Some people think only eating meat is the best way to lose weight.
Meat-heavy diet trends have been popular lately. Various diets — paleo, keto, low-carb — extoll the values of hitting fat and/or protein hard. But nothing is as extreme as the “carnivore diet,” a plan that consists of just eating meat. There’s even a 1920s study going around claiming two guys ate meat for a year and were basically fine. (This counts as proof? I guess?) The whole trend is idiotic, and I will tell you why.
People who follow this high meat lifestyle claim it helps them lose weight. And they may not be wrong. I know someone who started eating way more meat, and he DID lose a lot of weight.
Here’s the thing: It seems like it’s not the “more meat” aspect of these diets that is causing the weight loss. I think it’s the “less sugary, carby stuff” that does the trick. Refined carbs like white flour and sugar break down in your system and get turned into fat a lot faster than protein or, ironically, fat. If you go from eating a lot of pasta, waffles and sugary snacks to eating steak, then, yes, you’ll probably lose weight.
But if you want to lose weight, you don’t have to replace all your macaroni with hamburgers. You can replace it with veggie stir fry, baked eggplant, salads and a ton of other vegetable-based dishes. “Paleovegans” even manage to be both paleo and vegan at the same time.
Some humans can survive on animal products. Native peoples living in the far north can’t grow much and rely heavily on things like seal meat and fat. But I doubt even they’d call those diets desirable. One Siberian girl even told me part of the reason she left her home was for the cheap vegetables.
On the other hand, vegans eat only plants, and people in developing countries often depend mostly on plants, with meat as an occasional treat. Thanks to vitamins, supplements and the fact that we’re omnivores who can eat a lot of different things, there are a wide variety of diets out there.
But there are a lot of good reasons to eat less meat, not more. There’s animal welfare, obviously, but that’s just one of the zillion ways meat consumption is a problem for the individual, the human species and the planet. High meat consumption is linked to heart disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity. Farming animals leads to epidemics like swine flu and bird flu. Raising animals for slaughter creates greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change and uses a ton of land and water, making species go extinct and putting everyone at risk of running out of water. It’s also a really inefficient way to make calories, contributing to starvation around the world.
Besides, humans are clearly not carnivores. We evolved from apes that ate mostly plants. We have nails, not claws. We have more flat teeth for breaking down vegetables than sharp teeth for piercing meat. Even your typical hamburger meal includes more vegetables than meat. When you add up the bun, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, onion and side of fries, you’re looking at a plant-based meal, not an animal-based one. That’s because humans are made to eat more vegetables than meat, and most of us know it.
All-meat diets are ridiculous. I suspect people pay them so much attention because they’re a bit revolting, no? But there are plenty of healthier, more ethical and, frankly, tastier ways to eat more naturally and lose weight.