1. How long have you been eating a Zero Carb (No Plant Foods) diet?
About a year and a half.
2. What motivated you to try this way of eating? Weight? Health?
When I went carnivore, I had already been paleo for nearly 5 years, and so I had lost a lot of weight and eliminated a page-long list of health issues. But I started getting concerned because I was putting the belly fat back on again. And I was developing “little” problems – such as, swelling around my ankles. At that point, I eliminated all the high-sugar “paleo-friendly” vegetables, like eggplant, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and based my diet on meat, lower-sugar/low-starch cooked greens (collard, turnip, mustard, lambsquarters), eggs and nuts. (I had already dropped fruit a couple of years into paleo, so that wasn’t part of the problem.) And guess what happened… nothing. The belly fat just had no intention of budging.
Alarmed, I googled: ‘low carb, not losing weight’, and came across a blog called My Zero Carb Life. Ironically, it was Kelly’s post about how she GAINED weight when she first went zero carb, haha. But still, that phrase “eat meat, drink water” really engaged my attention. I started to investigate the online info, and in less than 6 weeks, I made my decision. And guess what. The belly fat is only now starting to come off, and only slowly at that. But my original motivation doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I have an abiding trust now that my body will balance and regulate itself at its own time and its own pace. And you know what else. I have not once– even for a moment– regretted the decision I made to become a carnivore.
3. How long did it take you to adapt to a Zero Carb diet, both physically and psychologically?
I didn’t have any noticeable psychological or emotional issues with the transition. From my first day as a “meataritarian”, I knew it was right for me. I loved how calm and natural I felt on the “zero sugar” way of eating. By the third day, l was explaining to friends that I felt “like I finally came home to my own body.” I vaguely missed pecans a little (great big pecan tree in the yard), especially when I would look at them–but I didn’t have any real craving.
Physically, it’s a lot harder to say. The worst part was probably the first month, and that was the frequent diarrhea. But in some respects, I think the adaptation took most of my first year. That may have something to do with my age. Or with, see below…the great coffee debacle.
4. What books or people were most influential in guiding you to this way of eating?
5. Do you eat only meat, or do you include eggs, cheese, and cream in your diet?
I don’t tolerate dairy well, not even goat’s milk products. But even if I did, I would avoid them because, for me, it’s quite an addictive food.
Eggs, I do sometimes eat, even though I’m not crazy about them, because I can get free-range eggs for $2 or less a dozen direct from the farmer. But I don’t drop my guard with them because a hen egg has a 1/4 gram of sugar.
6. What percentage of your diet is beef versus other types of meats?
It depends. When I’m in rural north Alabama–my preferred home base–venison dominates during the fall and winter. Otherwise, beef is my mainstay.
7. When you eat beef, do you cook it rare, medium, or well done?
My staple is raw, frozen hamburger patties. If I eat out, I order my steak, liver, prime rib, etc rare. If I cook beef myself, it usually ends up well done. The truth is, I’m happy with it anywhere along the spectrum from raw to burnt.
8. Do you add extra fat to your meat? (i.e. butter, lard, tallow)
I use a little duck or beef tallow, or lard, when I cook or reheat meat in the skillet. But, no, I don’t garnish my cooked meat with an extra dollop of fat, if that’s what you’re asking.
9. Do you limit your meat consumption or do you eat until satisfied?
As much as I want.
Whenever I want.
10. Do you eat liver or other organ meats? If so, how often?
Yeah. I eat liver, heart, tongue, stomach, fried tripas (known in the south as chit’lins, y’all–pork gut). (And when I’m lucky enough to be in Mexico and have my own cooking capabilities, I also eat rinones de res — beef kidneys. When I was staying in Cd Cuauhtemoc, Chih, I could get them cheap, any day of the week, right there at the supermarket.) And I love marrow; some people count that as organ meat. And chicharrones (fried pig skins). I eat any of the above organ meats whenever I get the inclination, but I don’t keep track of the frequency. I just trust that when I feel the desire to eat any of these foods, it’s a signal that my body needs it at that particular time.
11. Do you consume bone broth? If so, how often?
Ummm. I do enjoy sipping a cup of hot stock on a chilly morning. So yeah, pretty often in the cooler months.
12. How many meals do you eat per day on average?
Uh…I don’t really know how to answer that. I’m retired, so I’m on nobody’s schedule but my own. Right now, I live alone, with a cat or two, so I don’t normally sit down to a meal. I just eat when I feel like it–grab a frozen patty in one hand and go on about my business with the other. Next time I think about eating, I’ll grab another patty or two, or fry up a skillet of carne picada (yummy little pieces of beef). I just don’t pay much attention to how much and how often.
13. How much meat do you eat per day on average?
Not entirely sure. I guess a little under 2 lbs.
14. Do you eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, or regular commercially produced meat?
I like the taste of grassfed hamburger meat and make that as big of a percentage of my total meat as I can. Beyond grass-fed, grain-free, or pastured, though, I would eat only wild meat if it was practical. But it’s not always possible.
15. Do you drink any beverages besides water? (i.e. coffee, tea)
I once adored coffee: bold, black, bitter coffee. I had been off of it for five years, but my newly meatatarian body was functioning so efficiently…that I got a little too cocky and boldly walked right back into my former addiction. My body went into a tailspin then, and it took me months of floundering around (experimenting with things like intermittent fasting) in my misguided attempts to correct all the residual health problems I had caused myself.
As you may have guessed from my answer to question 2, I have a tendency toward severe non-diabetic insulin resistance. I found out the hard way that coffee triggers insulin resistance, and the less sugar you consume, the greater the impact! Something to think about if you have ever had symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
Look, some people apparently can drink coffee with impunity; I’m not one of them.
Bottom line that I learned from all this: eat meat, drink water, relax. Really, relax. Quit trying to tweak your way out of your mistakes; your meatatarian body is a lot smarter about itself than your intellect is, so just give it meat, get out of its way, and let it figure out the rest by itself.
My ‘coffee substitute’ is artemisia vulgaris (aka – mugwort, sweat lodge tea, river sage, etc). It’s one of the first weeds to come up in the early spring. And it’s bitter enough to keep me happy.
In the summer, I also like to plop a cone or two of staghorn sumac berries into a gallon of cool water, leave it overnight. They turn the water pink and give it a sour, lemony taste.
16. Do you use salt?
As much as I want – usually Himalayan pink.
17. Do you use spices?
Occasionally pepper. And I sometimes like to put rosemary in my meat and bone stocks. But I can take ’em or leave ’em.
18. Do you take any supplements?
No. I understand that some carnivores use mineral supplements to treat leg cramps, so I’d like to share what I learned about that.
When I first went carnivore, the leg cramps that had plagued me the whole time I was paleo…stopped!
The great coffee crash episode brought them back to me.
And I learned to banish them with acupressure. Especially effective is the point in the middle between the nose and the upper lip. Pinch that groove and hold it. The pain will almost always disappear in 30 seconds or less.
For the long term solution, I treated that one point on the face and another one on the foot (just short of where the bone of the big toe and the one beside it meet) with firm pressure for 30-60 seconds, once or twice a day, for a week or so, and the leg cramps quit bothering me.
19. How much money do you spend on food each month?
Less than I used to spend on paleo!! About $300-325, I think.
20. Do you have any tips for making this diet more affordable?
I buy my salt in bulk from the San Francisco Salt Co.Great price, free shipping and nice customer service.
If you happen to live in an area where hunting is popular, I recommend that you stop in during the fall at your nearest gamemeat processor. Ask if they keep a list of people who’d like to buy unclaimed and donated game meat, and get your name and contact info on the list. They can legally sell wild meat to you for what it costs them to process it. In north Alabama, I get venison for $2 a pound, and sometimes get stock bones for free or next to it. Also, if you are an organ meat eater, you may be able to get these items there as well.
Now, the rest of this answer below might seem slightly off-topic, or worse, ~radical~ to the ears (eyes) of some readers, and so I won’t be offended if you skip on down to number 21… in case radicality alarms you.
If you don’t already know how, I’d like to suggest trying to learn as much you can about hunting, fishing, and foraging (earthworms, grubs, black soldier fly larvae, sow bugs, etc). Nothing wrong with small and slow. If nothing else, get a book on tracking and go out to the woods and prowl around looking for tracks and sign. Or go to the lake and relax in the shade and watch someone else fish. Start somewhere, anywhere.
Sisters and brothers, this isn’t just about giving your budget a boost. It isn’t just about Survival 101. It is a spiritual lifeline to the wild and all its abundance. Nature’s benevolence intrudes even into the heart of the city, even now. Especially for those of us who’ve made the most environmentally responsible decision anyone can make— that is to walk away from the produce of the cultivated fields, the earth-rape that’s been going on since the rise of civilization. Look around you with your eyes open. The wild gives bountifully.
Look, y’all, I’m no Big Chingon great white hunter. I’m a 65 year-old, female, non-athlete. The sacred connection with the wild is open to all: urban/rural, young/old, male/female, able-bodied or not. Tyr, the ancient Norse spirit of the hunt, was said to be maimed, one-handed; think about that.
No, I’m nobody’s idea of the Big Chigon; I hunt grasshoppers. The act of killing and eating a gentle-eyed little wild being with my own hands is among the most sacred and moving experiences I’ve ever known. It’s the point where grief and gratitude become one feeling–the very Eucharist experience I imagined I was supposed to have as a child, but never quite found it there. Here is my body which is broken so that you may have life….
It’s my personal initiation into the bond of honor between the hunter and the prey: the prey offers up its own precious and well-loved little life so that the hunter may continue to live. The hunter provides for and defends the community that the prey was a part of during its life.
It’s also where I discovered that the identifying attributes of the spirit of Tyr–courage, compassion and self-sacrifice–are shared equally by both hunter and prey.
So be it.
21. Do you exercise regularly? If so, how often?
Not in the formal sense people usually mean when they say that. I feel great, my energy level is high, my stamina is steady, I love life. What does that equal for me? A lot of time outdoors, both working and playing. I also do a lot of activities by hand (like, wash & wring out my clothes, hang ’em out to dry, haul up to 5-gallon buckets of water by hand, wash dishes in the sink, wield a swing blade, etc) Things that people with a mainstream lifestyle usually do in automated mode. You know, the way I see it, people who feel full of life don’t have to be told to go buy a gym membership… For someone who enjoys gym exercise, or (of course!) for an athlete in training, by all means, let there be gyms! If not, I think a person learning to live healthy should just try to avoid too much uninterrupted sitting–continue to eat meat and drink water–and before they know it, they’ll naturally become active, simply from their abundant energy. But just because the dominant culture says you’re “supposed to” do it is no true Rx for health or happiness or weight loss. That’s my take on it.
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.)
My lifelong sensitivity to petrochemical fumes (colognes, paints, solvents, carpet glues, gasoline, etc) doesn’t KO me like it used to. And that is one thing paleo didn’t help me with at all.
I feel strong in who I am now in ways that I never did before.
My ‘narrative voice’ in creative writing is not nearly as flowery (sugary, shall we say, my friends?). It has naturally taken on a much more direct style of expression since I became zero carb.
23. What do you enjoy most about eating a Zero Carb diet?
Others have mentioned the simplicity, the liberation from prior routines, the mental clarity, the more focused ideological perspective. Yes, yes. All of the above.
But I think for me what matters most is the still, quiet pride — the self-respect — that comes from facing life like an alert and calm warrior, without needing any cushion of carbohydrate addiction to soften the blows.
24. Do you have any advice for someone who is just beginning a Zero Carb diet?
There is no authority over your body higher than your body itself. No expert, institution, community, authority figure or goverment has the right to tell you what to put in your mouth if it contradicts the experience of your own body. Find out for yourself what works for you, and be honest with yourself about it. Then relax. Everything will be all right.
25. Are your friends and family supportive of your Zero Carb lifestyle? If not, how do you handle this?
They are, in general. For one thing, I’m Medicare age, I use no drugs–prescription, over the counter or street. Nor any supplements, and I seldom have any reason to even use herbal weeds to cure anything. I’m strong, I feel great, I look great. There’s not much they can say.
Besides, they really don’t want to get me started talking about how the amount of carbon released into the air from the time of the first plow until the beginning of the industrial age is equal to the amount released from the beginning of the industrial age until the present. Therefore, agriculture alone would have eventually brought our beloved and only home to the brink of utter disaster without the help of modern technology, so why the duck are YOU still complicit in the rape of the earth and the extinction of the wild at a rate of at least 200 species every ducking day? Why aren’t YOU a carnivore? Don’t you care? Do you want your grandchildren — not to speak of your one and only precious body — to bless your decisions? Or to curse them?
But I do sometimes happily engage with non-family and friends about zero carb, so if you find it necessary to do so, I’d suggest arming yourself with Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth. She’s an entertaining writer, and a powerful voice of reason.
If nothing else, you can hold the line with a firm but quiet little stand: “this is my body, and the decision about what goes into or out of my mouth is not for anybody else to make. End of discussion.”
Self-rule, baby, self-rule!
And if you like engaging them– or even if you don’t like it, but feel that you must — just remember, you’ve already taken the high ground. You’re the one with the mental clarity, the physical and psychological stamina and, yes, the emotional strength to have compassion on those who are still trapped where you once stood. But don’t expect anyone else to change just because they have watched your health blossom, or because you can defend your position well.
You are a threat to them. And they will try their best to re-addict you to carbs, lying to themselves that it’s out of “love and concern” for you. Even if you don’t argue with them about zero carb, you are still living proof that a person really can break free from a 10,000-year-old chain of socially-acceptable human addiction. And no matter what direct evidence they see that they too can be free, that they don’t have to continue to endure brain fog, fatigue, depression, anxiety, mental illness and disease, few of them are going to want to accept the responsibility that goes with acknowledging that it truly CAN be done. And that those who do it, thrive. Shrug your shoulders and move on — addictIon is addiction, and their choice to remain addicted is their choice. You are free. It may not be easy, and it may sometimes be lonely, but the way I see it, there is nothing more precious than personal freedom, and all the self-honesty and integrity that it takes to achieve and maintain it.
26. Is there anything you would like share about this way of eating that I have not already asked you?
Oh dear….I certainly could go on and on, but I’ve probably written quite enough already. What I have expressed here comes from my own heart, my own passions, my own opinions and my own experience, and I take full responsibility for every word. It does not necessarily reflect the ideology or thoughts of the blogger who interviewed me. It does not express the words of any medical or health professional living or dead and may not be taken as such.
I would just like to add that there’s a lot of wisdom available for everyone through Esmee and the rest of the zero carb online community. As for me, I’m no expert on anything other than my own experience, but I will say that if anyone wants to discuss further anything I’ve mentioned here — or to challenge it — do feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not to sound arrogant or anything, but vegans, you are also welcome to engage; I don’t care if you want to vent your venom against my choices. Rest assured, you will be neither the first nor the last in line.
May all the rest of you enjoy your carnivore adventure and become even more strong and ever more free.
And, Esmee, thank you so much for all you do for all of us.
Please visit my “Interviews” and “Testimonials” pages linked at the top of this website to read the stories of other short and long term Zero Carbers.
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.