Ep37: The Carnivore Diet for Women Success Story with Amber O’Hearn

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Amber O'Hearn
Amber O’Hearn: Data Scientist & All Meat Diet Advocate

In today’s interview I get to speak with a carnivorous diet proponent, Amber O’Hearn, about her experience eating an all-meat diet for the last 9 years.

Amber is very passionate about the benefits of this type of diet for women or anyone who has struggled to find a diet that really works for them.

In todays interview we get a chance to talk about how she went from eating a vegetarian (and even vegan) diet, to a low carb and, finally, a carnivore diet and never looked back. We also discuss some common concerns for women who are considering this way of eating.

If you know someone who has trouble losing weight, is dealing with mental health or autoimmune health problems related to their diet, this interview is for them.

I enjoyed this interview as I have a keen interest in this topic and have just successfully completed a 30-day long self-experiment of eating only meat myself. (Watch my daily vlogs on Youtube here)

After speaking with Amber I have a better understanding of how significant an impact a meat only diet can have on our mental health and female wellbeing too. What we choose to eat affects everything. From our weight and our mood, to what we might not even be aware of. Sometime we only don’t realise certain issues until we make a dietary change that simply makes us feel better.

Special thanks to Amber for joining me on the show. Enjoy the episode!

Find Amber O’Hearn on Twitter, Facebook or one of her two blogs: ketotic.org or her personal blog empiri.ca

Show Notes with Timestamp Links

Highlights of what we talk about during the interview:

Click on one of the timestamp links in the brackets to jump to that point in the interview audio.

[00:20] – Introducing Amber O’Hearn, a data scientist by profession, she has been researching and experimenting with the ketogenic and evolution-based diets since 1997 and has eaten nothing but meat since 2009.

[00:42] – Previously on our podcast, Dr Shawn Baker has talked about his experience with an all-meat diet for a year now. Amber has been eating this way for a lot longer! We discuss terminology. She explains why she prefers the term carnivorous and how calling this type of diet zero carb can be misleading as shellfish, liver or even some milk products all contain carbs.

[02:06] – Amber’s journey started in 1997 when, inspired by her weight gain issues, she started experimenting with different diets. She tried vegetarianism and veganism until her studies took her to St Petersburg in Russia. There, she abandoned her usual diet and by eating what the locals ate she found she lost some weight. Naturally, this raised some questions for her. Further investigation led Amber to the book Protein Power by Dr’s Mary Eades and Michael R. Eades.

[04:50] – Dr Eades’ advice worked. Amber explains how she maintained the low carb diet, continued her research and why she gradually switched to an all meat diet. After pregnancy, during which she ate some carbs and gained weight, the low carb diet wasn’t getting her where she wanted to be so she tried going carnivorous.

[07:48] – Interest in carnivorous diet has exploded recently and we see more people making the switch from ketogenic and low carb diets. Amber talks about her experience with the ketogenic diet. We discuss ketosis, macros and why people focus on the level of ketosis, which can be somewhat arbitrary. Dr Stephen Phinney has said the level is based on the point at which we start to see therapeutic results. It is important to have a well-formulated ketogenic diet focusing on outcomes. Amber explains we should be focusing on the health outcomes and ask ourselves if ketosis is necessary for your end goal?

[15:11] – Amber explains how, after switching to a carnivorous diet in 2009, she discovered she no longer needed the psychiatric medication she was prescribed for her mood disorder. She was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at the age of 20 and later re-diagnosed as having bipolar disorder type 2. She explained how the mental health condition was progressing and she suffered from terrible side-effects from the medication she was on.

[18:29] – On low carb and ketogenic diets people focus on macros, which can be quite complicated. With the carnivorous diet you just eat until you are full and do not restrict food. This is something most women worry about when trying to achieve weight loss. Amber points out that it is quite important to select fatty cuts of meat in order to feel good and not run into energy problems. There is also debate around how much protein is acceptable for different goals such as fat loss etc… (Biohackers Lab Tip: Listen to Prof. Stuart Phillips recommended daily protein amount)

[23:00] – It seems people tend to take up the carnivorous diet predominantly for weight management. While, unfortunately, there are no clinical trials, the results people seem to be reporting include a relief from autoimmune related issues such as arthritis, asthma and even skin problems, as well as digestive issues (meats are easy to digest) like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s or colitis.

[24:30] – Carnivorous diet can be a very good base for a basic elimination diet. By slowly reintroducing vegetables or other foods we can see how the body reacts and what causes problems for us. Amber explains how if there are no benefits to you that you can see from eliminating plants, there is no real reason you would need to, however, you don’t know how you will feel until you have tried it. We discuss how long it takes to adapt and see a difference/benefits for most people; as with most things, everyone responds differently.

[30:28] – Electrolytes, such as salt, potassium, and magnesium, in particular, are helpful with the keto flu when transitioning to a ketogenic diet. Amber suggests they might also be beneficial when transitioning to carnivorous from ketogenic. Could putting extra salt on your meat help with this? (Biohackers Lab Tip: Listen to Dr James DiNicolantonio explain the benefits of adding more salt to a low carb/keto diet.)

[32:40] – When most women go on a diet they restrict themselves on food. Low carb nutritionist Emily Maguire talked more about the problem with women restricting protein and the gluconeogenesis issue in a previous episode. How does this figure in a carnivorous diet? Amber explains that protein causes an insulin response (the only thing that doesn’t is fat), which slows down ketogenesis. She believes this is not something we should fear will interfere with weight loss. Dr Ted Naiman actually highlights studies showing that higher protein levels (30-50%) show superior weight loss.

[35:30] – Amber explains a possible reason why people are often reporting the same level of ketosis reached with higher protein levels in carnivorous diet vs lower levels in ketogenic diet. (Here are three ways how to check your ketone levels)

[38:00] – Women’s energy demands increase when they are breastfeeding or pregnant, often resulting in cravings for carbs. Amber believes this is the body’s way of getting fat and explains we have evidence of nomadic societies doing without a lot of carbs during pregnancy. She shares her own experience breastfeeding on a carnivorous diet as well as children’s diets!

[45:28] – How does the carnivorous diet affect the menstrual cycle? Some people do experience changes in length or stability of their cycle, but these reported changes seem to be a bit idiosyncratic and no real pattern has emerged. Amber also talks about conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis.

[47:30] – Do many women put on more weight on a carnivorous diet? It does happen in cases where there was a long history of calorie restriction. Most of this is likely caused by tissue healing, i.e., denser bones, muscle building etc., but some of it can be fat gain. There are instances where people accepted that for the sake of health and in time saw that weight come off again. Amber mentions Kelly Hogan and her amazing story.

[50:46] – We talk about food intake. Amber shares how much she eats, what kind of protein she eats and finding a natural rhythm that works. Her routine is hunger based and she generally eats two meals a day, lunch and dinner. Gary explains he was less hungry on a meat diet and when making the switch people might notice their meal timings change. We also discuss different cuts of meat and the difference in preference between men and women.

[59:05] – In the carnivore community we see a lot of red meat but is there anyone who eats primarily seafood? Polls indicate that beef is often the top preference.

[1:01:44] – To follow Amber, find her on Twitter, Facebook or one of her two blogs ketotic.org or her personal blog empiri.ca

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7 thoughts on “Ep37: The Carnivore Diet for Women Success Story with Amber O’Hearn

  1. Have just watched this podcast. What happens with the bowel. I know from experience from eating a vegan diet that I do not get constipated at all. When I used to eat meat I got constipated a lot which surely puts a strain on the bowel

    • I personally haven’t found any constipation issues. I would say a difference I’ve noticed is if I had to eat more veg, rice, potato or other foods then my “output” would more compared to meat only. Shawn Baker mentions this too and suggest it is because more protein is broken down in the GI tract and absorbed. Drinking enough water is a big one for me to make sure no constipation issues happen.

  2. Great talk with Amber Gary. Truly enjoyed it. I am a keto carnivore (sometimes keto and sometimes pure carnivore with dairy. No issues with bowel Val. I think gut bacteria is only needed if fiber is needed to be changed to butyrate (short chain fatty acids) but the keto or carnivore diets produce butyrate (beta-Hydroxybutyrate is = ketones in the blood) so no need for gut bacteria to create it.

  3. After following Amber and Esmee La Fleur of Eat Meat Drink Water (Zero Carb Zen) for about a year and then learning of Dr. Shawn Baker and his Nequalsmany…I took the plunge (July 16, 2017) from Low Carb Keto of 5+ years and have not gone back. I had many, many NSV (non-scale victories). The most noteworthy was almost total alleviation of my IBS symptoms where I fluctuated from constipation (predominant) to diarrhea and it had been lifelong. After about 7 days of perfection my husband and I, we did this together, both began to experience regular diarrhea, he worse than I, but based on “You have to give it six months to adjust theory” we stuck with it. It did indeed take 6 months for that to completely resolve. We both chalked it up to our microbiome needing to adjust and apparently it did – and we may not have been eating an optimal protein/fat ratio. My husband, 65 yo, has Type I Diabetes for over 30 years. He needs to dose insulin based on how much protein he eats. For him dosing for the optimum amount of protein he benefits from gets tricky. Everything else was only positive. However, his Total Cholesterol rose to 342. His endo and primary wanted him on statins based on that number only…he stood his ground We refused. He just had a bunch of testing: Hs CRP – .2; Triglycerides – 67; HDL – 83; HbA1c – 5.2; Carotid Artery Scan = 0 deposits; Ankle Brachial Index Normal; (the previous two are direct markers of Atherosclerosis); No atrial fibrillation and normal EKG. Also had a DEXA body composition scan. His body fat is 19% and his bone density looked excellent. My numbers were all very similar with my TC at 274. I used his number because for a Type I Diabetic of long standing…those numbers are remarkable. If nothing else…eating this way did not harm him. I venture to say…it actually helped him. When we repeat this testing in one year…we will have a comparison. And BTW…I have heard it explained that all meat has some “fiber” in it by way of connective tissue, elastin, collagen, and remember…the structure of muscle is in the form of “fibers.” Collegan wraps each fiber and is most visible at the end of the muscle where it attaches to bone. As a cook…I am intimately aware of the structure of meat. When you cook meat in a liquid and then refrigerate…it “gels.” This is the collagen or fiber of the meat. https://amazingribs.com/more-technique-and-science/more-cooking-science/basic-meat-science-cooks Happy Eating.

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