1. How long have you been eating a Zero Carb (No Plant Foods) diet?
I started absolute zero carb in June 2009, which makes it a little over 6 1/2 years at the time of this writing. Since then, I have not eaten anything from the plant kingdom, although I have occasionally had animal food with a small amount of spices.
2. What motivated you to try this way of eating? Weight? Health?
My decision to go ZC was purely for health reasons. I did not have any issues with my health, but I knew that many people come down with various illnesses when they become older. I looked around and saw that people grew increasingly overweight and sick as they aged, especially those over the age of 50. I figured, why not find out how to stay healthy as I grow older instead of doing the usual thing of visiting doctors in my old age for remedies. That thought started me on doing intense research. I did not start out thinking that carbohydrates were bad for me. In fact, I had no idea. However, I let my research lead me without filtering of my preconceived notions of what is healthy. That is how I eventually discovered Zero Carb.
3. How long did it take you to adapt to a Zero Carb diet, both physically and psychologically?
I would say that it took me two months to physically adapt to a high-fat zero carb way of eating. In the early stages, my body was not accustomed to the high fat. My liver and gall bladder needed time to adjust. During those early months, the number one issue that I had was loose bowel movements because my body could not handle the digestion of the increased fat. Once my body adjusted, however, it was clear sailing. As for the psychology of it, I adjusted immediately because I absolutely loved all the fatty foods that I was eating. It was amazing to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast without feeling any guilt or remorse. My whole outlook on food changed. I no longer felt that I was harming myself when eating foods that I always loved.
4. What books or people were most influential in guiding you to this way of eating?
I started this journey to zero carb by first reading about the supposed benefits of drinking raw milk. Although I no longer consume dairy products, other than butter, it was my first step toward transitioning to a high-fat, low carb way of eating. I discovered Weston Price and tried eating that way for a couple of months, but gave it up when I became severely constipated. The casein in the milk was not doing me any good.
I didn’t give up and kept reading. I came upon Gary Taubes’s book Good Calories, Bad Calories. That was an eye-opener about the dangers of carbohydrates. I never new that “healthy” grains and other plant matter were bad. I kept reading.
The big breakthrough for me was coming upon Bear’s thread on one of the low-carb forums. Here was a man who was essentially zero carb for 50 years and he was sharing his extraordinary knowledge with anyone who had an open mind and wanted to understand what he was saying. Amazing!
I would categorize the above as the research that led me to the decision to try zero carb. As for the implementation of zero carb, I give credit to Charles Washington and all the people on the former ZIOH website. I joined ZIOH in June 2009, which was toward its early days. It was an exciting time because there were several people on the website posting their daily experiences with their transition to ZC. There were veterans on that site who had been ZC for many years. I learned a lot about the ZC way of eating from all those people. And as “icing” on the ribeye, it was a lot of fun meeting fellow zero-carbers when we would get together for “meat-ups”.
5. Do you eat only meat, or do you include eggs, cheese, and cream in your diet?
I eat meat and eggs mostly, but I will include some butter when having sautéed shrimp or scallops. That’s it. I do not eat cheese, cream, or other dairy products. I’ve literally been eating ribeye steaks and burgers every day for the past 6 1/2 years, with minor exceptions of eating pemmican when I was traveling and could not get fresh meat.
6. What percentage of your diet is beef verses other types of meats?
I would say that beef is 95% of my meat consumption. Occasionally, I will eat chicken wings or pork and I eat shrimp or scallops frequently, but my mainstay is beef. The chicken wings, shrimp, and scallops are side dishes that do not account for much of my daily consumption. Sometimes I will eat pork in place of a ribeye steak, but I am never satisfied when I do so.
7. When you eat beef, do you cook it rare, medium, or well done?
I always cook it medium-rare. Having made about 2000 steaks since starting zero carb, I’ve gotten very good at cooking ribeyes exactly to my liking, which is medium-rare. I prefer using a cast iron skillet on the stovetop to grilling when making steaks. I prefer grilling for burgers.
8. Do you add extra fat to your meat? (i.e. butter, lard, tallow)
I only add butter to my side dishes, such as shrimp and scallops.
9. Do you limit your meat consumption or do you eat until satisfied?
I basically eat until I’m satisfied, but on average that means one pound of 73/27 burgers and about 3/4 pound of ribeye steak for dinner. For breakfast, I eat two poached eggs in broth.
10. Do you eat liver or other organ meats? If so, how often?
I very rarely eat organ meats. The only time that I eat liver and heart is when I bake a whole chicken. Liver, heart, and gizzards usually come with the whole chicken, so that’s when I eat it. I do not bake whole chickens often, so this is a rare occurrence.
11. Do you consume bone broth? If so, how often?
For the past year, I consumed about one cup of homemade bone broth with my poached eggs every day. I made the broth with bones and cow’s feet. Recently, after reading your post about glutamine causing some people to fall out of ketosis, I’ve adjusted the way I make broth. I no longer use cow’s feet, so my broth no longer gels up. In any case, I’m still consuming about one cup of broth a day with my eggs.
12. How many meals do you eat per day on average?
I eat twice a day. My main meal is in the late-afternoon. That’s when I eat the ribeyes and burgers. Breakfast is more of a snack, even though I never feel hunger or the need to eat more than once a day. For a few years, I ate just once a day, but I added the breakfast more because I enjoy eating a snack in the morning. I especially like the bone broth and eggs on cold winter mornings.
13. How much meat do you eat per day on average?
About 1 3/4 pounds.
14. Do you eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, or regular commercially produced meat?
I eat meat that I buy at BJ’s Wholesale club. I buy 18 pound ribeye slabs and dry-age them in my refrigerator. I use a small USB fan in the fridge to maintain airflow over the slab. I also buy 73/27 ground beef at BJ’s. I have never bought grass-finished meat.
15. Do you drink any beverages besides water? (i.e. coffee, tea)
I occasionally drink decaf coffee. I often drink non-caffeinated tea, such as robois and a Japanese tea called mugi cha (i.e., roasted barley tea, which is made by placing roasted barley husks that are in a tea bag in hot water). That’s it. I do not drink any alcohol.
16. Do you use salt?
I never add salt to my food.
17. Do you use spices?
Very rarely. At one time, I would make curry shrimp, but now I’m concerned that spices may be doing me harm because they contain many anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid and salicylates.
18. Do you take any supplements?
Generally, none at all. However, on the recommendation of my doctor, I occasionally take vitamin D. When I say occasionally, I mean once or twice a year. Other than that, I have not ingested any supplements over the past 6 1/2 years.
19. How much money do you spend on food each month?
My wife is also zero carb. Between the two of us, I would say that we’re spending about $500 a month, which includes ribeye steaks, burgers, and shrimp or scallops every day.
20. Do you have any tips for making this diet more affordable?
If I were on my own and not having to think about another’s preferences, I would eat 73/27 burgers everyday. 73/27 ground beef costs about $2.80 a pound, which means that I could eat two pounds each day for $5.60 or $168 per month. Sometimes it is possible to get ground beef on sale. To my amazement, BJ’s just yesterday had a one-day sale of 73/27 ground beef for just $2 a pound. At that price, I would be able to eat for a whole month for just $120, but such sales are rare (I’ve only seen it this one time). They must have been clearing out stock that was going to expire soon. Keep your eyes open for “manager’s specials” in the meat section. Meat that will soon hit its sell-by date is often marked down.
21. Do you exercise regularly? If so, how often and how vigorously?
No, not regularly aside from doing a set of push-ups and abdominal planks in the morning. I do not do any regular aerobic exercise, but I do walk a lot and use my bike for local errands.
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.)
The list of benefits include: easy bowel movements, steady energy level, no hunger during the day, clearer skin, a sense of well-being and calmness (i.e., better temperament), high level of alertness, leaner body with muscle definition, much improved lipid profile (e.g., my HDL went from 59 pre-ZC to 114 now; triglyceride went from 113 to 34), much fewer common illnesses (e.g., I have not had a common cold in the last 6 years).
I would add one other major benefit that is not directly related to the physiological or psychological benefits of zero carb: a different perspective about the world around me. Zero carb goes against everything that I was taught as a child. Like most kids, my parents encouraged me to eat vegetables and fruit. In school I learned about the supposed benefits of whole grains. From the government, I heard that I should eat according to the food pyramid, which now has morphed into an equally ridiculous “my plate.” I heard from “respected” nutritionists that I should avoid saturated fats, substitute animal fats with polyunsaturated oils, and try to approximate the ways of vegans.
From years of such indoctrination, I was convinced that anyone eating a fatty steak was headed for coronary hell. Despite the indoctrination, I broke through and found out for myself that it is all a big lie, whether intentional or not on the part of the indoctrinators. Now, I know with 100% certainty that zero carb is the true human way of eating. I know it not just from reading information about the appropriate way for humans to eat, but primarily because of my own personal experience.
As I mentioned, ZC gave me a different perspective on the world and one that I experienced first hand. This has led me to question other things about our culture and society that I have taken for granted in the past. For example, I have re-examined my understanding of politics, economics, and even history. It is amazing how much garbage is fed to us humans, both in terms of food and ideology. I credit zero carb for helping me to see other things more clearly.
23. What do you enjoy most about eating a Zero Carb diet?
I love the taste of the food and I love the simplicity of it. My wife and I do not have to think at all about what we are going to eat. There is no wasted time in preparing or shopping for food. Plus, I save a lot of money because I rarely eat out anymore.
24. Do you have any advice for someone who is just beginning a Zero Carb diet?
Do not give up right away if it does not seem to be working for you. It takes time for your body to adjust to a new way of eating. For example, your gall bladder may now be close to dormant if you’re eating very low fat and high carbohydrate. A fully functioning gall bladder is important for the digestion of fat, so give it time to re-establish. I’m sure there are other organs that also need time to adjust. Be patient. Although you would have to take my word for it, which is not as good as experiencing it for yourself, eating zero carb is a life-changing thing in the best way. Your future self will thank you for chucking the carbohydrates.
25. Are your friends and family supportive of your Zero Carb lifestyle? If not, how do you handle this?
My wife is supportive and is herself eating zero carb. At first, she resisted my decision, but she soon followed me down this path when she saw the great results. My friends are accustomed to my way of eating. They are neither supportive or opposed. I guess they have found a steady state of accepting that I will no longer dine with them on carbohydrates.
26. Is there anything you would like share about this way of eating that I have not already asked you?
I think that I’ve covered it all above. For me, zero carb entailed positive developments in three areas: physiological, psychological, and ideological. All three are important, but I would say that the last of the three is the most unexpected.
***Please Note: Matt Shepherd is a pseudonym, as the subject of this interview prefers to remain anonymous.
Please visit my “Interviews” page linked at the top of this website 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 us in the Facebook group “Principia Carnivora” for support.