I used to smoke. I used to bite nails. I used to play computer games all day.
I quit smoking. I stopped biting nails. I rarely play computer games now.
I changed that. I never liked smoking, but by the end I would smoke a pack a day. And quitting was rough. No special tactic worked particularly well and the only way I could quit was by going “cold turkey”. I’d quit, but I’d go back to smoking a week later, or a month later, once even a year and a half later. That’s where my stubbornness came in handy. I eventually quit for good and I have been smoke-free for so long now that I don’t even remember how long it’s been since my last cigarette. It’s more than 5 years, that’s for sure.
Nail biting was tougher. I don’t always carry a pack of cigarettes with me, but I do always carry my fingers with me. The temptation is always present. I’m not sure if my current “remission” is for good, but I haven’t bitten my nails since last November.
Computer games I quit simply because my life became too busy on other fronts. I got married, started a family, own a house, care for a garden, own a business… There’s only so much a man can do in a day, and gaming simply faded out of my life.
For all intents and purposes, those were my vices in the past. I still have some. I eat way too much sugar. I don’t exercise regularly. I procrastinate. I have trouble sticking to my decisions.
And so I’ve decided to find a way to stick to my decisions – and to make some meaningful ones.
I’m a sugar addict. I’ve previously decided to quit sugar by following a carnivore diet. The goal was to do an elimination diet for 8 weeks and then reintroduce foods slowly. What happened was a bit surprising. I quit biting nails. I didn’t try to quit, I just did. I was less jittery and more calm.
The idea behind reintroduction of certain foods was to see what kind of effect they had on me, and if it was negative to not consume that food any more.
I reintroduced coffee and didn’t notice any immediate ill effects.
The problem with coffee, however, was that it lowered my appetite. I wasn’t hungry as much after drinking coffee. My body needed energy, but I wasn’t feeling the hunger. This eventually resulted in really bad cravings. I could not eat proper food because I felt full, but I could always eat sugary foods no matter how stuffed I felt. I eventually gave in to those cravings and resumed my previous sugar-loaded diet.
I have thought about going back to the carnivore diet, this time permanently, without reintroducing foods. I did a couple of times, but I failed to stick to it – I didn’t want to quit coffee like I did the first time around. And it was the same with other decisions regarding my procrastination and exercise, even regarding some projects I wanted to start, or finish.
Reintroducing the diet, however, will have some undesirable side-effects in my social life which I ought to know how to curb. And to do that, I need to know exactly why I’m doing it. What are the long-term benefits of it, where are the caveats, and what will happen if I continue with my sugar-addict diet?
First, why does it need to be a pure carnivore diet? Why not keto, or some other alternative? There is more than one answer.
First, and most importantly, I’m a sugar addict. Eating any food that has carbs in it results in sugar cravings for me. It would be like having just one smoke of a cigarette, or just one drink for an alcoholic: before I know it I’ll be back on a binge.
Second, I have autoimmune hypothyroidism. As such, many of the foods I’d normally eat are worsening my condition. Off the top of my head, I know that foods that contain sugars or starch, all dairy, and nightshades (a family of plants that includes tomatoes which I used to eat a lot because I had low potassium, as well as potatoes which I also ate a lot) – are problematic for my condition. Cut these out and all I would have left of my previous diet is – meat and greens. I was never big on nuts, fruits, seeds, mushrooms, and other foods (and besides, I don’t like eating things that I later find expelled undigested into the toilet). So I might just as well cut out the greens, as the salads usually come coated with – at least – plant oils (many of which are inflammatory) and vinegar (which I’m allergic to).
Finally, I have had incredible results while I was eating carnivore. I lost excess weight, I could focus better, my gums stopped bleeding, my eczema went away, I could mentally switch from one task to another – an absolute must in the work that I do – more easily and more quickly, and as I said previously – I was much calmer and I quit biting my nails without even trying to.
Now, according to a large number of N=1 testimonies of long-term carnivore dieters, they have had much improvement in health. They lost weight and managed to keep it at a healthy level without bouncing; their blood test results improved significantly, especially where mine are lacking – I had borderline-high cholesterol on my last test, for example; they experienced reversal of some symptoms of their autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory diseases… Some of this is what I’ve experienced during my 8 weeks of being on a carnivore diet. That, however, is too short a time for any of the long-term benefits to surface, but I did notice that I stopped having irregular heartbeats (a symptom of my autoimmune hypothyroidism, the one that was most concerning to me and which led me and the doctors to the discovery of my condition) on a carnivore diet.
What I’d already experienced on a carnivore diet, as well as these long-term effects is what I’m hoping for by going full carnivore.
This will, however, generate some stress on my social life. It will be much harder for me to socialize and I will likely need to prepare and bring my own food on some events. I was asked previously why I was on such a strict diet and I could then answer that it was an elimination diet, so I can see which foods I’m sensitive to and which I’m not. It turns out that going carnivore doesn’t really hyper-sensitize me to any foods as I expected. I remained just as sensitive to them as I was before the diet, with the most common symptoms being difficulty sleeping, and irregular heartbeats (and acid reflux with some foods). So, basically, I could just cut out these foods and leave what’s left. But that leaves me with meat and greens again. And not only that, even if I do eat some non-carnivore foods occasionally, it will be like a treated alcoholic just had one sip of an alcoholic drink. I can’t go there again. The cravings are just too bad.
With my wife I usually went for lunches and dinners in cheaper restaurants. I suppose, on this diet, I should strive for better restaurants that offer steaks on their menus.
But why go down this road at all? I mean, they do say we all have to die eventually of something, right? Why not just go on with the way things are? Well, let’s say that I’m immediately disgusted whenever someone says that about having to die eventually. Yeah, we’ll eventually die. But first we live. And let’s make it a good life.
Now, one could argue, what kind of life is it without an occasional sweet treat, or wine, or whatnot? Live a little, right? I’m rather reserved on this as I do believe there is more to life than an occasional (or less than occasional) indulgence. I believe that we’re so used to rewarding ourselves with indulgence that we miss out on greater opportunities. Like, for instance, when you experience something that gives you goosebumps. I remember as my 8 weeks of being carnivore were coming to an end, I used to think a lot about what foods I would be introducing and in what order. I wasted time thinking about indulgence, charting it out in my calendar, when I could instead be thinking about something else; something more productive; something I could do with my family, or at work, that would be its own reward, or bring rewards in the future.
Nobody normally pays any attention to these kinds of thoughts. Do you really worry that thinking “Oh, I’ll get home from work, grab a beer and watch a show on TV” or some such thing is taking up too much of your mental space? Although I don’t like beer, I have similar thoughts. I know I have them more and more often as the workday is coming to an end. So, even if this daydreaming took just one minute a day overall, in a year that would amount to more than 6 hours of daydreaming about being lazy and, perhaps, gluttonous. Just think about where you’d be if you could instead think 6 hours straight about, for example, how to make your kids happy. How happy would your kids be and how much better your bond with them would be? Because that’s where you’d be in a year if you could somehow replace thoughts of indulgence with thoughts of your children.
If your default position is that you do not indulge, that there’s no way in hell that you’re going to get home and eat your kids’ candy and sweat your fat ass all over the couch, then your thinking is going to change by default. Sure, you may find other vicious things to think about, but if you’re an even remotely decent person, you’ll think of your kids occasionally as well. If you have them. And if you love them.
As a rule of thumb, I believe the only proper way to indulge yourself is when you no longer seek to indulge yourself. If you find yourself thinking about what your next treat would be, you should probably skip it.
Because, where does the road of indulgence really lead? For me, it has already come to elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. Being overweight. An autoimmune hypothyroidism. My grandfather died of a heart attack. My brother had his thyroid removed due to cancer. If none of that kills me, then I’m sure to run into type 2 diabetes, nerve damage due to high blood sugar, peripheral neuropathy… This last meaning it would probably no longer be safe for me to walk barefoot as I will have lost sensation in my feet. Images of diabetic necrosis make me scream inside. Even if that doesn’t happen, some health conditions will undoubtedly occur, which will keep me visiting the doctor’s office more often than I’d like (and anything more than what’s needed to get my flu and tick-borne encephalitis shots is too much).
Regardless of that, there are other lifestyle changes I would have to make in order to stick to the diet. I would have less incentive to go to coffee shops – places I currently frequent – and thus waste less time and less money. And it’s another form of indulgence, particularly when I load my coffee with sugar. So in addition to health troubles, if I just go on as it is, I’ll waste my time thinking about how to get to my next cup of too-expensive coffee, instead of thinking about my kids, my wife, my work… And the rationalizations! “Oh, the atmosphere of a cafe is so conducive to work.” It’s absolutely ludicrous, especially given the number of times I’d leave a coffee shop and remember I completely forgot to do something I’d planned to do. So much for being productive in a place like that. Not to mention the number of times I forgot to take my computer, or smartphone – both of which I needed for work – and then had to go back home, wasting even more time, and even more money. And all the while, I’m away from my family.
Now, I could just quit going to coffee shops and call it a good day. But that’s beating around the bush. I like complete solutions and decisions that deal with the root of the problem – as deep as I can trace it while being sure that once I pull I’m not going to uproot something I don’t want to. This writing is what helps me feel the roots,
and untangle any intertwining laterals before I pull.
So really the hell – the pain – that I’m running away from with this decision is that of ill health, and thoughts of self-centered indulgence with food and wasteful activities so common they overrule all thoughts of the people I love, as well as consequent resentment of and by the people I (now) love.
As I think in images about this decision, I envision the result will be a huge crater. It will eventually be filled by something – good or bad. Even if it gets filled at random and even if this new stuff turns out to be only 1% good, it’s still better than what currently occupies that crater. And even if it turns out to be all bad, at least there was a chance for something good. And even that’s better.
So how do I stick to this decision?
I have given it much thought and outlining the benefits of that decision, the scenarios I’m trying to avoid by making it, and how to deal with pitfalls was step one. Step two is actually starting to implement the decision. I find, however, that for me, making a decision once is not enough. I need to make it over and over – particularly where addictions are involved – each time there’s a craving on the horizon I find that I need to face it with a certain resolve that I’m not going to succumb to it; I need to make the same decision again. And again. And again. Until cravings stop. After that I found with smoking I reach some kind of state in which I would think of myself as a fool to go back even for just one taste.
Because if I did that, I’d find that the crater would once again be filled with everything I resolved to remove from it, as if I never had.