WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES – Sylwia Tabor began her meat-only diet after a spider bite led to her losing part of her torso.
A former vegan who had part of her torso removed after catching a flesh-eating bug from a spider bite, has said she is “grateful” to the bacteria for turning her into a rare steak-eating carnivore.
Following a diet of just fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables, after being horrified by a documentary exposing poor animal welfare in the food industry, Sylwia Tabor, 32, recalled becoming weak and struggling to digest her food.
But, after contracting the flesh eating bug, necrotising fasciitis (NF) from a spider bite, while camping in July 2017, she became gravely ill.
A friend jokingly suggested a “carnivore diet” and, desperate to restore her strength, she went for it full throttle – eating only rare steak and offal.
Speaking with extraordinary candour, health coach Sylwia, of Sacramento, California, USA, said: “I’m grateful to the NF for making me change my diet that was killing me.”
Now eating roughly two pounds of either lamb or beef each day, garnishing it with nothing except a pinch of salt, she also insists her diet is ethically sound, despite having once followed the vegan principle of abstinence from eating all animal products.
Hitting out at what she now calls “vegan propaganda” about eating meat, she said: “I source my own meat from a local farmer. I know that it is coming from a good place, so the ethical concerns that I had before don’t worry me any more.”
She continued: “My sister, who is a personal trainer, says that I’m mad and that I need to have other forms of nutrients and not just protein.
“But she can see how much healthier I am now than I was when I used to be a vegan.”
Sylwia continued: “After the operation and all of the antibiotics I had to take to get rid of the bug, which had eaten away from my groin to my waist, I wasn’t absorbing enough nutrients because my digestive system had been wrecked from years of only eating fruit and vegetables.
“Then one day a friend of mine was joking and said, ‘Maybe you should just go full carnivore,’ which I thought sounded like the most unhealthy thing you could do.
“But the more I looked into it, the more I discovered that meat eating is the most efficient way of absorbing nutrients, far more so than when you add carbohydrates and vegetables into the mix.”
Deciding to give it a try, Sylwia says that as soon as she ate her first piece of meat she instantly started to feel better, and was roused from the “sleepwalk” existence she had been in since contracting the bug which almost killed her.
No longer worried by the ethical questions surrounding meat production in the USA, most of which she says is “vegan propaganda”, Sylwia feels healthier following her new eating regime.
Sylwia, who grew up in Poland but moved to the USA with her family in 2000, was drawn to veganism in 2008 while a student at Triton College, Chicago, after watching Food, Inc., a documentary examining corporate farming.
Profoundly affected by its unflattering portrayal of mass food production, she decided to cut meat and fish out of her diet entirely – eating only vegetables, fruit and nuts.
Very soon, however, the lack of protein in her daily diet began to take its toll on her health.
“I noticed that I was getting weaker, less energetic and that I was struggling to digest my food properly,” recalled Sylwia.
She continued: “My body was clearly crying out for some protein, because I really started to crave meat, particularly around my period when I would find myself dreaming about eating raw meat.”
She added: “If someone was preparing a juicy steak, I would have to leave the room because the urge to eat it was so overwhelming.”
Sylwia remained blindly loyal to her vegan principles, resisting her cravings, despite her family and friends pleading with her to reconsider after seeing how ill her clean-eating regime was making her – especially after she developed an intolerance to nuts in 2010, her only significant protein source.
“It got to a stage where I was essentially just eating fruit, as nuts and then later vegetables started giving me rashes on my skin,” she said.
“But that made me even worse than before. The sugar in the fruit made my teeth super sensitive – to the extent where it would hurt just to drink a glass of water – and because I was getting no calcium either, my bones were very weak too.”
In 2010 Sylwia, who is single, broke two ribs just moving a box, but the final straw came in 2011, when she passed blood in her faeces.
Terrified, she saw her doctor who gave her a colonoscopy – an examination of the large bowel with a camera – which although it did not show anything sinister, was an indication of an unhealthy diet.
“From then on, I knew I had to change, because the veganism was killing me,” said Sylwia.
Adopting a normal, balanced diet, she could see immediately the improvement to her health and mood.
“As soon as I took that first mouthful of meat, I felt myself becoming stronger straight away,” said Sylwia, although she found buying meat again tough and spent hours in supermarkets trying to convince herself it was OK to eat animals.
While her more conventional diet meant she felt her “bones becoming stronger again”, her hair looking thicker and her energy restored, she was still dogged with digestive problems.
“Vegetables and seeds – which were for a long time my only food source, are actually antinutrients, compounds which if eaten excessively interfere with your gut absorbing what it needs,” she said. “And that definitely affected me in the long-run.”
Still, Sylwia stopped worrying about what she ate and just got on with things until a camping trip in Michigan with friends changed her life in July 2017, after she received a poisonous bite on the ankle from a brown recluse spider, infecting her with NF.
She recalled: “I didn’t think much of it at first. It was only a small bite on my ankle.
“But in late August, I developed this pimple in my groin area, which over the next days grew and grew until it was about the size of my hand.”
Rushing to A&E, where doctors were perplexed by the “snake-like” purple swelling stretching beneath the skin from her groin to her waist, she was eventually diagnosed with NF and taken straight to theatre for a three-hour operation to cut it out and prevent it from spreading further.
Thankfully, the surgery was successful and Sylwia recovered well, with no need for a skin graft to replace the “eaten” flesh from her torso.
But, in the months following her brush with death, her problematic digestive system stopped absorbing anything she ate, preventing her from eating most foods that would give her diarrhoea and rashes.
“Because I was on lots of antibiotics, which kills all of the good bacteria in your gut that you need to digest things, my stomach was in a mess again and I was feeling terrible, like I was during the worst times of my veganism,” said Sylwia.
“Then, when my friend jokingly suggested the carnivore diet, after a while I actually started considering it, because by that stage I really couldn’t eat much apart from meat, as it was the only thing that wouldn’t pass straight through me.”
Surfing the web, she discovered the meat-only idea was not as hare-brained as it sounded, after seeing that several qualified nutritionists were endorsing the dietary programme.
So, plumping for a new diet for a new year, in January 2018 the former vegan resolved to became a carnivore – and has not looked back since.
“I just feel so much better than I ever have done, even when I was eating a normal diet,” said Sylwia.
“For the people who think it might be unusual, I would say just give it a try because it may really help you feel better in yourself.”
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