Joe and Charlene Anderson (aged 63 and 48 respectively) have been on the carnivore diet for more than 20 years. In this post, we will look at why they started the carnivore diet, what they eat, and their experience with this way of eating.
Charlene Anderson’s health problems
Charlene Anderson was plagued with health problems since childhood.
She was born without complications and was breastfed for three months before being fed formula. However, she reacted to every formula and her parents ended up feeding her the least bad combination.
After a serious breathing incident at childcare at the age of 4, Charlene was tested for allergy and was found to be sensitive to almost everything.
However, her diet was never looked at and she was instead given oral medications, nose sprays, ear drops, inhalers, rash cream, and allergy shots for many years.
At age 8, she developed trichotillomania (a hair-pulling disorder that involves recurrent and irresistible urges to pull out hair from the scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of the body) and she pulled out all her eyelashes and eyebrows due to sores on her lash lines.
She also contracted Lyme Disease (a tick-borne infection) during her childhood which was left undiagnosed until her adult years.
At age 12, she developed cellulite.
At age 13, she experienced extremely painful and ugly acne breakouts which continued until her mid-20s.
At age 16, her period stopped and doctors couldn’t figure out what caused it because she had been following a “healthy” high-fiber, low-fat diet.
Her health continued to decline during her college years with fatigue, depression, and self-harm thoughts.
After college, she began working at the Industrial Design Department at Navistar and was heavily exposed to chemicals which made her health further deteriorate.
Her fatigue became worse, she fell asleep everywhere and had mental confusion, poor focus, brain fog, migraines, heart pains, reflux, and numbness in her limbs.
She had extreme eczema on her hands, neck, and face. Her periods were absent. She also had cervical dysplasia, degenerative disc disease, and extreme mood swings while her vision worsened.
She was also gaining weight and, at the heaviest, was around 50 pounds overweight.
Charlene tried exercises and even became a personal trainer but that didn’t help.
Charlene sought help from both conventional and alternative doctors but their “fix” actually led to more issues and made her condition worse. She was told that it was all in her head.
How Charlene Anderson discovered the carnivore diet
Joe and Charlene’s search for a suitable diet
Charlene’s husband, Joe Anderson was into fitness and bodybuilding.
In the mid-1990s, Joe experimented with Vince Gironda’s steak and eggs diet and Rheo Blair’s high protein diet consisting of eggs, meat, milk, and cream.
Vince Gironda (1917-1999) was an American professional bodybuilder, personal trainer, founder of NPS Nutrition, a supplement company, and owner of the celebrity-frequented Vince’s Gym. Gironda is often quoted as saying that “bodybuilding is 85% nutrition”.
Irvin Johnson, aka Rheo Blair (1921-1983), was a well-known nutritionist with a special interest in bodybuilding nutrition. Blair created the original milk, cream and egg protein powder which was loved by many competitive bodybuilders and celebrities of his time. He was also one of the pioneers of the high protein and low carb diet.
So, Joe was experimenting with a high protein diet to put on muscles and get lean and knew that he could do okay on a zero-carb diet.
When Charlene became very sick in 1998 and was eventually diagnosed with Lyme Disease, she couldn’t eat a lot of food, and Joe and she began to experiment with her diet.
They started with a very low-carb diet and saw some improvements including weight loss and acne but many issues remained.
They did some more research which led them to the no-carb path.
Their first zero-carb diet was a “fish and healthy oils” diet which they were on for about a year. This diet relieved a lot of her symptoms but not all. She still had amenorrhea, edema, trichotillomania, acne, eczema, and excess weight.
Afterward, they switched to free-range eggs and poultry, and occasional lamb and beef. As soon as Charlene switched from “healthy oils” to animal fat, she ovulated and her period returned within two weeks.
Further research led them to the work of Blake Donaldson (1892-1966), an American physician, who advocated fresh fat meat, water and exercise to treat allergies, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, gallstones, and obesity in his book “Strong Medicine”.
This diet made sense to them and they began with pemmican only for a period of time before transitioning to steaks only.
As soon as she decided to go all beef, every single one of her symptoms vanished and she became healthier and happier.
Charlene had experimented with different animal source foods (free-range eggs, pork, lamb, poultry, and wild-caught fish) but found that she feels best on just beef only.
Work that led Joe and Charlene Anderson to the carnivore diet
Below is a list of works that most influenced and led them to their beef-only diet.
- “The Fat of the Land” by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, published in 1956
- “Strong Medicine” by Blake Donaldson, published in 1961
- “Dr. Newbold’s Type A/Type B Weight Loss Book” by H. L. Newbold, published in 1991
- “NeanderThin: A Caveman’s Guide to Nutrition” by Ray Audette, published in 1995
- “Calories Don’t Count” by Herman Taller, published in 1961
- “Not By Bread Alone” by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, published in 1946
- “Eat Fat Grow Slim” by Richard Mackarness, published in 1975
- “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Weston Price, published in 1939
- “Natural Hormonal Enhancement” by Rob Faigin, published in 2000
- Prolonged meat diets with a study of kidney function and ketosis, McClellan and Du Bois (1930).
Charlene’s health problems resolved by the carnivore diet
In Dr. Shawn Baker‘s book “The Carnivore Diet“, Charlene provided the following list of changes that she experienced after switching to the carnivore diet:
- Amenorrhea: her period returned within 2 weeks using animal fat as her only fat source
- Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder): this ended about a month after her meat-only diet
- Paralysis: it took a year to reverse this completely
- Debilitating fatigue: this also took about one year to reverse
- Muscle twitch: she used to have more than 100 twitches in a minute, though there was immediate improvement, it took a year before it completely reversed
- Depression: this lifted in less than two weeks
- Degenerative disc disease and sciatic nerve pain: this dissipated within a couple of months
- Excess weight: she lost about 50 pounds in a few months
- Rage: this vanished after a few months on the carnivore diet
- Extreme allergies/sensitivities to pollens, chemicals, and foods: she had a nearly immediate reversal in her allergies
- Eyesight: she didn’t need to use contacts or glasses within about a month and a half.
- Other symptoms (brain fog, acne, eczema, bloating, indigestion and acid reflux, restless leg, headaches and migraines, edema, heart pains and irregular heartbeat, halitosis, tinnitus, inability to handle cold or heat, etc.) resolved in a month or less.
In addition to getting her life back from the debilitating Lyme Disease and other serious health problems, Charlene and Joe now have two healthy and happy boys.
Charlene was on the zero-carb diet throughout both pregnancies and had easy home births.
The boys were breastfed until the age of 2 and, thereafter, were gradually introduced to meats.
They are not prohibited from trying out other foods but they didn’t feel good on the occasions that they did so they have been eating just what their parents have, which is beef.
What do Joe and Charlene Anderson eat?
The Anderson family’s diet is very simple.
Joe and Charlene and their two boys only eat beef.
They don’t specifically aim for beef only but feel best on just beef and they also don’t crave other foods.
They would ask the butcher for untrimmed rib-eye steaks which have plenty of fat on them and they don’t need to add any extra fat.
They all just eat one meal a day at dinner time and eat until they are full.
Joe usually eats 2 to 3 pounds and Charlene and the boys have 1 to 2 pounds of beef a day, just steaks and no side dishes, desserts, or treats.
Their beef is just ordinary grass-raised and grain-finished.
They cook their steaks medium to medium-well.
They don’t eat organ meat or drink bone broth.
They don’t use spices or salt.
They don’t take supplements.
They just drink water.
And they don’t eat out.
They used to exercise a lot but both say they don’t exercise much these days, however, they seem to have a very active outdoor lifestyle.
Social media backlash on Joe and Charlene Anderson’s story
A few years back when the Anderson family’s unorthodox diet became public, they received many nasty comments on social media accusing them of seeking attention, being a carnivore fraud, and even child abuse.
Though I have never met them and only read about them online, I think they are none of the above.
While their food choice was supported by family and friends who are aware of all the health problems Charlene used to have, other people are not very open-minded. And that was why the couple hadn’t gone public before about their diet.
According to Charlene “Whenever I tried to share my success and happiness about this, it was met with more questionable stares, anger, fear, and rolled eyes than you would ever imagine. So, it was our little secret. And that’s how we kept it until we found others with our point of view.”
As to child abuse, nobody mentions child abuse when they see kids being fed burgers, chicken nuggets, donuts, deep-fried mars bars, and soda. On the other hand, I think their two beautiful boys are very fortunate to have been brought up on such a clean and healthy diet. I wish I had known about the carnivore diet long ago and had the opportunity to raise my children on this diet myself.
I have never met them but I believe their story for the following reasons:
(i) They have no reason to tell a lie about their carnivore diet history, they are not trying to sell anything or benefit in any way from telling their story
(ii) They found the beef-only diet that ultimately fixed Charlene’s health problems through a lot of hard work: research and trial and error
(iii) Their experience is consistent with that of many other carnivore dieters. It is also consistent with the positive experience of 2029 people in a recent survey by researchers from Harvard Medical School and other institutions
(iv) I personally have also experienced many health improvements since switching to a meat-based diet and my only regret so far is I didn’t find out about this diet earlier.
In online exchanges, Joe Anderson also came across as an educated man, a loving husband, and a devoted father. He was very patient and polite when trying to explain his family’s food choices to those who questioned him about the ethical aspects of their family’s diet.
If you are not yet on the carnivore diet, try it out for even just one month or two months and see for yourself what impacts the diet might have on your physical and mental health.
If you have been on and benefited from the carnivore diet, please don’t hesitate to share your story with your family and friends so more people can benefit from this way of eating and become healthier and happier.
Charlene improves sleep, cardiovascular health, digestion on the carnivore diet
Carnivore Family Has Eaten A Zero Carb, All-Beef Diet For The Past 17 Years
Joe and Charlene Anderson: more than 20 years eating only meat
The Carnivore Diet – Shawn Baker, MD
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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for reference purposes only and not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.