I’m Amy van Oostende. I’m 43 years old, married with 4 children (4, 13, 21, and 24). I’m a nutritional therapy practitioner (NTP).
Before I became a nutritionist I was a personal trainer. Food and nutrition has been my passion for many years. However, I grew up on the standard American diet. After the birth of my first baby I fell for the “fat free” scam and subsequently became super depressed and gained tons of weight. At which point I got pregnant with baby number 2 and proceeded to gain an additional 67lbs!
I spent the next 6 or 7 years miserable. Counting calories. Trying to starve then binging on food. Laying in bed every night hating myself for screwing up. Vowing “tomorrow would be different!” Exercising the whole time, mind you! Many thousands of hours spent on the elliptical or treadmill!
Years passed. I thought I was “normal” with my daily headaches (there’s a king size bottle of Tylenol at Costco for a reason, right?!), heartburn, knee pain, depression, irritability, PMS, debilitating cramps, awful skin, breakouts, skin tags (eww), gray hairs starting in my 20’s, frequent colds, the flu and an epic string of strep throat (8 times in 15 months! And yes, antibiotics every single time… I shudder at the thought).
I didn’t lose weight in any miraculous or healthy way initially. I tried Metabolife and it certainly worked. I drank coffee all day and starved myself. This went on for awhile, I did give up the Metabolife thank God but kept on counting calories and fat grams and hours at the gym. At 5’5″ I hovered around 140lbs doing this.
Fast forward a few years, I started doing CrossFit and Paleo. I attended a nutrition seminar held by Robb Wolf and committed to “30 days of Paleo”. That was over 8 years ago. And believe me, the early days were full of many mistakes! Cheat days, sugar free popsicles, nasty chemicals, splenda in my coffee, you name it!
Since then I’ve spent most of my years on a keto/paleo template. I did tinker with higher carb paleo for a year. That was awful. I gained about 10 lbs of solid fat. Didn’t feel any better and my strength did not improve one iota!
I really only tried a carnivore diet out of sheer curiosity! (I thought that Baker guy was nuts! Lol) I already felt “pretty good”, or so I thought… however:
I had random gallbladder pain
my hair was falling out!!
my strength was stalled. I hadn’t improved any of my lifts in years (I do powerlifting. For fun, not competitively)
my mood, while better wasn’t great
my joints were a little achy especially if I sat in the same position for a long time. Which I chalked up to normal.
I was still fairly lean but not quite as lean as I had been previously. I’d pretty much lost all visible abs. Which I attributed to a reduction in exercise. And age.
my cycle was ok, although it took takes to “get going” – start, stop, start, stop.
I had adrenal fatigue (low cortisol all day)
I actually love veggies (with loads of fat, of course!) So, I figured I would try the carnivore thing and maybe last a week.
Within 8 days (I think) I got my first pullup EVER. Keep in mind I’ve been training seriously for over 20 years and never gotten a pull up before!
This almost surreal zen feeling came over me… I can’t explain it, but I knew I had no desire to stop! I started losing weight and body fat… my abs came back! At 5’5″ I went from maybe 130lbs to 117-120lbs and 13% body fat.
My heartburn, gone
My gallbladder pain, gone
My hair QUIT FALLING OUT
My mood and energy shot through the roof
Zero joint pain/stiffness
My cycle is perfect! Starts like normal, no cramps or PMS at all!
While I have not tested my cortisol levels again, all my symptoms of adrenal fatigue are gone!
Cooking and shopping is SO EASY! I have a family of four and we all eat basically the same.
After over 6 months I continue to see improvements in the gym. I eat primarily beef, pork, chicken. A little bit of cheese and eggs. I generally eat twice a day. Around 2lbs a day on average. I drink alcohol a few times a month (tequila). I don’t cheat at all. I have no desire.
For a nutritionist, this is a huge paradigm shift! But, all you need is an open mind and a willingness to experiment!
I’m a 24 year old woman who has been eating a carnivorous diet for almost 6 months! I eat mostly beef and pork with some dairy, eggs and bone broth. Prior to adopting a zero carb lifestyle I was eating a TON of vegetables on a low carb Paleo Diet. I even went so far as to only eat natural, pasture raised, grass-fed and free-range meats. I ate that way for a few years. Then my mom told me she was switching from keto to carnivore and felt amazing! I was skeptical but sick of having painful cystic acne and mood swings. I was ready to try absolutely ANYTHING.
Within a DAY of eating zero carb I noticed a difference in my mood. Heaps of energy and euphoria! I didn’t know I was lethargic before, but looking back, I certainly was. I woke up the next day with NO new acne and existing acne already improving! This was plenty to get me hooked on meat. That was in August 2017. I started carnivore at about 115 lbs 5’2″ and I now fluctuate between 107-110 lbs.
I have noticed the following improvements: overall leaner body composition, increased libido, CLEAR SKIN, softer skin, more restful sleep, zero cravings for sugar or alcohol, more energy, hair / nail growth, more visible muscles, increased strength, better stamina, confidence, a feeling of being calm or even zen (I would have described myself as panicky and anxious 6 months ago.) My cycle has regulated itself. Two years ago I was diagnosed with irregular periods! I now have a very predictable cycle with next to zero cramping and much milder mood swings. The list grows.
Grocery shopping is a breeze. Hardly need a list! I went from spending 20+ hours a week meal prepping/cooking for my boyfriend and myself, to maybe 8 hours a week. I can go longer between meals! I eat twice a day on average and I still drink coffee in the morning with heavy cream. When I started carnivore I was still occasionally smoking cigarettes and a few weeks in, my nicotine cravings vanished. I quit cold turkey!! My whole life has improved and I completely attribute it to replacing vegetables with a TON of meat. #meatheals and I have to thank Dr. Baker for his commitment to this movement. Without this way of life I’d be surviving but not thriving the way I am now!!
As per interest and requests I thought I would sit down and talk about my story of approaching and reaching my carnivore diet. Even though I like to never look back or put any focus on my previous ill health, I know that by doing so it may help others. Warning… I’m a number of things, but not a writer. So, read on at your own risk!🤪
I was born March 22, 1973 to an engineer and a physical therapist. My mom’s dad was an M.D. with an emphasis on OB/GYN. He was a great man, but followed the norm of doctoring. He suggested the healthy diet of “cereal and low-fat milk” to snack on in between the standard low fat meals. She was a good little girl and gained just the right amount of weight, ate her “good foods” and prepared for her new baby in a “June Cleaver” kind of way.
I was born quickly without any complications. Things went the way they typically do with hospital births. She nursed me, with the intention of weaning me off breastmilk completely by the 3 month mark so she and my dad could go to FL and leave me with my grandparents. I reacted to every formula and every food they gave me. I guess they ended with the least reactive combination for me.
Growing up, I always had rashes, asthma and allergies. I was allergy tested at 4 after having a scary breathing situation at nursery school. I was sensitive to almost everything. But my diet was never looked at as an option to cure it all. Instead, I got shots for years. I hated every single one. Never got used it. It always seemed wrong to me.
Because I was an only child, my parents wanted me to have opportunities to do things with other kids as much as possible. So, I went to a lot of camps – which I absolutely loved. However, one of the many camp trips is most likely when I was bitten by a deer tick. I remember tick checks every night and removing them with tweezers when found. I don’t remember having a specific rash or period of flu-like symptoms. I had my share of colds, strep and flu every year and would always catch whatever was “going around”, so nothing stood out when I contracted Lyme.
Because my grandpa was a doctor, medications were easy to access and antibiotics were FREELY given to me. I was destined for constant, health failure.
Because of my tendency toward asthma, my parents didn’t enroll me in what I would have loved the most – dance. Instead, homework and optimal grades were pushed (especially by my mom).
And I did succeed in that. I was always top of my class, getting straight A’s and extra credit whenever it was available.
In the meantime, my health kept deteriorating. Beginning at age 8 I developed trichotillomania. Sores on my eyelids and eyebrow lines made me want to rub/pull at the lashes. I had times when I had no eyelashes or eyebrows. My parents saw it as a bad habit that I wasn’t “strong enough” to overcome. This lasted all the way through grade school, middle school, high school, college and my first couple years working.
Whenever I went over to my friends’ houses (everyone had pets), it wasn’t long before my parents would get a call to come and get me because I was wheezing or developing hives.
Once I started to mature around age 13, the acne I developed was cyst-like and extremely ugly and painful. They would look like craters. I had them all over my face, neck, inside my ears, shoulders, back, chest and arms. Between hardly having eyelashes/eyebrows and having this acne, I was very self-conscious. I was not obese as a kid, but I was always heavier than the norm and carried my weight in a weird sort of way in my hips and butt. I remember having cellulite at age 12.
By age 16 my periods slowed and stopped completely. None of the OB/GYN doctors had any answers. My diet was the typical low fat, high complex carbs, high vegetation and low sugar. So, OBVIOUSLY my diet wasn’t causing it.
College days were fun (time away from my parents), but continued my downward health spiral. The extreme fatigue really set in at this point. I started out having a double major of Mathematics (to please my dad) and Studio Art (to please me). My mom didn’t care as long as my grades were as perfect as possible. What kept me from successfully majoring in Mathematics is I could not stay awake in class. I would fall asleep after a couple minutes of class starting and wake up when it was over. I needed naps throughout the day and I would always be the first one to sleep in the dorm by hours. Depression and darkness started overcoming me. I pushed friends away more and more due to my fatigue and depression.
I started working out hoping that would make me feel better about myself (and my floppy physique), but it just made me more tired and angry. I didn’t give up working out until years later. (I even became a PT on the side of my professional job.)
I ended up graduating cum laude with math and psychology minors, and studio art major.
After graduating college, I got a job working in the Industrial Design department at Navistar, which was a dream as an Art major, loving automotive design and working at the same company as my dad, cousin and uncles.
The most dramatic downturn in my health happened next. The stress of working and being around clay modeling, paint spraying and all sorts of chemicals quickly sent me downhill fast. Honestly, at this point life is a blur to me still.
My lifesaver was Joe. Wonderful, talented, funny, interesting, 100% compatible with me, Joe!❤ It’s almost as if I was waiting to meet him before my life which was heading downhill fast would make a turn for the better. But it was going to get worse before getting better.
My list of health conditions grew: eczema all over my hands (to the point of second degree burns), tinnitus, worsening depression, worsening fatigue (fell asleep at work all the time, at meetings, at church, and driving a car), lower back/pelvic and sciatic nerve pain (couldn’t sit at all, worked standing up, constant pain with occasional howling-pain spasms; MRI revealed degenerative disc disease in 3 areas), systemic edema, blurry vision (eyeglasses were worn beginning in high school, worsening every year), paralyzation at times in hands and feet working its way into my torso (Joe had to be called to carry me out of work several times), allergies/sensitivities to all things (food, pollens, chemicals), continued amenhorrea, weight gain (at my heaviest 50 pounds overweight), inability to concentrate (couldn’t understand a sentence spoken to me in time to hear the next in a conversation), diagnosed with cervical dysplasia (treated with cryotherapy), migraines, heart pains, indigestion/reflux, bingeing (and at the end, vomiting – luckily only a few times), muscle twitching (over 100 twitches in 1-minute’s time), lumps in my breasts I was too afraid to have checked out, and one of the last but most difficult for everyone around me was my irritation and rage (a complete reversal of my laid back and sweet nature everyone knew me to have growing up).
I literally could go on, but I don’t want to waste any more time or bleed my heart out anymore than I have.
I went the conventional doctor route, with absolutely NO success. Each one made me sicker, weaker and with more symptoms. Most concluded it was all in my head and I was crazy!
Joe was always interested in body building and happened on Vince Gironda. His way of eating to be as strong and sharp as possible intrigued Joe. Almost as soon as he researched this and similar diets (many authors delving into the low/carb free approach to health long, long ago) he started eating low carb/high fat. Instantly it appealed to me and I tried experimenting with low carb foods and recipes (I loved to cook and bake). It was not an immediate win for me, but certain things instantly started to turn around (allergies and asthma in particular as soon as I removed grains). I also started unmasking the low carb foods (vegetation especially), which would send me into terrible fatigue spells.
When Joe and I married August 8, 1998 (this is part of my love of the number 8), it was one of the best days of my life (other than the days of giving birth to my two sons). It was bittersweet though. I felt bad despite the adrenaline. We were the first ones to leave our own reception, not because we couldn’t wait to be together, but because I was so wiped out from the whole thing.
On with the positive turn!
Soon after I was diagnosed with Lyme disease by an alternative M.D. At least that gave us something to focus on and be able to look at as reasons behind some of my issues. I decided to quit my job to focus on getting well and reducing my stress level (I was working, taking MBA classes, finished my PT and nutritionist licenses).
More research quickly led us from looking at low carb to virtually no carbs. We experimented so much in such little amount of time that we realized we’d better start journals of everything we ate, how we felt, what worked and what didn’t. All we wanted was consistency.
The fish and oil diet was the first diet I can remember being the first try at a zero carb diet. It relieved a lot of my symptoms, but not all (still had amenhorrea, edema, trichotillomania, acne, eczema and excess weight). We probably spent about a year experimenting beginning with the fish and oil diet, quickly switching to free range eggs and poultry, and occasional lamb and beef.
As SOON as I switched to animal fat as my fat source instead of “healthy” oils, I ovulated and had a period two weeks later. I couldn’t believe it!!! Why in the WORLD didn’t someone tell me years ago about the importance of animal fat?!?😤 I’ve been more regular since then than I ever was as a young teenager. I’ve had two healthy boys (no complications for me; home births too; mid-wife with Charlie and unassisted with George)! ❤😀
We experimented with pork only to find that it activated symptoms. Ground meats, no matter what type also did.
We continued researching and looked at our wins and fails. It led us to Blake Donaldson who suggested a steak and water diet for his patients. That made a lot of sense to Joe and I. We started with pemmican only for some time, introducing steak eventually. Sure enough, as soon as I decided to go all beef, EVERY SINGLE ONE of my symptoms vanished!!! I couldn’t believe it. 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.
Also, I quickly found the more I ate meat only, my face shape changed and especially my body. I went from needing to work out religiously and strenuously when eating poorly to giving up exercise completely in order to not become too muscular or masculine-looking.
Even when others put our interview out a few years ago, it was met (by some) with so much anger, that we pulled it. It was slated to be run in National Examiner magazine. Boy, would that have been a disaster in many respects.
These days we eat ribeye steak, since it’s the fattiest. And we drink spring water. That’s what we do. We don’t think about it. We don’t really even talk about it. To us it’s like talking about why the sky is blue. Yes, there is scientific reasoning behind it. It’s nice to understand, but it’s beauty is really all it comes down to appreciating!