I am wanting to share how a Carnivore diet has helped me in my struggle with addictions. This post is going to cover some sensitive subjects. First off, I want to say it is not my intention to offend anyone. I want to offer a frank and authentic view of what it can be like to struggle with addiction. I am by no means an expert on the subject, all I have is my own experience. I wanted to provide this as a way for people to see how changes in a diet can dramatically affect their mind.
We all know that what we ingest can affect our mental state. It’s why you can’t drink and drive. We know that alcohol has a profound affect on how the mind processes information. It’s why we have coffee when we feel foggy. It’s why you have soothing tea when you are on edge. We know that we can change our mental state with what we ingest. Why then do we not look to diet as a means in aiding the healing from addiction?
The Seeds of Addiction
I will not pretend to be an expert on the science of addiction. There are many excellent books on the subject so I will refer you to them to get a deeper understanding. On the most basic level addiction is a dysfunction of the reward center of the brain. When you engage in some pleasurable activity, the brain releases Dopamine. Dopamine is believed to be what gives you the feeling of pleasure. An addiction forms when you find a thing or activity that hyper-stimulates the release of Dopamine. You keep wanting to engage in that activity to get the Dopamine hit. Eventually your brain develops a resistance to it, so it takes a strong and stronger hit of Dopamine to get the same sense of pleasure. After a while a since of compulsion can form which makes you feel like you can’t help yourself anymore. You need whatever it is that is giving you that stimulation so that you can feel good. There are lot more details but that’s the barebones explanation.
Now, Dopamine is great when it is working correctly. We do something good for us and the brain rewards us with Dopamine. The problem comes when we find things that hyper-stimulate this response, especially things that are easy to do or get ahold of. There are three things which I ended up forming addictions to in my life: food, porn, and alcohol.
Addiction to Food
When I was young, I was tremendously addicted to food. I grew up in an emotionally unstable home, so I turned to food, especially carbs, to medicate how I felt. My favorite “medication” was a cheap microwave pizza that I would grate another half-pound of cheese onto. It was disgusting but it gave me an emotional reprieve from whatever I was feeling. I also lived for bread. I probably could have been categorized as a “carb-ivore”. I would sneak cookies and donuts. I would get entire loaves of French bread and eat the entire thing. I remember having doughnut eating contests with my brother where we would try to see just how many doughnuts we could put down. I would order the 20-piece chicken nugget meal and put the whole thing down with ease. This is what I would do to make myself feel better if only for a few minutes. Ultimately, I hated what I was physically but the only way I could feel good was by eating, so I ate.
Because my diet was so poor and because I was addicted to food to medicate, I was constantly worried about where I was going to get food. My thoughts were always on when my next meal was going to be. My mind was basically an endless loop or wondering when I was going to get my next “hit” of food. I had no idea what was going on with the chemistry in my mind. I just thought I was a terrible person because I was fatter than any other kid I knew, and I felt completely out of control. By the middle of high school, I was 265 lbs. on a 5’6” frame. I had a 48” waste. My thighs were so fat that whenever I walked too much the insides of them would rub and I would get sores and bleed. I ate constantly but I never felt full. My mind was locked in an addiction loop to unhealthy foods which would give me Dopamine but would not nourish my body. This obsession with food is the classic thought pattern for an addict.
Addiction to Porn
Porn is possibly one of the most addictive “substances” out there. It elicits an incredibly strong Dopamine response, it is essentially free, and it is incredibly easy to get access to. I did not have access to the internet until college. It was in college that I added a porn addiction to my food addiction. If you read my first post you will know that I had gotten a little healthier at this point, but I was still a food addict, just a little more in control. Now that I had access to porn though I had a new way to get a Dopamine hit. I would go on benders every few days. I would feel wretched and lonely afterward. Now, to top this off, I am a Christian which means I believe that this is absolutely wrong. Now add shame of looking at porn all the time to my inability to control my weight and you get a pretty miserable wretch.
I was fortunate to have a group of friends I could share my struggles with. They were a constant support throughout my struggle with food and porn. This struggle lasted over a decade, well into my marriage. I was honest with my wife about what I was struggling with. Eventually I decided that I needed more help, so I joined a recovery group for porn addicts. This is where I started to learn about the chemistry of addiction. I started to not be so hard on myself as I realized what a difficult battle I was facing. My wife was incredibly gracious through this entire thing. She has always loved and supported me through my messy journey.
Addiction to Alcohol
Last year, 2018, I had started to develop an addiction to alcohol. My wife and I had two kids only two years apart and my work was incredibly stressful. I started having a glass of wine most evenings in order to relax and unwind from the day. Over time that turned into two glasses. Then I decided I would go low-carb and switched to bourbon. Another month goes by and I find that I am having 2-4 bourbons a night so that I can relax and unwind. I found that I always really looked forward to that first drink when I got home. I got defensive whenever my wife asked me how many glasses I had. I would top off my glass when she wasn’t in the room so I wouldn’t get asked questions. I would pour some in my coffee in the middle of the day so I could relax. This is clearly an addiction.
Now, in the middle of 2018 I got a new job which required me to relocate to Detroit, MI. I was going to be apart from my family for two months before they could join me. I was slowly gaining weight no matter what I did. I had a newly formed alcohol addiction and I still struggled with porn on occasion. I had heard about this crazy Carnivore diet from Amber O’Hearn and Shawn Baker. I decide that during the two-month separation that I would give Carnivore a try. My initial motivation was entirely for fat loss since I was so afraid of getting fat again.
Within a couple of weeks, I felt dramatically better. My energy levels stabilized, my sleep improved, and my anxiety dropped. I was still drinking at this point, just not as often. After a few more weeks though I noticed that my desire for junky food was just gone. I didn’t want to eat garbage anymore. You could put a piece of cheesecake in front of me and I wouldn’t care. In fact, as of this typing, a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups has been sitting in my car for over a week and I have not touched them. My wife got them and left them in my car. I see them every day and I feel absolutely zero desire to eat them. This is insane considering how I used to binge on them.
After about 6 weeks my desire for alcohol also evaporated. In fact, my tastes had changed so dramatically that it didn’t even taste good anymore. I used to love bourbon. Now I find that it doesn’t taste that good. I find that I can have a glass of wine on occasion but it’s not because I feel a need for it anymore, it’s because it sounds tasty. This is a dramatic change from where I had been just a couple months before.
I have also found that my desire to look at porn has greatly diminished. It used to be that any time I was alone with access to the internet I felt a gnawing inside to go look at porn. That is essentially gone now. I can be in my house, by myself and not feel this unceasing desire to look at porn. Again, this is amazing because I basically lived in fear of being alone for over a decade because I knew that gnawing desire would come and just chew on my mind. That feeling is essentially gone at this point.
Now, I am not saying Carnivore is a cure all for addiction. What I am saying is that when we look at healing from addiction, we should also consider that diet can play a major role in how our minds function. It would behoove us to find a way of eating which makes it easier to quite those voices of addiction in the head. I hope at some point research can be done to see what affect the Carnivore diet is having on the chemistry of the brain.
I have found that Carnivore has helped me tremendously. I am incredibly grateful to my Heavenly Father who has carried me through all these pains and for the friends and family that have supported me. I write this because I want people to know that the journey to healing can be made much easier by feeding our bodies and minds well. My desire is for people to find healing. Hopefully my story can encourage you.