Interview with Robyn
1) Introduce Yourself.
My name is Robyn Middleton. I am a 48 year old wife/mom/university communications instructor/film + digital portrait photographer and a medical service corps officer in the Air Force Reserves. My hobbies include beekeeping, yoga, practicing French and learning the Celtic harp.
2) How did you eat before Carnivore?
Most of my life (and like many) I practiced reasonable moderation and followed the SAD (standard American diet). I would follow a paleo style of eating during times of getting in shape/preparing for the military physical fitness test. From the summer of 2017 to Dec 2018 (1.5 years) I followed a fairly strict ketogenic diet.
3) Why did you try Carnivore to begin with?
I came to the Carnivore Diet via way of the ketogenic diet. During the summer of 2017, a good lifelong friend was staying with me for a week as our house guest. Because she was visiting Virginia, I was cooking her a lot of our signature “southern style” dishes, shrimp & grits, etc. that were pretty carb-heavy. After a couple of days, she admitted that she was following a ketogenic diet and should probably slow down on the carbs for the week. Not wanting to be a stumbling block, I told her I would like to try it and cook keto meals for the rest of the week. I googled “ketogenic” and became very interested in the diet and the overall metabolic theory. I was compelled by the research and science behind it – – told her I would do the diet with her. Being fairly petite and small-framed, I have never really been overweight, but I have had periods of time where I was out-of-shape and “puffier”. My main motivation to try the ketogenic diet was not as much for weight-loss as it was for its anti-inflammatory effects. I had been struggling with a significant amount of patellofemoral pain syndrome/arthritis in my knees. At the time (at age 46), I was having much difficulty doing simple tasks such as climbing stairs (would have to hold on to the hand railing & descend the staircase slowly in a sideways manner), getting in and out of my car (would have to grab the side of the door and pull myself up), etc. The ketogenic diet was a God-send for the rehabilitation of my knees! I re-gained about 90% function of my knees and was relatively pain-free.
In January of 2019, the orthopedic physician and carnivore advocate/educator, Dr. Shawn Baker was organizing “World Carnivore Month” via social media. The challenge was to try the Carnivore diet for just 30 days. I participated in the month-long challenge not expecting to be able to continue or sustain it. To my surprise the Carnivore diet was so much easier than the ketogenic diet (no counting of macro ratios/tracking) and was very satisfying/filling. It is theorized more and more in the ketogenic medical community that going carnivore can produce even more positive outcomes in regards to joint pain and other similar health challenges. It proved to be true for me also, as my knees are now at about 95% function/pain free. I believe that if I could have the willpower to reduce/cut out dairy, I could probably get my knees back up to 100% functionality. I’m not there yet though.
4) How do you personally approach the Carnivore Diet?
I probably fall on the spectrum of what many call “dirty carnivore” (not 100% carnivore but almost). I eat 99% red meat daily. I eat a lot of ribeye steaks and higher fat hamburger meat (usually 80/20). I also enjoy beef or calf liver and eat it about 3 times a week (it is nature’s perfect multivitamin). The rest of my diet is comprised of eggs and a small amount of dairy (hard cheeses & heavy whipping cream). I also love all types of seafood drenched in real full-fat melted butter. The “dirty” part of my diet (non-carnivore) includes daily decaf coffee with heavy cream, a raw cacao “pudding” that I make with avocados + stevia, occasional salsa at my favorite Mexican restaurant, and red wine on the weekends. Lately, the only fruit/vegetable I consume is the avocado. I typically eat two meals a day beginning around noon and I employ an almost daily 16:8 or 18:6 intermittent fast. I supplement with collagen peptides (for joint + skin health) and beef gelatin. I also make a daily “Gatorade” with magnesium (natural calm powder), potassium (“No-salt”) and sodium (sea salt) to keep my electrolytes in balance. I have SVT (an electrical heart arrhythmia) so I have to keep my electrolytes in check. Overall, the carnivore diet has alleviated and greatly improved my SVT condition.
5) What benefits have you seen since starting the Carnivore Diet?
I have experienced SO many benefits with this WOE (way of eating). Satiety (never “hangry”), elimination of joint pain, increased mental clarity, better sleep, increased leanness, elimination of bloating, increased muscle gain and enhanced work productivity. I can now focus on work tasks more intently for long periods of time w/out distraction. Before, when eating a carb heavy diet, my blood sugar would do roller coasters throughout the day and I would become hypoglycemic, shaky and anxious (would need to eat every 3 hours). My blood sugar now stays constant throughout the entire day. I have also experienced mental benefits in that I now get these ideas in my head that I can do/accomplish almost anything I want to – – if I decide I want it. I think this may be attributed to an increase in testosterone (increased confidence & reduced anxiety). Finally, I have gained so much more free time in my day by not having to prep timely or complicated meals. I believe meat is also the MOST nutrient dense food that exists for humans. With the carnivore diet, the body is fueled optimally and satisfied with a lesser amount of food. When we eat a carbohydrate based diet, the body signals you to keep eating and eating. This is because our poor bodies are constantly searching for the nutrients that it knows it is not getting on the nutrient-scarce standard American diet. Frighteningly, only about 12% of the U.S. population experiences optimal health, pain-free. I truly believe that most Americans are overweight not because we are lazy & gluttonous, but because we are constantly being poisoned by the corporate driven, big-pharma + food industry. Our food system is designed to keep us entrapped in a repetitive cycle that produces failure, weight gain, inflammation and disease. It is truly liberating to realize that eating delicious, high fat red meats + steak daily is not only OK, but optimal. It is also liberating to learn that we do not need to consume plants (at all) and that the plant fiber narrative we have been told is simply not true. I used to consume copious amounts of spinach believing that it was “healthy”. Today, my knees have thanked me for avoiding spinach and the high amount of (joint) pain causing oxalates that the vegetable carries.
6) What negatives have you found with the Carnivore Diet?
Not many…few to very little. Probably the only drawbacks are eating out (less options as sugar and carbs are hidden in almost EVERYTHING) and the social aspects. When eating out, if I want a salad I will order one as a rare treat (but I usually stick with meat). When traveling, it takes a little planning to pack carnivore friendly foods, but that is totally manageable.
7) Do you exercise on the Carnivore Diet, if so how do you find it and what do you do?
I exercise a moderate amount but not heavily. MWF I do light free weights (arms) + core exercises (about 15-20 min tops). T/TH I focus on leg exercises (assisted squats + core exercises) – – again about 20 min tops. I like to exercise earlier in the day in a fasted state (before eating my 1st meal). I teach a yoga class once a week and take walks around the neighborhood a few times a week with a friend. I also practice meditation daily to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and to improve my vagal tone health (this reduces/manages my heart arrhythmia). That is about it really.
8) What piece of advice would you give someone who is interested in trying this diet, but hasn’t taken the leap yet?
- Pay close attention and mind your electrolytes!! Proper electrolyte levels are paramount for heart health/rhythm, etc. When transitioning from a sugar + carb based diet, the body will dump a lot of excess water initially that is no longer needed in the body. Carbs retain a lot of H20 in the body. Those on a low carbohydrate diet carry less water weight within the body. 1 carb retains 3 units of water. The body will always maintain this balance/ratio. With this flushing out of water initially, we unfortunately flush out electrolytes also. This detox/adjustment period (AKA the “keto flu”) is common/usually unavoidable and will cause you to feel ill (sometimes for a week or even more). The Rx to combat this is to keep the trifecta of electrolytes (magnesium/potassium/sodium) at a proper level. Google “keto Gatorade” for the recipe & proper amounts (do not over do the potassium – – both too little and too much potassium can cause heart palpitations). It is best to have your levels checked by your doctor before beginning).
- Get enough sodium in your diet daily. Low carb dieters need more salt than those following the SAD. Plus it makes meat so much tastier J Redmond Real Salt is a great brand.
- Give yourself time to adjust. Many do better by easing into this lifestyle vs going cold turkey. Trying the ketogenic diet first is helpful for many to transition.
- Maria Emmerich’s Ketogenic cookbooks are a great place to start and make the transition tasty and fun. There are many free recipes on her website: https://mariamindbodyhealth.com/ . She also has an upcoming carnivore recipe book in the works.
- Do your research on the why and how of this diet/lifestyle. There are many good pioneer physicians & metabolic scientists doing great research and education in regards to the Carnivore diet. My favorites are Dr. Dom D’Agostino (neuroscientist/physiologist/molecular pharmacologist), Dr. Paul Saladino (functional medicine/psychiatry), Dr. Shawn Baker (orthopedic surgeon), Dr. Ken Berry (family physician), and Dr. Jason Fung (nephrologist/fasting expert). Stay abreast of the current science so that you armed with information when others will inevitably try to scare you back towards the supposed “balanced” standard American diet (the diet that has not worked anyway for decades as diabetes and heart disease rates continue to soar).
- Resist the temptation to talk about your diet to others (at least initially). The 3 most inflammatory & polarizing topics today tend to be religion, politics and diet. Folks get really defensive quickly with the topic of diet. Sadly, in western medicine, our well-intentioned MDs actually get very little nutritional training. Also, nutritional science is lacking in that most studies are built around correlation factors that mostly only point towards association versus causation. Pinpointing causation is very difficult if not near impossible. In this regard, ALL nutritional studies are limited and inherently flawed. It is up to us to do our own research, decide for ourselves what we believe to be true, take responsibility, roll the dice and have faith. I would also recommend against participating in dieting dogma and strong debate. Be gentle and understanding with others with where they are in their health journey. Whether one is trying a calorie-restrictive, Mediterranean, Paleo, vegetarian/vegan diet etc, etc.,…..any way of eating that encourages a reduced intake of processed foods and sugar is a step towards a better direction (as opposed to the current SAD).
- Don’t stress yourself out trying to create too many different recipes (whether Keto or Carnivore). The author Tim Ferris, once stated that most folks over self-report the amount of variety their diet. We don’t really eat as much of a varied diet as we think we do. We typically rotate the same 5-7 meals (recipes) unknowingly. If you can find just a few recipes/meals that you enjoy and can stick to, then start there. Eat the appropriate foods you like and don’t try to accomplish too much at once.
- Don’t count/restrict calories (at least in the beginning). Give your body time to adjust to its new fuel source (fat). This transition and adaptation period takes time (maybe even up to 6 months). We are reversing decades and a lifetime of bad chemistry and the metabolic mess going on in our bodies.
- Avoid fasting in the beginning/don’t force it. This will come naturally with time later once your body is fully adapted.
- Stay off the scale (at least in the beginning). Muscle is denser (more compact) and weighs more than fat. As you gain more muscle, the scale will go up and down and will mess with your head. Just go by how you feel and how your pants fit as a measure of positive progress.
- Read up on hormones and their importance/role in weight loss and gain. The saying “Calories in, Calories out” carries some truth, but is only a smaller piece of the puzzle. Hormones play a huge role. Maria Emmerich explains this well in her book ‘Keto’. https://www.amazon.com/Keto-Complete-Ketogenic-including-Simplified/dp/1628602821/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=keto+emmerich&qid=1561662840&s=gateway&sr=8-3
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep trumps exercise (I need more discipline also in this area).
- Look up and learn all the sneaky, disguised words for SUGAR that are found on food labels. For example, the ingredients maltodextrin and dextrose (an additive in processed foods that prevents caking) has an even higher glycemic index than white table sugar. Avoiding sugar is like traversing a mine field and we need to know what to look for on labels in order to steer clear.
- If on a budget, don’t feel pressured to only consume organic or grass-fed beef. This CAN be done on a budget with regular store-bought beef and eggs. You will still reap huge health benefits and weight reduction.
- Avoid the interior aisles of the grocery store for the most part (aside from salt, spices, mineral water, etc). This is where all the processed food is located. Shop mostly from the perimeter of the store (meat/dairy/vegetables).
9) Do you think Carnivore will ever be accepted as a mainstream diet?
Maybe not in the near future, but yes I believe eventually it will. The corporate funded, nutritional falsehood (beginning with the 1950s/60s era Ansel Keys study) that demonized meat + saturated fat has been deeply ingrained into our collective psyche for so long. It will take time to for us all to accept & reverse this paradigm. That said, these are very exciting times in medical/metabolic/dietary research. It is like reading a good thriller novel, where we discover that the “bad guy” (saturated fat + dietary cholesterol) really is not the devil, but has actually been the “good guy” all along. I am highly encouraged by the research and good work of motivated/inspired, well-spoken and diplomatic physician researchers such as Dr. Paul Saladino. His work and research can be referenced at https://www.paulsaladinomd.com/
10) Anything you would like to add, and where can people follow your journey?
Social media is a great place to share recipes and anecdotal success stories surrounding the ketogenic and carnivore diets. My favorite is Instagram where the carnivore community is flourishing and very supportive. I post recipes/ideas on my IG account at: www.instagram.com/carnivorous_and_carefree . There are also several good carnivore Facebook groups to plug into the latest research, ideas and support.
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