Is a high protein ‘Carnivore Diet’ good for your body?

The ‘Carnivore Diet’ has been attributed by many to Shawn Baker, a former American orthopaedic doctor who promotes the diet as the best and only way to eat and live.

However, the original idea of the carnivore diet can be traced back to German writer, Bernard Moncriff who authored The Philosophy of the Stomach: Or, An Exclusively Animal Diet, in 1856.

With time and many individuals looking for alternative weight loss methods, people have tried the carnivore diet in an attempt to help with physical health, as well as mental health and autoimmune diseases.

carnivore diet

What is the 'Carnivore Diet'?

In its basic form, a carnivore diet is a restrictive diet that only allows the consumption of animals and animal products. This would be for example meat, fish, eggs and other dairy products like milk.

In complete contrast to veganism, it excludes all other foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, nuts and legumes.

In many cases people follow the carnivore diet to differing extremes. Some people may follow it around 70% of the time whilst others may just have a more protein based diet.

The aim with the carnivore diet is to have a zero carb diet, and is therefore seen as the next level of dieting compared to mainstream diets such as keto or paleo.

How does it affect the body over time?

The carnivore diet is marketed as being able to treat anxiety, depression, obesity, arthritis and more, but little to no research has been done on the effects of following the diet over long period of time.

In the short term, people can experience incredible weight loss results due to protein being more filling and in turn resulting in less calories being consumed.

 

A study by Lennerz and colleagues in 2021 found that those people who followed the carnivore diet experienced few negative effects and actually reported health benefits and high satisfaction.

However, many health and dietary professionals agree that the increased meat consumption can result in high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol levels in the body. And in the long term some effects may include a lacking in basic nutrients.

Dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine believes in the long term it may have serious health implications including the development of a poorly functioning immune system, meaning people following the diet could catch illnesses easier.

What drives us to try these extreme diets?

In many cases people are trying to avoid the arduous task of exercising on a regular basis and trying to keep a balanced diet in order to lose weight.

Instead they give in to this ‘quick fix’ mentality that diets can sort the issue of excessive weight gain in a short space of time.

The problem with this mentality is that it is temporary and cannot be sustained over the long term. As humans our bodies naturally crave the food we restrict ourselves from, and often this can make dieting quite a miserable experience.

As well as this when we diet our bodies believe that we are going into a potentially threatening situation and instead of losing the fat, it will try to retain as much of it as possible.

 As a result, despite the initial drop in weight the body will suddenly experience a plateau and unless taken to the next ‘level’ will not display any further weight loss.

A lifestyle choice rather than a diet

Speaking from experience, it is much better to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle rather than following a diet.

Doing even a small amount of walking a day can help with trying to shift the excess weight and help you feel better physically and mentally.

As well as this, building healthy eating habits can help create a proactive choice to remove excess sugar and saturated fats from your diet in the long-term lead to a healthy reduction in weight.

Here are 12 tips from the NHS on the best way to lose weight:

  1. Do not skip breakfast – it sets you up for the rest of the day
  2. Eat regular meals – to keep you full throughout the day
  3. Eat plenty of fruit and veg at least a minimum of 5 a day
  4. Get more active – to help you physically and mentally
  5. Drink plenty of water – so that you don’t confused thirst with hunger
  6. Eat high fibre foods – to keep you full and aid weight loss
  7. Read food labels – to understand how healthy the food is for you
  8. Use a smaller plate – to reduce portion size and avoid overeating
  9. Do not ban junk food – it only makes you crave them more
  10. Do not stock junk food – to avoid the temptation

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Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your food habits?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused drastic changes in food choices, dietary habits and general health. If the current state of affairs continues this could be detrimental to the health of the population.

Behavioural science techniques can be used to create better food habits, and reduce our unhealthy dietary choices.

Shifts in shopping choices and eating habits

Humans are naturally creatures of habit, in that we create certain routines, we like or enjoy ways of doing certain activities and we even allocate particular times in the day for our daily pursuits.

When these habits are disrupted due to external environmental factors, for many it can be quite unsettling and cause major shifts in behaviour. These can be both positive or negative changes based on each individual person’s preferences and what people value most.

With the never-ending coronavirus pandemic looming over us, many of you may have noticed shifts in your food shopping patterns, eating habits and general physical and mental health.

Are these food behaviour changes positive or negative?

A study by Janssen and colleagues in 2021 revealed that shopping habits were seen to shift from fresh foods to more long lasting foods including canned foods, frozen foods, cakes and biscuits.

People were seen to be shopping less during lockdowns and there was an overall increase in consumption of foods with a longer shelf life.

Interestingly, the study highlighted that although 15 – 42% of participants displayed a change in how much they ate and how often, these were not all negative changes.

In fact, the study showed that people diverged in both positive and negative ways, indicating that the pandemic has different effects on people’s lifestyles and their consumption patterns.

How has the pandemic affected dietary choices?

Another study by Bennet and colleagues found that lockdowns have had both positive and negative impacts across Europe and the world.

Their research highlighted people eat more snacks and increased the number of their daily meals. This was seen in people choosing to indulge in comfort foods, processed foods and fried foods.

With these negative diet habits many people were seen to experience increased weight gain and limited physical activity, as well as mental health issues.

Why are we making these behaviour shifts?

The reason for many of these behaviour shifts can be explained by our natural heuristics and biases.

When we first moved in lockdown, many of our regular everyday activities were disrupted. We were limited in how much we could buy, we were unable to go to the gym and making healthier choices was in general more difficult.

1) Intention-Action Gap

As a result an Intention-Action Gap was seen to form in many people. This is where a person intends to eat healthy, exercise regularly and keep a stable mindset.

However, because of being stuck at home it was much easier to relax, snack on foods and procrastinate the idea of finding other ways to maintain our general health. Hence the gap between intention and action.

This can be attributed to a certain type of conditioning many of us will have for ourselves when we get home. People tend to see their homes as a place to relax after a hard day at work.

Once we moved into this environment full time, our brains confused being at home with relaxing and enjoyment rather than work, making it even more difficult to make healthy choices.

2) Present Bias

Another variable that affects all of us is that we suffer from Present Bias. As the word suggest, present bias is where we value the present more and want to have immediate pleasures.

Naturally we find it more difficult to make a trade-off between the present moment and a time in the future.

With the unpredictability of lockdown many of us were unsure when we would be able to go back to a healthier lifestyle.

Due to our minds seeing this as a potentially high risk situation, we naturally gave in to the present bias and ate what was available and comforting.

How can we reduce unhealthy habits as COVID-19 evolves?

Below is a easy three step method to ensuring you can create a new habit and in time maintain these habits.

Let’s say we want to increase our physical wellbeing and add a walk into our daily lives.

Our first step is to:

1. Ensure activation – meaning we make sure we have a reminder and a set time for when we carry out our daily walk.

Thereafter we look to facilitate the process by:

2. Boosting ability – we make it easy for ourselves to complete this walk i.e. we choose a quiet time in our day where we can carry out the activity.

And thirdly to ensure we repeat the behaviour:

3. Make it rewarding – make it an experience that you want to repeat again. Listen to your favourite podcast or call a friend and chat while you walk.

This three step process can be used for any behaviour habit you want to implement and can help increase your healthy habits as COVID-19 continues to affect us.

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New year resolutions and visions

It’s finally the end of another extraordinary year. And after what feels like an eternity, we are entering into a new year with entirely different perspectives, behaviour patterns and habits.

With this new year comes a range of challenges, goals and of course our new year, new me resolutions.

Whether that’s to be more mindful, have a career shift, lose weight and get back in the gym or be a more content person, we hope this new year helps you develop the motivation to achieve those goals.

New year resolutions and regular articles

Since the last post on our website some time ago there have been a variety of changes, and as a company we are shifting our efforts to bring you a more educational and fulfilling experience.

The plan over the course of the next year is to return to posting regular articles once a week, covering a range of topics from Veganuary to personality and food choices to climate change influencing your behaviour.

These discussions will all have a behavioural science perspective to help you understand how and why you make certain food choices.

Marketing, photography and behavioural science

As well as this a range of articles will be written around marketing, photography and behavioural science, and how you can learn or use these tips in the new year.

Our larger aim is to be able to educate beyond written articles, and provide this information to you in a range of multimedia channels on different platforms.

By the end of this year, our vision is to create a platform where individuals can read and enjoy quality content on a regular basis.

If you have any ideas, suggestions or topics that you would like to know and read about, you can let us know by emailing email@behaviouralfoodie.co.uk.

From everyone at the Behavioural Foodie team, we wish you all the best in 2022 and a Happy New Year!