In October 2015, Dan Quibell lost almost 20 pounds by eating two pounds of bacon every day. He was cooking up so much of the stuff that he was downing shots of bacon grease because he didn’t know what else to do with it. Did Dan lose a bet? Did he hope to shuffle off this mortal coil in one last blaze of bacon glory? Believe it or not, he was trying to eat healthier. And his bacon diet somehow managed to lower his blood pressure and improve his cholesterol and liver health.
If you think that sounds too good to be true, you’re not alone. Dan’s doctor was shocked that this aggressive take on a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet yielded such positive results: “She said at least five or six times ‘I don’t know what to say, except for keep doing what you’re doing.’” His pork-only program facilitated other positive changes, too. Quibell told me he “ felt mentally clear the whole time” and had the energy for longer resistance training sessions at the gym. This was a far cry from his unsuccessful attempts at plant based diets and the mornings of fruit smoothies that left him ready for a nap before noon. Clearly, he had stumbled onto an extremely unlikely diet revelation.
As Dan’s waistline shrank, his Facebook following bulged. He initially created “The Bacon Experiment” to share his progress with friends and members of the ketogenic diet community he’d met online. He says two to three hundred members were around to watch him down those shots of bacon grease (which “tasted better than I thought”) and report in on his progress. Today Dan commands an audience of 13,000-plus, many of whom post updates on their attempts to follow in his footsteps. “Bacon Man Dan” remains an active presence, conducting live Q&A sessions and cooking up bacon-infused takes on everything from holiday turkey to jalapeño poppers.
Dan hopes to parlay that social media success into something bigger. Earlier this year, he launched “Beyond the Bacon Experiment,” a 30-day dieting program where he provides ketogenic-friendly meal plans designed to induce a state of ketosis (which gets the body to burn fat instead of sugar for energy) and one-on-one coaching for $67. He eventually plans to launch a complete video-based program, which he hopes will let him turn his passion into a full-time job. With program participants losing about ten pounds on average and our collective taste for bacon not going away anytime soon, he might just have a shot.
Given that his health journey “started at kale and ended up at bacon,” Dan’s breakfast routine has undergone some radical changes in recent years. Cutting out toast and biscuits was a minor struggle, but Quibell’s longtime love of bacon kept everything in perspective as he ramped up his ketogenic diet: “once I realized I could have eight or ten pieces of bacon with my eggs, it didn’t seem so hard.” These days, breakfast itself is almost an afterthought: “I don’t wake up hungry anymore… I go half the day and casually just make my breakfast whenever I have the time.”
But Quibell’s model has some obvious drawbacks. While Dan got approval from his doctor before embarking on his bacon odyssey, registered dietitian Solai Buchanan cautions that the consequences of such a sodium-saturated diet can be dire. Not only is bacon “devoid of vitamin C and other antioxidants that reduce inflammation and risk of chronic diseases,” it can also lead to “blood pressure spikes [that] precipitate major health events such as strokes.” For a more responsible approach to experimenting with bacon, Buchanan recommends getting enough “heart-healthy minerals including calcium, potassium, and magnesium” and “adding in low-carb greens and veggies to get adequate fiber.” Dan took a magnesium supplement and got potassium chloride through a daily half teaspoon of NoSalt to avoid the symptoms that result from eating too much bacon like leg cramps and possible gout attacks. And though he says traditional belly bacon wins on taste “hands down,” half of his daily ration was composed of back bacon, a leaner cut that’s similar to ham. If you’ve ever been curious about Canadian bacon, now’s your chance.
What does a bacon guru like Dan look for in a piece of cured pork? He recommends people eat “the best stuff they can afford,” which meant local pasture-raised, non-GMO pork for his thirty day bacon bender. In the supermarket, Dan seeks out naturally-smoked (ideally hickory or applewood), antibiotic-free options with as little sugar and carbohydrates as possible. “Some have half a teaspoon of sugar in each piece, while others have almost zero in two or three pieces,” he advises. Evidently, not all bacon is created equal.
Though Quibell’s philosophy is “everything tastes better with bacon,” you’ll need to get it out of the frying pan and into the oven to become a true bacon master. For big batches, he folds thick-cut bacon (occasionally coated in black pepper to spice things up) in half on a cookie sheet and places it in an oven set to 350 degrees for 40 or 45 minutes. The wait might seem interminable to some bacon zealots, but Dan claims his tried-and-true method results in an even cook and limits the formation of the carcinogenic nitrosamines that give his favorite food a bad rep. “Once you’ve made bacon in the oven, you probably won’t pan-fry it again.” It’s a bold claim, to be sure. But if anyone is qualified to tell you how to eat bacon, it’s the man who’s had it change his life.