This fall I joined the ranks of Shawn Baker's all-meat cult for 30 days. Here's what happened.
"Only 30 days," I whispered to myself. "It's only 30 days."
This spontaneous pep talk happened at my parents' house on September 1, opening day of my monthlong plan to turn nutritional orthodoxy on its head. For the third time in barely an hour, I rushed with the urgency of an Olympic race walker to the closest bathroom. Let me be emphatic: I was not urinating.
That morning I had embarked on a dietary mission to eat only meat for 30 days. Later that afternoon, after my wife and I arrived at my parents' place for a visit, my first meal hit me. I braced myself on the toilet in a state of disbelief—first, at what a single steak breakfast was doing to my body, and second, at my mother for failing to discover the virtues of two-ply toilet paper.
I initially heard about the carnivore diet in late 2017, when Shawn Baker was a guest on Joe Rogan's popular podcast. For two years, the 52-year-old weight lifter and trained orthopedic surgeon has eaten an average of four pounds of meat every day. No fruits, vegetables, bread, or sugar, although eggs and fish were fair game. "If you would've asked me two years ago, I would've said, 'That's fucking crazy,'" Baker told Rogan while explaining his daily menu. "I did it for a month and thought, Man, I feel pretty good."
Since then, a cult-like following has branded Baker the unofficial Carnivore King. Men and women of all ages get in touch to share their dietary transformations: there's a formerly vegan mother of three whose before and after photos Baker reposted, and a bespectacled amateur bodybuilder who dropped 210 pounds after jumping on the carnivore bandwagon. For his nearly 60,000 Instagram followers, Baker routinely posts success stories of folks who embraced animal protein and found nutritional nirvana. "I've been 98% carnivore since May 2018. I'm now down 42lbs," one woman posted in early November. "My inflammation is pretty much gone. My brain is back. My energy is returning. I just bought my first size 6 jeans since I was 20 years old. I haven't worked out one time."
While Baker is generally viewed as the all-meat diet's chief evangelist, a robust online community of fellow carnivores has emerged. There are more than 25,000 members of the World Carnivore Tribe group on Facebook. About 125 novice and longtime dieters have shared their stories at MeatHeals.com, a website Baker publishes. And a simple search for #MeatHeals on Instagram yields some 50,000 posts. Two other high-profile devotees of the lifestyle are Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and his daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, who credits carnivory for sending her severe arthritis, depression, fatigue, and itchy skin into remission. Baker and his followers also claim the diet improves sleep, eliminates joint pain, increases energy, decreases weight, and pumps up libido. "I have no intention of saying I'm never going to eat anything else for the rest of my life," Baker told me in September. "But as long as I'm feeling good and performing well, I don't want to eat anything else."