In this article, we talk to Josephine, known as “The Ex Plant Eater,” about her shift from being vegan to embracing the carnivore diet. Josie shares her journey, health challenges, and the amazing improvements she’s experienced since changing her diet from reversing ageing to beating ulcerative colitis.
Hopefully, her story will inspire many other vegans and former vegans to quit plant-based eating and start focusing on eating animal foods.
1. What Was Your Diet Like Before Switching To A Carnivore Diet?
As a child, I grew up in a family that was in no way health-conscious and ate the Standard American Diet. I did always prefer savoury food over sweet, so it led my diet to not contain much junk food growing up, at least, but it still was far from being healthy. At around 13, I became vegan and stuck with it for the next 14 years. It is worth noting that I didn’t begin the carnivore diet overnight after transitioning from veganism and surely had to get over some mental hurdles before taking what I considered at the time to be such a bold step.
I became vegan at the age of about 13 with good intentions; I had recently started to become health-conscious as well as more conscious of my appearance, and vegan documentaries such as Earthlings led me to believe veganism was not only good for animals and the planet but also the best for my health and my appearance. I bought into myths that veganism would lead me to have clear skin, etc.
I spent the next 14 years experimenting with different ways of eating vegan, starting with simply replacing meat with meat substitutes and cutting out dairy (I had also taken very basic steps to improve my diet, such as cutting out soda). I ended up going through a broad range of experimentation within veganism because no matter how I ate, I always had severe cravings. I tried the raw food diet, a whole foods plant-based diet, and the Raw ‘Till 4 diet, to eventually come back to eating a mostly whole foods plant-based diet that included meat substitutes and a small amount of processed foods usually in the form of grains, snacks, etc., because that way of eating satisfied my cravings the most, though not fully. I realise in retrospect it was probably because I was at least getting the textures of the foods I was craving through meat substitutes, though, not the nutrients.
Due to being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis around year 10 of being vegan (I’ll get into this deeper in the next prompt), I yet again needed to alter my diet drastically to cut out fibre-rich and acidic foods, which left my diet very bland and even more nutrient-deprived than previously, which wasn’t sustainable. After 4 years of attempting to control my autoimmune disorder through diet (staying vegan all the while), and consistently experiencing symptoms that varied in severity throughout those years, I decided to incorporate bone broth in a desperate attempt to stop myself from going into a worsening colitis flare in 2021. My logic was that if animal protein was not meant to be in my diet, the bone broth wouldn’t help. I was surprised to find it did, and fast. My colitis symptoms improved dramatically within days. Seeing that gave me the courage to reincorporate all other types of animal products over about 6 months, and I gradually found myself gravitating to the carnivore diet after discovering it was the only way of eating that got my digestive issues completely under control.
2. What Health Problems Did You Experience Before Going On The Carnivore Diet?
The most significant health issue I experienced before starting the carnivore diet was ulcerative colitis, which I was diagnosed with while vegan. I would have frequent episodes of diarrhoea, stabbing pain in my intestine after eating, fatigue, a constant, low-grade fever, as well as blood in my stool. I had two very severe flares after being diagnosed around year 10 of veganism, and following that, symptoms never got to a point of being fatal, but I didn’t have normal digestion again until I started the carnivore diet. Some less severe health issues I experienced daily were dry skin, rosacea, much more frequent acne breakouts, constant bloating, constant anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, and a lack of ability to focus.
3. How Has The Carnivore Diet Improved Your Health?
It has not only gotten my digestion normal again, which I hadn’t thought was possible (meaning all of the previously mentioned symptoms have gone into remission to this day – it’s worth mentioning I don’t take any medication, either, so this isn’t due to that), but it has also immensely improved my skin as well as a wide range of other health issues that I hadn’t even thought diet could improve. My skin has gone through reverse ageing and is much more hydrated and vibrant now. I no longer have rosacea and skin irritation, and I very rarely get breakouts, and never on the scale I did when I was vegan. I have consistent energy throughout the day and never worry about feeling “puffy” or gaining weight doing this way of eating. I have a general sense of happiness and well-being on a daily basis, as well as mental soundness, which I never felt when I was vegan, likely due to cravings that never went away. I’ve also noticed my oral health has improved, my hair has gotten thicker, and my nails break much less often. My sense of smell has even become more acute.
4. Are There Any Other Areas Of Your Life That Improved Since Stopping A Vegan Diet And Going On The Carnivore Diet?
Absolutely. As a vegan, I never felt I was taken seriously in my professional life. I was made fun of for being “slow” amongst a few other insults along those lines. I would say the dynamic between myself and my coworkers has improved and I’m well-respected in my professional life these days. My relationships with the people in my life have also improved as I’m much more rational than I was when I was vegan and able to think clearly. I run a few social media accounts and am currently working on my second novel, and would also say my output of content and the quality of my writing have increased immensely these past couple of years as my focus and mental health have improved.
5. How Do You Think The Carnivore Diet Has Helped You Age In Reverse?
I have noticed my skin has gained back elasticity since starting this way of eating and the bags under my eyes have improved. Conservatively, I would say I look about 5 years younger than I did when I stopped being vegan.
6. What Is Your Skincare Routine Like? Your Skin Looks Incredible
Thank you! I honestly attribute a lot of the improvements in my skin to diet as it is what keeps my skin clear and hydrated. On a daily basis, I no longer use conventional beauty products on my skin (aside from occasionally wearing make-up), and merely use beef tallow on my skin or a balm made predominantly with beef tallow and all-natural scents to moisturise. For any readers who aren’t familiar, beef tallow is not only hydrating but is also anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, so it does wonders for keeping my skin vibrant and clear. I also use a cold compress on my eyes once a day for about 20 minutes, which helps with puffiness around the eyes.
7. What Message Would You Like To Give To All Vegans And Vegetarians?
It might sound cliché but never be afraid to try something that will serve you better. A person who interviewed me early on when I stopped being vegan mentioned the quote, “Let the open mind that brought you to veganism also be what leads you out of it,” and I couldn’t agree with that more.
8. What Is Your Diet Like Currently?
It is very simple. Aside from animal products, I do consume organic coffee (in which I put lightly pasteurised heavy cream) and lemon juice in my water throughout the day, because they are the only plant foods that do not cause problems for me. I tend to stick to unseasoned meats (mainly beef) as a staple, and I also eat eggs, fish, and cheese. I use butter and beef tallow to cook with. While I don’t exclusively buy grass-fed and pasture-raised meat (I focus on making sure it’s unseasoned, because most seasonings even tend to cause inflammation for me), I do focus on buying only organic or raw when it comes to dairy. I also tend to get inflammation from too much lactose, so I stick to heavy cream, hard cheeses, and butter when it comes to dairy.
9. What Are Some Other Health And Wellness Practices You’ve Incorporated Into Your Life?
Prioritising sleep more and refraining from over-exercising are two things I’ve been doing as of more recently that are yielding positive results. I have always enjoyed working out, but one of my favourite exercises for years now has been the stationary bike and I especially enjoy it because I can work on other things while on the stationary bike. I would cycle for hours in the past, and I did eventually realise doing too much would negatively affect my hormones and my digestion. I have started keeping it down to 1 to 1.5 hours and I notice smoother digestion.
10. What Are Your Goals For The Future In Terms Of Your Health And Wellness?
Due to my background in terms of health, my biggest goal is to stay on a diet that will keep my ulcerative colitis in remission without having to take medication, so it is safe to say I will be sticking with the carnivore diet, or a highly animal-based diet, for the long-term. A question I often get is if I will ever include more plant products in my diet. I am content right now with the way I eat if it will continue to reap the same benefits for me, so at the moment, I don’t have any plans to.
Other than keeping my autoimmune disorder in remission, my goals are simple and revolve around staying fit and active as I age, and hopefully being able to continue ageing much more gracefully than I would have if I’d stayed vegan!