Hunks of meat. Sticks of butter. This is the extreme diet of the meatfluencer – and a growing number of women are joining the ranks.
A typical meal for content creator Courtney Luna is a couple of beef patties with butter melted on top.
Beef makes up the bulk of her diet, but a couple of times a week she’ll opt for bacon, chicken wings, and shrimp or salmon instead. Butter and eggs are her sides of choice.
This is the carnivore diet, or lion diet, a fad that has exploded in popularity in recent years despite warnings from experts that you lose out on fibre and essential nutrients when you heavily rely on meat and heavily restrict everything else.
Previous research has also found that meat-only diets can increase the risk of heart disease.
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This hasn’t stopped people from trying it out, claiming it has cleared their skin, boosted their mood, given them more energy and even ‘cured’ a range of disorders.
‘I decided to do it because I was overweight with a list of health issues. I was sick and tired of feeling sick of tired, so I gave it a shot to see how I felt,’ Courtney, from South Carolina, tells Metro.co.uk
‘I have been eating this way for eight months and I will continue to do so as long as I keep feeling amazing!’
Men eat meat, women eat…meat?
Like most trends, the origins of the carnivore diet are hard to pinpoint, but the diet boomed in popularity in 2018, when psychologist and controversial commentator Jordan Peterson told Joe Rogan that he had limited his diet to beef, salt and water.
Since then, the meatfluencers have gained momentum.
As a 38-year-old stay-at-home mum, Courtney is not the typical poster child for the carnivore diet.
Eating meat is still seen as masculine by some – a weird association that can be traced to our understanding that cavemen hunted for meat, while women gathered nuts and berries.
But Courtney has gained more than 13,000 follows since she started sharing recipes and tips from her meat-heavy life online.
‘Women are conditioned to believe that we need to eat salads to be healthy and get thin, when that’s furthest from the truth,’ she says. ‘The carnivore community has a ton of women in it.’
She’s joined in the business by Bella – known by the online persona Steak And Butter Gal, who has a whopping 120K YouTube subscribers and over two million likes on TikTok – and also names women ‘meatfluencers’ Kelly Hogan and Mikhaila Peterson as a ‘huge resource of information’.
What I eat in day high fat carnivore diet! #carnivorediet #carnivore #ketorecipes #carnivoreketo #highfat
The diet is not without controversy
Courtney claims she’s never felt better since switching to the diet, adding: ‘I’ve actually had a few close friends and family members turn to carnivore after seeing my success.’
But the carnivore diet has received a fair amount of scrutiny.
Liver King, the heavily muscled social media personality of Brian Johnson, gained notoriety as a ‘meatfluencer’ by eating bull’s testicles, raw animal livers and cows’ brains. But now, he’s being sued for failing to tell fans about his (£10,000) investment in steroids.
Nutritionists and dieticians have also shared their concerns.
What nutritionists think about the carnivore diet
Claudia Le Feuvre, a nutritionist at the fitness brand Goldster, lists the following potential concerns:
- If you’re only eating beef, you are missing out on other nutrients like healthy fats, fibre and all the vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables.
- In the long run, you could develop a significant nutrient deficiency.
- There’s doubts that people actually live on lion diets
- Salt is not helpful for fluid retention and blood pressure
- We don’t know the long-term impacts, but Claudia says they are likely to include: halitosis (bad breath), piles, high cholesterol, constipation, haemorrhoids and very low energy because of the lack of fibre and nutrients from carbohydrates.
Nutritionist Monica Russell, founder and CEO of Acquired Coffee, adds: ‘It is worth considering the environmental impact of a diet heavily reliant on animal products.
‘While meat can be a nutritious component of a balanced diet, it is important to consider the potential health and environmental consequences of excessive consumption.’
Considering the warnings and controversies, why would anyone embark on this lifestyle?
Food blogger Rory Bland, who is 70 days into the diet, tells Metro.co.uk that frustration with his health led him to giving it a go.
‘Aching joints, aching body, brain fog, mood swings, low energy, severe food intolerances, eczema, low drive in life…At 33 I was sick of suffering and decided that I had nothing to lose because I didn’t have my health,’ he says.
Alongside meat, Rory adds electrolytes and a bit of sauerkraut juice to his diet. He also drinks up to a litre of bone broth ‘that’s been prepared for about three hours to avoid histamine response’.
Rory believes his ‘testosterone levels have increased since eating this way’ but says that ‘eating lots of meat doesn’t necessarily make you more masculine.’
He adds: ‘Masculinity is a way of being, not a result of what you eat.
Although, he argues, ‘there is something very primal about eating the flesh and organs of animals compared to eating a banana.’
But Rory isn’t sticking to the carnivore diet long term. For him, it’s a temporary way to eliminate foods that could be affecting his health. (But a warning: you shouldn’t try this without consulting a doctor.)
The war on veganism
As the ‘culture wars’ roll on, with the so-called ‘tofu-eating wokerati’ even mocked by MPs, some argue that the rise of ‘meatfluencers’ is part of a counter-cultural ad campaign.
‘Carnivore diets could be a backlash to the long-standing narrative that veganism is the way to save the planet and that plant-based eating is a healthier option than meat-eating,’ argues nutritionist Pauline Cox.
‘The reality is that both meat and vegetables are healthy, it is the means in which we produce them that should be scrutinised.’
You should also remember to take any ‘meatfluencer’ content you see trending on social media with a pinch of sale. After all, shock sells.
‘There are many online influencers who are seen eating meat in ways that are designed to shock, such as eating vast amounts, or eating raw organ meats such as liver,’ says Pauline. ‘Extreme images get views and extreme reactions.’
Meat is a rich source of protein, there’s no denying that.
But medical professionals largely agree that eating meat in excess is not likely to do you – or the planet – many favours long term.
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