Meat-only diet claims weight loss benefits
IN 2012, Travis Statham had just graduated from college when he decided to get rid of the gut he'd been carrying around for years.
After reading "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, he started eating a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic (aka keto) diet and shed 15 pounds (6.8kg) from his original 79kgs weight.
But, after six years of limiting his diet to protein and vegetables, he started to wonder why he should bother with greens. After all, it was beef that really satiated his hunger.
"I had been cooking … lots of steaks and burgers, but then I'd add a salad, or I'd try to add broccoli," he says. "I never quite understood why vegetables were good for me."
So, last January, Statham stopped eating veggies and now only eats meat. He skips breakfast. Lunch is typically a burger patty from McDonald's or Schnipper's Quality Kitchen.
Dinner is a pound and a half of steak. The only plant-based thing he consumes is coffee, and he says he's never felt better.
By eating pure protein, he says he can maintain his 6-foot-2 frame at his preferred weight of 70kgs.
"Humans were healthy however many thousands of years ago, just like animals in the wild, but somehow we lost our way," says Statham, a 29-year-old software developer living in Park Slope.
"When you really become fat-adapted you will feel complete bliss. Your body is in its primal perfection state."
Carnivore, the millennia-old practice of surviving solely on meat, is experiencing a resurgence among health nuts, tech guys and conspiracy theorists.
The World Carnivore Tribe Facebook group boasts 14,000 members, and Reddit threads on the topic are buzzing.
Popular controversial author and psychologist Jordan Peterson and his daughter, Mikhaila, are fans, dining exclusively on beef with salt and soda water.
Dr. Drew Pinsky, the celebrity doctor and podcast host known as Dr. Drew, recently lost two notches off his belt when he went full carnivore for three weeks.
"I'll be goddamned if within three days I didn't feel unbelievable," he tells The Post.
Bloodthirsty followers shun the food pyramid and go beyond popular low-carb diets such as paleo and keto, which are often the gateway to the meaty lifestyle.
Zero carbs are consumed, and people subsist solely on red meat, and sometimes a bit of pork, chicken or fatty fish.
Proteins are cooked simply, sans vegetable oil, though some carnivores allow for a small amount of dairy consumption, such as heavy whipping cream or butter.
Meal plans vary, but some carnivores swear by grass-fed beef and its heightened levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Others opt for biweekly feasts on nutritionally dense organ meats.
The lifestyle can be pricey, but Statham notes it can be done on the cheap with fast food and the like.
"Eat the meat you can afford, until you are no longer hungry," he says.
Dr. Jennifer Haythe, a cardiologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia, says she's had several people ask her about the diet recently.
"There's a lot of interest in it," she says.
"People really like fad diets in our culture and things that have very specific rules. We tend to be a culture that goes to extremes."
While she understands that some see the diet as a potentially effective way to shed weight, Haythe is sceptical of it.
"When your body starts to have to burn fat and protein in order to make glucose, I don't think that that's a great solution to wellness," she says. "I also don't think eating tons of red meat is particularly healthy for people."
But fans of the diet say they feel great on it.
Michaelanthony Mitchell, 34, an Upper East Side-based voice actor came to carnivore about a year ago following a particularly bad bout of depression brought on by the death of his cat.
"I haven't been sick since I started carnivore," he says.
He thinks the general wisdom about having a balanced diet is indicative of a diet-and-nutrition industry deep in the pockets of Big Salad. "A nation of people who aren't hungry are not good customers," he says.
And, he feels guilty that his late pet didn't get to enjoy the benefits of the diet.
"I'm haunted by the fact that I fed my carnivorous cat food that included rice and barley," he says.
Many carnivores are also passionate about cryptocurrency, and see a common thread between their unorthodox diet and an aversion to traditional banking.
"[We live] in a modern society of easy - print money and processed, harmful foods," says Doug Wright, 25, a Syracuse-based business development manager and alt-money trader.
Wright lost 63kgs on the ketogenic diet, but said he ultimately decided that eating veggies wasn't doing him any good and turned to carnivore.
Now, "the pain, discomfort and addiction that came from digesting plants is only a memory," he says.
Acolytes of the diet shrug off its potentially harmful health effects. One of the movement's leaders, Shawn Baker, 51, an athlete and former orthopaedic surgeon whose medical license was revoked, says cholesterol isn't a concern and that worry over such numbers is antiquated.
"We're in a new system with this," he claims. "Completely different values [for cholesterol] are appropriate in many cases."
Cardiologist Haythe isn't buying it.
"People who have elevated cholesterol, particularly LDL [bad] cholesterol, have an increased risk of coronary artery disease, and heart disease in general," she says. "We know that cholesterol leads to plaque development not only in your heart but in the arteries leading to your brain and in your legs. I don't think eating only red meat and water is sustainable."
Kristen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is also sceptical of the beef bonanza.
"It's important to have a balanced diet that consists of different protein sources," she says. "Fruits and vegetables provide micronutrients that our body needs for long-term sustainability."
Baker, who lost his medical license for "failure to report adverse action taken … and incompetence to practice as a licensee," according to the New Mexico Medical Board, isn't deterred by such common wisdom.
He has 9,800 subscribers to his "Shawn Baker" YouTube channels, sells various carnivore training plans for $A66 a month and offers one-on-one nutritional counselling for $A256 an hour. He even extends his services to recovering vegans, a group he calls "mindless drones." When done right, carnivore is delightfully simple, he claims.
"Nutrition becomes a bodily function like breathing does," he says. "You don't think about breathing. You don't sit there and complain that you don't have multi-coloured air to breath, or different flavoured air. You just breath."
Westchester-based carnivore Steve Bell, 46, a project manager for a utility company, credits a chance meeting with Baker over breakfast (of steaks) with changing his life.
"Meeting him and listening to him, he just had a way of selling it that made me want to give it a shot. From the day I met him, I've lost 51 pounds," says Bell, who buys rib-eye steaks and ground beef in bulk at Restaurant Depot.
But, sometimes carbs call to him.
"My biggest downfall in life is the bread at Little Sorrento in Yorktown [Heights]. It's ridiculous," he says. But, typically, he's satisfied by pure protein.
For Mitchell, "Cravings are like fond memories, like remembering an old lover," he says. "We had great times, but there's no way I'm going back."