1. How long have you been eating a Zero Carb (No Plant Foods) diet?
I took two runs at Zero-Carb eating. The first was in 2008, when I was stalled at around 190 pounds after a year on Protein Power (by Drs. Mary Dan Eades and Michael Eades). I came across the huge thread started by the Bear about his “Zero-Carb” diet on the Active Low-Carb-ers’ (ALC) forum. At first I thought he was out of his ever-loving mind, but as I kept reading I couldn’t help but feel drawn to its evolutionary logic, and its simplicity.
I figured a month without broccoli wouldn’t kill me, so I tried it. It was great – so great I did it for two months instead of one, and lost about 15 pounds while feeling wonderful.
But without any support, I really didn’t know how to approach eating this way; I was still doing diet tricks like using artificial sweeteners and skipping meals when I was hungry. After a couple of months I slid back into regular low-carb eating, and was back at 190 pounds in no time.
A year later I was desperate. I had tried every low-carb tweak I could find, from protein shakes to increasing carbs (disastrous!) to going extremely strict paleo, but I was stuck on the scale, and my health wasn’t improving either.
I knew I had to get back to Zero-Carb, so I looked around for a forum similar to ALC or Protein Power, but geared toward Zero-Carb. I found Charles Washington and Zeroing in on Health (ZIOH), and finally learned from the experience of Zero-Carb veterans how to eat meat, drink water, and relax and live life. The weight melted off, and to my great surprise, I lost my Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms almost completely, too.
So the real answer is seriously Zero Carb since September 2009, with only a couple of small wobbles since then.
2. What motivated you to try this way of eating? Weight? Health?
I’ll be honest and cop to the weight, even though my health improved even more than my figure. I’d always somehow known I was destined to be morbidly obese, and as I found out more about my birth family (I’m adopted), it became clear that my intuition was accurate. Four generations of women in my maternal line have been obese, and they’ve all had cancer, too.
The couple of times I’ve deviated from my optimal Zero-Carb diet I’ve gained weight at an alarming rate, and my joint pain skyrocketed, too. I’m not talking about pizza and cupcakes here, but things like Brussel sprouts at the holidays, or a handful of almonds or some dark chocolate – foods eagerly embraced by most low-carb-ers and paleo dieters.
3. How long did it take you to adapt to a Zero Carb diet, both physically and psychologically?
Physically almost no time at all. I never had the so-called low-carb flu, and I enjoy meat enough that I don’t miss other foods, as some people do. But I still have to remind myself occasionally that Zero-Carb is about letting my body heal in its own way, in its own time, and to stop trying to micromanage my health through dietary interventions beyond Zero-Carb (for example, by striving to hit a certain number on a ketone meter, or imposing restrictions beyond my normal Zero-Carb foods).
4. What books or people were most influential in guiding you to this way of eating?
First and foremost “The Bear” Owsley Stanley. His epic thread on ALC – and his largely unappreciated generosity in sharing his discoveries – set everything in motion for me.
And after him, of course, is Charles Washington and his ZIOH forum. That group functioned as a sort of Zero Carb boot camp, keeping me focused and less stupid during my critical first months of eating this way. I’m eternally grateful to Charles and the ZIOH veterans for teaching me how to do this right.
5. Do you eat only meat, or do you include eggs, cheese, and cream in your diet?
I have eaten meat and eggs only for months at a time, and at other times I’ve included dairy products. Dairy products keep an extra few pounds on me, and are also hell on my digestion. Unfortunately, once I start with a little bit of dairy, it takes some time and effort to wean myself back off. Butter is the one exception; it doesn’t seem to wreak havoc on my gut, or put extra body fat on me.
I also feel better if I eat fewer egg whites, so I avoid scrambled eggs and omelets. Instead, I’ll fry eggs and cut off the cooked whites, or, if I’m feeling really ambitious on a Saturday morning, I’ll make an all-yolk scramble.
6. What percentage of your diet is beef verses other types of meats?
I’ve never calculated the percentage, but I probably eat beef three or four times a week for lunch, and about two or three times a week for dinner. The rest of my dinners are roast chicken, pork chops, pork ribs, fish, and a fairly wide variety of game meats, since my husband is a hunter.
7. When you eat beef, do you cook it rare, medium, or well done?
I tend to cook it medium rare, although today I ordered a sirloin cooked rare for lunch and it arrived surprisingly bloody for a restaurant steak. It was delicious; the rarer the beef, the more tender it is.
8. Do you add extra fat to your meat? (i.e. butter, lard, tallow)
If it’s too lean for my taste, or overcooked and dry, I might put some butter on it; otherwise, no.
9. Do you limit your meat consumption or do you eat until satisfied?
I eat until satisfied, although I’ve never had the prodigious appetite that some Zero-Carb-ers boast. The last time I recorded my calories (a couple years ago), I was clocking around 1,800/day. I hear of many Zero-Carb-ers who eat closer to 3,000.
10. Do you eat liver or other organ meats? If so, how often?
I’ll eat chicken livers now and then, usually in an egg yolk scramble. I’ve tried kidneys and hated them.
11. Do you consume bone broth? If so, how often?
I like a bone broth in the winter, but I only make two or three crockpots of it a year. I like it, but I’m not in love with it.
12. How many meals do you eat per day on average?
I usually eat twice: lunch and dinner. On weekends I’ll generally eat a big breakfast – it’s family time – and skip lunch because I’m not hungry. But if I’m hungry, I eat; I don’t worry about a schedule. Once in a while that turns out to be three meals a day.
13. How much meat do you eat per day on average?
Probably a half pound at lunch, and another half to three-quarters of a pound at dinner.
14. Do you eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, or regular commercially produced meat?
I don’t go out of my way to buy 100% grass-fed meat; it’s expensive, and I’m skeptical of the grandiose health claims made for it. But I do eat the wild venison and elk that my husband brings home from his hunts. This meat certainly is closer to the omega 3:6 profile that everyone thinks is so great about fully grass-fed or pasture-raised meat. I do like pastured eggs, though, and will spend money on those. The richer flavor is worth it to me.
15. Do you drink any beverages besides water? (i.e. coffee, tea, alcohol)
Black coffee every day. Occasionally some hard clear spirits (vodka, tequila) or red wine, mixed with mineral water if I can get it.
16. Do you use salt?
Yes, to season my meat.
17. Do you use spices?
When I cook for myself, I just use salt and black pepper. When I’m cooking for me and my husband, which is more usual, I use Montreal Steak Seasoning.
18. Do you take any supplements?
I take 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 every day. I started that in 2011, when I found out about my birth family’s history of cancer. I was looking for protocols in addition to Zero-Carb that would be protective against cancer, and the research overwhelmingly suggested that living closer to equator – that is, getting more sunshine – was the most protective thing you could do. In lieu of moving away from Oregon, I started taking D3 supplements.
To my great surprise, within days, I noticed that I had no trouble breathing. Asthma was the last health issue troubling me, and no amount of dietary tweaking seemed to make any difference; I was still using my inhaler multiple times a day.
I’m positive about the correlation, too. When I was in Mexico for ten days many years ago, I didn’t need my inhaler once. At the time I was puzzled, and thought maybe it was the sea air, or the nightly tequila (not really!), but now I realize it was the huge daily dose of sunshine I was getting from lying on the beach.
19. How much money do you spend on food each month?
Hard to say. Our meat diet is quite varied, from burgers to ribeyes to game that my husband’s put in the freezer. And we eat out a few times a month; there’s a great barbecue place that’ll serve me pork ribs without sauce. We also go out for sushi (well, I go out for sashimi). So it’s hard to put a dollar amount on it. We could definitely eat just as well on less money, by being just a little more diligent about buying meat.
20. Do you have any tips for making this diet more affordable?
Ground beef is a great meat; nothing wrong with that. If you love ribeyes, get a huge ribeye roast for about $6/pound (instead of individual steaks at over $11/pound), and carve your meals off of it for a week or so.
And I often eat lunch at Jack in the Box: I just order three plain hamburger patties in a bowl. The first time you order it you they might think it’s for your dog, so make sure you ask for a fork.
I’m never afraid to shop the bargain meat bin; meat that’s close to “expired” is just fine, and being ZC has made me much less picky about what I feel like eating. I usually feel like eating meat!
21. Do you exercise regularly? If so, how often and how vigorously?
Since going Zero-Carb, I don’t work out at all. I keep intending to get back to the gym, but I just don’t have time. And honestly, although I’ve worked out for most of my adult life – yes, even when I was fat – I never really enjoyed the gym. I’d much rather go hiking instead.
The closest thing I get to exercise is walking my dogs. In the summer, the walks can be several miles, but in the winter, they’re short and fast.
22. What benefits have you experienced since beginning a Zero Carb diet? (i.e. recovery from illness, overall health, body composition, exercise performance, hormonal, mental or psychological, etc.)
Huge benefits. The most obvious is the weight loss. The first 30 pounds I lost on low-carb, the next 40 were on Zero Carb, for a total of 70 pounds of body fat gone forever. But the less obvious benefits are maybe more important.
First, I have to say that just regular grain-free low-carb resolved my depression, and I was able to wean myself off the combination of anti-depressant and anti-seizure medications I’d been prescribed and had been taking for many years (Celexa and Depakote, for the curious). So I’m very thankful for that.
The real miracle that Zero-Carb worked, however, was on my joints. I’m pretty autoimmune (allergies, asthma, joint pain, chronically high CRP, elevated ANA, positive for rheumatoid factor, and finally, according to 23andMe, genetically predisposed to several Auto-Immune diseases). I was seeing a rheumatologist for the worsening pain in my shoulders and hips – I could barely sleep at night – and it was excruciating to get up from a sitting position and to get out of bed.
The doctor was about to start the serious testing that would help him diagnose me with a specific Auto-Immune disease (probably Rheumatoid Arthritis, but as my pain was atypically located, there were other possibilities), and that would therefore let him prescribe heavy steroid medications that would slow the disease’s progress, but also put an incredible burden on my liver.
Within days of going Zero-Carb, I felt a huge reduction in my pain, along with a huge increase in mobility. I’d been worried that I was heading for life in a wheelchair, but now I know that – as long as I stay Zero-Carb – I’ll never need to worry about joint pain again (the few wobbles I’ve had on this diet sent my joint pain through the roof, so I know it’s the all-meat diet keeping everything happy).
23. Have you conceived, given birth, or breastfed while on a Zero Carb diet? If so, what was your experience?
I was 45 when I started ZC, so a bit late for that.
24. Have you raised children on a Zero Carb diet? If so, what has been their experience? How difficult is it to keep carbs out of their diet in today’s world?
I don’t have children, but I do have dogs. I feed them a raw meat diet, and the 8-year-old is one of the healthiest dogs I’ve ever seen. The 4-year-old is a recent addition to the family, and he’s adjusting to his new way of eating just fine.
25. What do you enjoy most about eating a Zero Carb diet?
I love that I hardly ever think about food anymore. It amazes me when I remember how much time I spent obsessing over my next meal – what I “felt like” eating, what to cook, how to fit in the shopping. And no more hunger and guilt! Before Zero-Carb, I always tried to under eat, and then – when I did eat a decent-sized meal – I wasted a lot of time feeling guilty afterwards.
All of that nonsense is done. I eat when I’m hungry and get on with my life.
26. Do you have any advice for someone who is just beginning a Zero Carb diet?
It’s easy to over-think Zero-Carb. We’re all trained to micromanage our diets, and it’s hard to believe you don’t have to do that anymore. New people always want to weigh, measure, count, calculate the fat-to-protein ratio, all of that.
But it really is dead simple: Eat meat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re satisfied. Go do something else until you’re hungry again, then rinse and repeat.
27. Is there anything you would like share about this way of eating that I have not already asked you?
Just that the hardest part of maintaining this way of eating, if it can be said to be hard at all, is dealing with the social aspects of being a pure carnivore. Family and friends will be concerned–this diet flies directly in the face of conventional wisdom–and some people will be offended that you’re not eating some recipe they’re proud of, or that you’re not eating a celebratory dessert with them. To avoid becoming a hermit, I’ve worked on some warm and accepting ways of dealing with such responses. The most important point for me is to not get offended myself, and to not be defensive. I remind myself that they think exactly the way I did ten years ago, and I’m no smarter or better now than I was then–I’m just experienced. And then I find a way to share their special moment (if it’s birthday cake, say) by having a cup of coffee, or I praise the way their recipe came out, and tell them I’m sorry that I can only admire it from a distance.
And I’m still learning to not get preachy when someone I care about complains about their health, and I’m convinced I know the answer to their problems. Someday it’ll sink in that they’ll have to find the right path themselves, just as I did. All I can do is try to be an example, like the ZCers who inspired me.
Rose recently (04/10/15) posted this recap of her health history in Zeroing in on Health and I thought it was worth posting ere in her interview for reference as well…
Here’s the complete sad medical history for y’all:
1. Seizures in infancy and througout childhood (“idiopathic”), taking phenobarbital until 15yo.
2. Had asthma throughout childhood (no inhalers back in the day)
3. Got fat at puberty.
4. Got depressed at puberty.
5. Multiple suicide attempts throughout adolescence.
6. Drug use (speed) and cigarette smoking throughout adolescence (13yo – 18yo)
7. Prescribed steroid inhalers at age 27 for chronic asthma
8. Prescribed anti-depressants at age 30 (I hate them, but they saved my life)
9. Clinically obese at age 33 (up from chubby)
10. Seeing rheumatologist at age 35 for joint pain (no diagnosis)
11. Prescribed Depakote at age 39
12. Start low-carb eating at 43, lose 30 pounds, ditch anti-depressant (yay!)
13. Seeing rheumatologist again at age 45 for now-crippling joint pain
1. Start zero carb eating at age 45.
2. Instant remission of joint pain (within days, people–days!)
3. Lose another 40 pounds within four months
4. Stop all inhaler usage except in multi-cat rooms (vit D helps with that, too)
5. Live life fully, enjoying every moment (that’s the big one–never did that before)
So, to recap, after two years of low carb, and six years of zero carb, I’m in the best shape of my life — my entire life! No depression, no joint pain, no breathing problems, no obesity.
Please visit my Interviews page to read the stories of other long time Zero Carb veterans.
If you are interested in meeting others who practice an All-Meat diet, please feel free to join Charles Washington in his Facebook group Zeroing in on Health or Michael Frieze in his Facebook group Principia Carnivora for guidance and support. These two groups use different approaches, so if you find that one does not suit you, please check out the other one.