still do). I think posts of mine even a year ago mention macro counting. I’m sure that for certain people this works fine, but it’s not something I’d now want to promote personally at all.

It has never been my intention to mislead, but in genuinely believing stuff that was wrong myself, what I intended doesn’t matter – maybe I contributed to promoting unhealthy habits in the past entirely mistakenly. Trying to convince myself that obsessing about macros made me feel great might have made someone else do the same, possibly, and I’m sorry for that.

I’m sorry for sharing so much on #cleaneating in the past. (I think this movement started off as well-intentioned – to encourage increased consumption of whole foods, vegetables, and reduction of over-processed, super sugary products… but the way it caught on has led to the rise of orthorexia in recent years (see the book ReNourish, by Rhiannon Lambert, and also there are various documentaries you can watch on this) and it is tricky, to be fair, to find vocabulary to express these ideas without them being loaded and causing problems!).

I’m sorry for not finding the right path sooner, and for falling prey to pseudoscience and myths in the hope they’d be quick fixes.

I’m sorry that society hasn’t yet fully embraced sensible healthy living and still encourages diet culture.

Of course I’m still sharing my journey but I’m trying to cite sources, to seek scientific verification before I try things out for myself let alone talk about them in public online, and to constantly emphasise that we can’t take information we find on Instagram as correct without fact-checking from credible sources – and that includes not just blindly believing hobby bloggers like me!

We have all probably accidentally pushed material around in the public sphere that with hindsight we realise actually wasn’t the right thing. I don’t think there are many people out there who do this deliberately (maybe with the exception of skinny/detox/diet teas and body wrap products!) But I think we can all try to be more responsible about how we use social media and ground what we say in sources that aren’t dubious in origin!

I hope this helps, and let’s all do our best to join the revolution of evidence-based health and nutrition and counteract diet culture!

(And in the event that anyone comes out of this post feeling a bit blue about social media, have a little read of this where I’ve shared my musings on the dangers but also the AMAZING BENEFITS of social!)

B xxxxx

PS. You might also like to have a mosey of this post on boosting body confidence

PPS. all images here are of recipes which you can find on this site, or on my Instagram!

PPPS. As if I haven’t said it enough, I think we should ALWAYS SEEK ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS about diet, nutrition and fitness. The internet might be great for inspiration, but your health is the most important thing and you need qualified individuals to help you make sure you’re making safe and sensible choices for your body. 

Bloggers, randoms like me, instagrammers (who aren’t nutritionists and doctors, and even when they are, they can’t give tailored advice without seeing you in clinic!) and internet forums aren’t sources of info you should copy unquestioningly, or even at all. Use them to investigate, but always always always verify. Have I emphasised this enough yet hehe?!!!

ReNourish: An Honest Review

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 12.15.31I’m so passionate about health and wellness – it’s been great to blog and Instagram and connect with others who feel the same – but I’m conscious that a lot of the time, while we can share our tips and tricks, we’re not qualified to give ‘advice’. Rhiannon Lambert is someone I found on Insta after my lovely friend Alex (@theleanlawyer) posted about her, and I’m so glad I discovered her. And she is so, so, so qualified! So there’s finally a great source of information who is also an influencer in the health sphere on Instagram who actually knows their stuff and has the degrees and post grad qualifications to back it up, not just a 6 week nutrition quick course! (The title nutritionist isn’t legally regulated in the UK so sadly anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, leading to a lot of advice from un-qualified, even if they’re well meaning!, individuals who can do more harm than good).

Rhiannon Lambert is changing the game completely. Evidence-based, science backed learning… I am literally so excited to see how her following is growing and message is spreading!

Her book is basically Rhiannon, bound in book-form! It describes her nutrition philosophy and is packed full of information on how we can eat well, simply, and healthily without doing ridiculous fad diets, or buying crazy expensive superfoods. Her recipes are accessible and so tasty, and the presentation is really lovely too – the book is basically almost as pretty as she is! I wanted to give you guys a fuller review of it rather than just hash tagging it constantly on Insta, so here you go!

If you want:

  • Fad diets
  • Quick fixes
  • Pseudoscience and detox ridiculousness

Then this book is not for you!

If you want a book that gives you:

  • advice from a qualified Harley Street nutritionist;
  • to learn about what your body really needs;
  • the science behind nutrition (micronutrients, macronutrients, myth-busting);
  • gut health;
  • mindful eating;
  • body confidence;
  • a sustainable approach to eating that helps you ditch the diets;
  • a book that is kicking ‘diet culture’ in the a**!
  • to learn about Rhiannon’s nutrition philosophy of taking it back to basics and keeping it simple;
  • delicious recipes including breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert;
  • and loads more!

then this book is absolutely the book you need to buy for 2018!

I’ve so enjoyed making recipes from this book, and I can’t wait to try every single one – it’s my 2018 resolution to cook each of them 🙂

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Here’s my amazon review too ❤

I’ve followed Rhiannon ever since hearing her speak at a wellness panel and her approach to eating changed my life, quite literally. I was so excited to buy this book and it’s turned out to be even better than I expected which is saying something!
I love that for once there’s a book encompassing being your healthiest, the science behind food, myth busting and explaining micro and macronutrients as well as including sections with sample meal plans, putting together healthy packed lunches plus LOADS of amazing recipes!
So many books promise content and don’t deliver. This book more than delivers…. in addition to all the above, it helps you with mindful eating, body confidence and healing your relationship with food for such a reasonable price.
It’s refreshing to see a quality book on this subject written by an actual nutritionist in a day and age where anyone and everyone offers advice on social media (often dangerous celeb faddy diets). The care and attention and knowledge Rhiannon brings to the table having specialised in eating disorders is really incredible… and it’s super accessible, an interesting and fun read. You’ll look and feel your best for implementing her advice – if you buy one book this year I’d make it Rhiannon’s! (As an ex ED sufferer I don’t say this lightly!)

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You can visit her website and find out more about her Harley Street clinic here.

Also check out Rhiannon’s facebook page and instagram – @rhitrition.