Interview with Barb
1) Introduce Yourself.
Hi, my name is Barb Shaw, and I’m 53 years old. I started running trails when I was 7 years old, as my dad started running that year, and it was a great way to spend time with my workaholic father. I ran my first marathon when I was 11, and needless to say, I won my age group! I did run competitively through my freshman year of high school, and since then it has been more of a constant companion for me. I spent a semester of college in Bratislava back in the early 1990’s, back when it was part of Czechoslovakia, and it was a difficult time for me. During that semester, I realized how important my running was for my mental health, and it has been a part of my life ever since.
2) How did you eat before Carnivore.
I was raised by parents who lived very low fat. In fact, my father (a doctor) was of the mindset that he could eat just about anything, as long as it was low fat. Our cupboards were filled with fat free cookies, etc. He would eat a bowl of cereal with applesauce on top and use orange juice instead of milk! My husband and I have tried lots of different ways of eating. I hesitate to call them diets, as they become lifestyle for us, but I grew up eating tons of carbs. In fact, part of the lure of running with my dad was the “carbo loading” rewards we got. Loading up on donuts and pasta before a big run. My teammates and I, in high school, would go to the grocery store at lunchtime and buy bananas and fat free (sugar loaded) yogurt, raisins, you name it! We thought low-fat was the way to go.
My husband and I have always considered ourselves very health conscious, and focused on whole foods, canning and baking. My husband used to make the most amazing sourdough bread with coarse stoneground whole grain flour, he would grind it at home with his own grinder! He even built a brick pizza oven in our backyard and we had the most AMAZING pizza. We even farmed for five years, raising our own vegetables, laying hens, pigs, broiler chickens, ducks and turkeys. We would can or freeze our own veggies, make our own pizza and pasta sauce, etc.
I was always hungry for some sweet homemade something first thing in the morning; muffins, scones, pancakes, sourdough waffles, and we raised our kids on this food. It was hard to understand why our middle son had developed Ankylosing Spondilitis at the age of 11 or why my husband couldn’t lose the weight that was building despite exercising everyday. We were runners until he couldn’t run, due to spinal compression in his lower back, and then began swimming and doing hot yoga.
My husband was diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of 35, and was at the point where he was taking 5 medications to control it. We adopted a vegan lifestyle for a solid year, hoping this would help, but it didn’t. Plus, I found it much harder to live a vegan lifestyle than Carnivore, especially when eating out. There’s always a burger on the menu!
In the fall of 2017, friends introduced us to keto, and that was a game changer. The first amazing thing was that my husband stopped snoring on the second night, and hasn’t started again since! People would assume that this was due to weight loss from keto, but that hadn’t started yet, having only been two days. It had to be inflammation reduction. I wasn’t heavy, but had been putting on a few pounds as I approached my 50 year mark, and was getting a belly, so was happy to lose about 10 pounds quickly, I’m sure mostly water. My husband began to drop weight rapidly and is now down about 60 pounds. He was able to cut three of his BP meds in half and cut one out altogether over the next two years.
3) Why did you try Carnivore to begin with
I decided to try Carnivore a few months ago, after reading an article on the Diet Doctor website. I had been experiencing a rash on my abdomen that was getting more irritating, and anecdotal evidence pointed to possible relief for this with a Carnivore diet. I ended up reading three books about it, and was still a little worried, but when I heard about Zack Bitters (you know, the carnivore who holds the 100 mile run record), my mind was made up that it would be worth a 30 day challenge. The books I read were all written by physicians who had supported their positions with science and personal experience, so I felt it was safe and actually made a lot of sense. I had been experiencing more and more bloating and reflux than I wanted. It seemed everything would give me heartburn anymore. I realize now that I was just substituting keto junk food for my previous junk, even though I made it all from scratch.
4) How do you personally approach the Carnivore Diet.
When I mentioned to my husband that I was going to try Carnivore for 30 days, he said he would do it, as well, so we got the foods we like to eat out of the kitchen, at first storing them in the garage (we have since given most of it away), and began with meat, dairy and eggs. I tried giving up my morning coffee, but soon realized that it was the one thing I really didn’t want to get rid of. It seemed like enough change was happening right away, so I held onto that comfort. I did get rid of sweetening it, so just milk and coffee. We typically eat our first meal around lunchtime, maybe eggs with a little leftover meat. We eat a large meal sometime between 3 & 5 pm, as we head to bed between 8 & 9. This is typically just fatty meat.
5) What benefits have you seen since starting the Carnivore Diet.
My GI tract is doing so well, and my rash cleared up in a matter of weeks. My energy is stable during the day, I sleep well at night, and I’m noticing muscles I didn’t realize I had showing their faces. I’ve dropped about three pounds in a couple of months, which isn’t much, but I really wasn’t looking to lose weight. I do like seeing my body composition change a bit. I was on an estrogen/progesterone supplement, which I have stopped taking. I just feel so good, it’s hard to put in words. Plus, I feel so satisfied eating this way. I really don’t crave any sweet food. My husband will eat some Lily’s chocolate or some keto ice cream from time to time, but I find that I don’t even want it. I’d much rather have a steak or a slice of cheese. My husband has been able to get rid of another of his BP meds, so now is just taking the three half doses, so that’s progress. He continues to drop more weight, gradually, and we are curious to see how his BP control evolves over time.
6) What negatives have you found with the Carnivore Diet.
The only negative for me, so far, has been fine tuning my electrolyte needs, as this took me a while to figure out when we went keto. I think I had been sodium and magnesium deficient for most of my life, before beginning keto, so that was helpful realizing I needed to take more salt and magnesium. I used to have circulation issues, developing Reynaud’s Syndrome in my fingers and toes.
I do get strange responses from people who realize how we eat now. Like I did, they think it’s a bit crazy. It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that we don’t NEED to eat plants. We have all been programmed to believe that they are essential for good health. Plus, the belief that too much meat and saturated fat has got to be bad for us, right?!
Because we started eating Carnivore during the Coronavirus Quarantine period, we haven’t had to deal with social situations much, let alone being invited to someone’s house for dinner and dealing with our unique dietary choices. And we aren’t eating out, at the moment. I, actually, haven’t really wanted to eat out since starting Carnivore, as we can cook great meat at home for much less money.
7) Do you exercise on the Carnivore Diet, if so how do you find it and what do you do.
We run a 5.5 mile trail loop Monday, Wednesday and Friday, followed by about 30 minutes of arm weight work, abs and stretching on the floor. On Tuesday and Thursday we change it up with a cardiovascular workout in our garage. We bought a used Elliptical Trainer and Recumbent Bike Trainer a few years ago and have them set up in our garage with a TV, so we watch something entertaining while working out different muscles. These days in the garage are sort of recovery days, trying to keep ourselves in a Zone 2 training pace. This also allows some balance work, as I can run on the elliptical backwards for part of the time, not holding on to the handles. This has been really helpful. Then we usually end the week with a longer trail run, about 7.5 miles, on Saturday and enjoy a real day of rest on Sundays. If anything, we have found our energy and strength to be improved since switching to Carnivore.
8) What piece of advice would you give someone who is interested in trying this diet, but hasn’t taken the leap yet.
I would encourage anyone who is thinking about Carnivore to give it a try. How will you know if it helps or not, if you don’t give it a shot. I would say get fat adapted, first, if you aren’t keto already. I did have a more difficult time when we started keto with “keto flu”, my husband adapted much easier than I did. Maria Emmerich’s website was super helpful for me, at the start. It has been truly amazing to realize how different we all are, regarding dietary needs. I do think I was someone lucky enough to handle a high carb load most of my life, and I wouldn’t have come to Keto on my own. I’m so glad I got here.
9) Do you think Carnivore will ever be accepted as a mainstream diet.
I think it will get harder and harder for people to deny that this is an ok, and possibly much superior, way to eat as more and more people adopt the lifestyle and overcome physical and mental illness. We have three sons, all in their 20’s, and they all think about eating this way, and have cut a lot of carbs out of their lives, but none have made the total switch due to the social difficulties of it. I hope it can become more mainstream. We would see a much healthier population, if it does.
10) Anything you would like to add, and where can people follow you.
My degree is in Public Health/Community Health Education, so have always tried to educate people, mostly by example. It is hard to understand, when you are a person who has benefited from a way of life, why everyone doesn’t want to try it, but all I can do is be an example. To this end, I have felt driven to create a personal blog website where I can share my experience and recipes with other women who may want to try and change the way they age. I feel like I’m defying aging a bit, at this point. In fact, my husband and I took a biological age test, this past January and at 52, my biological age was 44. At 55, my husband’s biological age was 46, so we were really pleased to see that. My website is PrimalMenopause.com and I’m on IG as @primalmenopause.
People will ask us how much more expensive this lifestyle is, and we are actually spending less right now on food.
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