My First 30 Days on Zero Carb by Sarah Muma

Sarah Muma1

I came across this way of eating quite randomly. While perusing Facebook, a friend recommended a friend to me, and – while checking out his profile – I saw that he had recently joined a group named Zeroing in on Health. The cover photo for the group is a huge bloody slab of beef, needless to say, I was intrigued and started reading through the board. Within minutes I was sold. It was an easy sell, let me explain.

After getting into health and researching various things, I came across all the information pertaining to the benefits of plant-based diets. On the surface it seemed to be the healthiest diet, I mean, everyone was saying anyway. So, after removing pretty much all processed foods from our family’s diet, we started leaning towards a plant-based diet. We spent a few years on the fence, cutting back our meat consumption drastically and upping the starch and vegetable intake.

My husband and I felt good at first. I lost the weight I had gained during my third pregnancy and my husband lost a bunch of weight too. But then things started to take a turn for the worse. The green smoothies that we were eating for breakfast and lunch were no longer satiating, no matter how much protein or fat we added to them. We started having sugar highs and lows quite noticeably and here I will mention that the cravings for sweets were ever present. Needless to say we started adding back in some animal products, like eggs and raw milk, eating meat in about 2-3 dinners per week. My husband gained back a little weight, I stayed the same, and then I found out we were expecting our fourth child.

I hired a midwife and planned for (and ultimately had) a successful home birth. The first few months of my pregnancy I craved fruit (let’s be honest, sugar) and I felt good eating all that fruit and nice hefty salads, thinking I was giving my baby the best nutrition. My body, however, started to tell me otherwise. Towards the end of  my second trimester my belly almost completely stopped growing. I was measuring 5 weeks behind where I should have been and the midwife was getting concerned. She advised that I should up my protein intake to at least 100 grams a day and handed me a reference sheet to follow listing foods and their protein content.

I was blown away when the reality of what this meant finally hit home. If I was ever going to meet those requirements for the sake of my baby’s health, I was going to have to eat a LOT of animal products. You can get protein from plant foods, but you have to consume significantly more plant foods compared to animal foods to get the same amount of protein. So, I started eating tacos with cheese, ground beef, and sour cream. I had very little room for anything else, and I was actually a bit concerned about not being able to fit in any fruits or veggies. “Surely,” I thought, “this can’t be good for me or my baby, can it?” But I trusted my midwife and followed through with her experienced recommendation.

After the first month of eating this way my tummy gained 4 centimeters and after the second month 5 centimeters, essentially catching me up to where I needed to be. This growth continued for the remainder of my pregnancy. I felt great and I consider it to be the healthiest of all my pregnancies. I walked 1-2 miles a day up until one month before I gave birth, had no migraines during this time, and had loads of energy. I also felt very confident and strong during birthing, and I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl in the comfort of my own home.

I found this all to be perplexing and started looking into the downside of plant-based diets and I found a lot of the claims about them were false and unsubstantiated. I was also in the midst of studying biochemistry for my studies to become a certified traditional Naturopath. As we came to realize that humans suffer a lot of deficiencies when they remove animal products from their diet, we started eating more meat.

However, our diet was still quite rich in carbohydrates from grains, vegetables, and fruits. While I now understood that removing animal products from our diet was a bad idea, I was not yet aware that whole plant foods might not be all that good for us. After giving birth, I also returned to my sugar addiction and was eating chocolate almost every day.

I did manage to lose the weight I had gained during my fourth pregnancy, but I was still carrying extra body fat which I could not seem to lose no matter what my activity level. Since the birth of my third child 4 years ago, I had been plagued with migraines on a monthly basis. They went away during my fourth pregnancy, but then returned soon after I gave birth.

I also started developing joint pain in my legs which extended from my hips all the way down to my shins. Some mornings I felt like I was 80 years old as I struggled to get out of bed. And since I was only 32 years old at the time, I knew that this state of affairs wasn’t normal. Admittedly, I was a huge sugar addict, and while cutting down on my total consumption did help, it didn’t eliminate the issues.

So, as I said, I came across the group Zeroing in on Health and was stunned by the information I found. I spent hours sifting through the posts, links, and files concerning this way of eating, but my intuition immediately said, “This is it!” Every question I could think of had an answer and all the answers made sense based on what I had come to learn. Despite having two weeks worth of produce for the entire family in our refrigerator, we decided to start a Zero Carb diet immediately.

Sarah Muma2

Sarah and her husband Tony.

We have been eating two big meals a day. One at brunch time and another in the late evening. Sometimes we snack lightly in between depending on what’s going on, but by the end of our first 30 days our need to snack had lessened quite a bit. When we began, we included regular green tea, but after the first week had no real desire for it. I also lost my desire for the decaf green tea I was in the habit of drinking. Honestly, water has never tasted so good; it is the only beverage that feels truly satisfying.

We eat predominantly beef (ground and steak), but we also include chicken, pork, bacon, sausage, pork rinds, eggs, hard cheese, string cheese and cottage cheese (for our children), sour cream, and butter. We have bone broth on occasion, and we use some basic seasonings like salt and pepper. During the first week I ate quite a bit of cheese, but now I only eat it on beef patties.

I did have some small cravings in the beginning and we did slip up once during our first 30 days. It was my son’s birthday 2 weeks in and we had promised that – despite the drastic shift in our diet – we would still do what we planned for his birthday party. This meant cake and ice cream. We each had about four bites of cake and ice cream. We were curious to see how our bodies would respond. As soon as that sugar hit our systems, we were utterly miserable for the next 24 hours. Bloated, crampy, fatigued, and just overall horrible. Needless to say, I’m no longer a sugar addict. Even my children voiced regrets the next day, and my 4 year old – who had been asking for cookies the entire week before – stopping asking for sweets.

The changes we have experienced from this way of eating were immediately apparent. On the very first day, we noticed that we could eat to satiety without feeling lethargic and bloated. On the morning of the second day, both my husband and I noticed that our bellies were already slimmer. I did suffer some “keto-flu” symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and a migraine. I was pretty miserable on days 3 and 4. In contrast, my husband’s transition was relatively painless.

After that, I went through a week or two of extremely ravenous hunger. I couldn’t believe the amount of food I was putting away at each meal! My appetite has calmed down now, though I am still hungrier on some days than on others. I always eat to satiety.

I’m currently breastfeeding my 15 month old, and I noticed that within the first week my milk supply had increased significantly. I no longer needed all the milk-promoting herbal tea I had been consuming to help my body keep up with her appetite. I have observed that eating fatty steak seems to increase my milk supply more than another other type of meat or Zero Carb foods like eggs and cheese. She is also much less fussy because she no longer suffers from gas pains and colic.

My husband has very sensitive teeth and, within a week of eating just meat and drinking only water, he noticed that they no longer hurt. He’s also struggled with his feet for quite awhile. He use to work 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week, on his feet, wearing steel toe boots. His feet were covered in dry skin, corns, and he had cracked heels. After 30 days of eating this way, the bottoms of his feet are almost entirely pink. The dry skin is practically falling off. They’re healing and this is really exciting because we’ve tried everything we could think of over the past 10 years with no success.

My oldest daughter has had eczema since she was a baby, and it has completely cleared up. Additionally, both of my teenagers have a much calmer disposition. They have taken to this way of eating really well and have stated that they are enjoying it. My 4 year old daughter was the biggest carbohydrate addict of our four children, and she really struggled at first. But, we made a big effort to provide whatever Zero Carb foods she desired, and she made it through the difficult transition period and is now doing well.

The joint pain I used to experience during the night is gone and I am able to spring out of bed once again. I have less trouble getting to sleep, I sleep more soundly, and I need less sleep to feel good. Overall, I have more energy than before.

I use to suffer from food boredom, always looking for the next new recipe to try. I hated eating the same thing night after night. To my pleasant surprise, this way of eating has entirely conquered that issue. I have no qualms about eating beef – and only beef – every night of the week. No more extensive meal planning or grocery shopping. It’s all so incredibly simple.

Not only are we feeling great and experiencing these many improvements in our health, we’re also losing body fat. Eating only from the animal kingdom, drinking only water, and watching Netflix is causing our bodies to undergo a rather fascinating transformation. We live in Michigan and the temperatures are just recently coming up above freezing (in mid-April). My husband and I both work from home, and we live in a small town on a tight budget. Needless to say, we have not had much exercise at all during this past month.

In 30 days, I lost a total of 2 pounds. I know this does not sound like much, but I lost 5% of my body fat, 4 inches off of my waist, and 2 inches off of my hips. Clearly, the scale does not tell the whole story. Below is a picture of me “before” starting Zero Carb and then me 30 days “after” starting Zero Carb.

Sarah Muma - First30

My husband actually gained 5 pounds, but he lost almost 6% of his body fat, as well as 2 inches off of his waist.

The most important aspect though is that there is healing going on. We can see it and we can feel it. My husband and I have been so impressed with the changes we have experienced during our 30-day Zero Carb “trial” that we have no intention of ever going back. It has become a way of life for us and our children.

Please visit my Testimonials page to read the stories of others following a Zero Carb diet.

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.

 

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Zero Carb Interview: Kelly Williams Hogan

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Kelly with her very healthy – almost Zero Carb – son and daughter.

1. How long have you been eating a Zero Carb (No Plant Foods) diet?

I began a very low carb diet a little over ten years ago, but I switched to a NO carb diet in 2009.  So, for about five and a half years, I have only eaten from the animal kingdom.

2. What motivated you to try this way of eating? Weight? Health?

I originally started eating a low carb diet, because I was obese and my doctor said that I needed to lose at least 100 pounds. After five years on a low-carb diet, I realized that I felt better when my carb intake was at its lowest. I was also growing weary of constantly trying to satisfy my sweet-tooth and having to workout two hours per day just to maintain my weight-loss on a low-carb diet. I was hungry and tired, and I also knew that climbing the “carb ladder” always resulted in weight-gain for me. So, I started reading about the possibilities of eating a Zero Carb diet. I found an online forum of Zero Carb-ers who all seemed quite healthy and claimed to have no more cravings and were able to stay fit without working themselves to death in the gym. I was intrigued and decided to try it out for myself.

3. How long did it take you to adapt to a Zero Carb diet, both physically and psychologically?

I had already been eating a very low carb diet for five years, so it wasn’t a major change to drop those last 10-20 carbs per day. It was a challenge in social situations, because those last 10 carbs can certainly help you fit in at a party! But otherwise, I was very ready to abandon the low-carb “franken” foods and just stick to my favorite foods: steak, burgers, bacon, roasts, etc. (Note: For more detail on Kelly’s experience moving from low car to Zero Carb, please read her blog post: Three Reasons Zero Carb is Easier than Low Carb.)

4. What books or people were most influential in guiding you to this way of eating?

I read quite a bit of Stefansson’s writings. But I mostly read journals of fellow Zero Carb-ers and learned from their experiences.

5. Do you eat only meat, or do you include eggs, cheese, and cream in your diet?

First, let me explain that I am not currently trying to lose weight.  I’ve been within about 5 pounds of my current weight for many months now and am quite happy at this weight. So, I am not at “strict” as I was when I was wanting to lose weight. For most of my last 5 years, I ate only meat and drank only water. But currently, I drink about 1-2 ounces of cream per day. I very rarely have any cheese. And I usually have some eggs at least once per week. The rest is all meat. If I were still trying to lose weight, I would return to just meat and water. Works every time.

Kelly on her Wedding Day before beginning her low-to-no carb lifestyle

Kelly on her Wedding Day before beginning her low-to-no carb lifestyle.

6. What percentage of your diet is beef verses other types of meats?
I’m guessing that I eat about 85% beef. The remaining 15% is bacon and chicken wings. I only eat other meats if I’m being offered something different, such as when my mother-in-law fixes pork chops or chicken thighs. I certainly take her up on those offers, but those are rare occasions. By and large, I eat beef.

7. When you eat beef, do you cook it rare, medium, or well done?

I’m not picky, as long as there is some pink in it. I like my beef anywhere from medium to rare. It is truly a taste preference, not necessarily because of its nutritional value.

8. Do you add extra fat to your meat? (i.e. butter, lard, tallow)

I add a lot of bacon grease when I eat burgers. I don’t add anything to steak, unless it is a VERY lean cut.  In which case, I enjoy some butter, tallow, or bacon grease. Or even some blue cheese crumbles. I definitely enjoy the extra fat on my burgers, though, which my husband fixes on the grill. Burgers with several spoonfuls of bacon fat is a daily staple for me.

9. Do you limit your meat consumption or do you eat until satisfied?

As I have gotten closer to my desired weight, I have had to become very careful to not over-eat. I have a huge appetite and have a hard time recognizing when I’m full. Granted even if I overeat often, I tend to stay just 5-10 pounds heavier than I am now. But if I want to stay at my current weight, I have to make sure that I stop when I’m merely satisfied, rather than eating until I’m “stuffed.” I don’t go around hungry, but I also try to stop eating when I’m reasonably full. (Please note: Kelly actually gained 20 lbs. during her first six months on Zero Carb. Please read her blog post When Lowering Carbs Causes Weight Gain for more details.)

How Kelly looks today at her current weight.

Kelly today at her current weight.

10. Do you eat liver or other organ meats? If so, how often?

I don’t.

11. Do you consume bone broth? If so, how often?

I don’t. I would if someone fixed it and offered it, but since that never happens, I never have any.

12. How many meals do you eat per day on average?

I usually eat three times per day. Plenty of Zero Carb-ers eat only 1-2 times per day, but I enjoy eating when my family eats. I don’t mind having three smaller meals versus one or two larger ones.

13. How much meat do you eat per day on average?

I currently eat about a pound of ground beef, several (4-6?) thick slices of bacon, and several spoonfuls of bacon grease. But that amount has varied tremendously throughout my ZC journey. I previously ate about 3 pounds per day for quite some time. And I definitely had long periods where two pounds of meat per day served me well. But I currently am enjoying bacon, bacon drippings, and about one pound of beef per day.

14. Do you eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, or regular commercially produced meat?

I eat whatever is cheaper, which is almost always commercially-produced, grain-finished beef.  I have tried eating grass-fed beef, but can’t tell that I feel any difference eating one over the other. The cost difference is pretty considerable, though, so I just buy what is most convenient and affordable.

Kelly creating fun memories with her children.

Kelly creating fun memories with her children.

15. Do you drink any beverages besides water? (i.e. coffee, tea)

I drink decaf coffee. And until about ten days ago, I drank plenty of regular coffee as well. I love seltzer water and occasionally drink unsweetened tea. I mostly drank plain water while I was trying to lose weight, but I’m a little more lenient with myself these days. I can’t tell that I have any issues or cravings with these extra additions. But if weight became an issue again, I would immediately return to plain water.

16. Do you use salt?

Yes, I do now. I ate completely unseasoned meat for several months and found that I felt no different using salt versus not. But I certainly preferred the taste when I added salt, so I added it back into my diet with no problems.

17. Do you use spices?

Pepper, sometimes. And occasionally my in-laws will use garlic and some spices when they have my family over for dinner. Those don’t bother me, but I really prefer the taste of just salted meat.

18. Do you take any supplements?

No.

19. How much money do you spend on food each month?

I have two hungry kids and a husband that is not Zero Carb.  So…I have no idea. I pay about $5/pound for my meat and eat about a pound per day, plus bacon. So, maybe $7 per day for just my own food.

20. Do you have any tips for making this diet more affordable?

Raise your own cattle 🙂 Ground beef is quite cheap, which is why I eat so many burgers, rather than ribeyes all day long. But seriously, once I eliminated all sodas, “sides”, supplements, deserts, etc, eating all meat is quite cheap!

21. Do you exercise regularly? If so, how often and how vigorously?

No, I do not “exercise.” I do move when moving feels good, which usually means playing on a playground with my kids or taking a casual family walk around the neighborhood. I avoid sweating, and I make no efforts to “burn calories.” I find that I stay at a lower weight just as easily without exercise, as long as I avoid all carbs.

Kelly enjoying her ability to exercise comfortably.

Kelly enjoying her ability to be physically active when desired.

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.)

Prior to eating a zero-carb diet, I had no menstrual cycle for years, and now I am quite regular. I also had horrible leg cramps at night, as well as brain fog, high blood sugar, a tendency to catch strep-throat (and other common illnesses), and a history of staph infections. All of that is completely resolved. I regained fertility, birthed two healthy children, sleep well through the night, and almost never get sick at all.  My energy level is much higher now and my moods are far more stable and positive. I feel good and stay healthy.

23. Have you conceived, given birth, or breastfed while on a Zero Carb diet? If so, what was your experience?

I conceived, carried, birthed, and breastfed both of my babies while on a zero-carb diet.  I had no morning sickness with either child. I was also back to my pre-children weight very quickly after having them. My kids are both healthy and quite intelligent (If I do say so myself!). If I am blessed with more children, i wouldn’t think twice about eating a zero-carb diet during my pregnancy. In fact, I wouldn’t do it any other way! (Note: For more information about Kelly’s Zero Carb pregnancies read her blog post: Should I Eat Zero Carb While Pregnant?)

Kelly during one of her Zero Carb pregnancies

Kelly during one of her Zero Carb pregnancies.

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?

My children aren’t quite zero-carb, but they eat a very low-carb diet. They eat mostly meat, eggs, and cheese, but also have some low-carb vegetables and some granny-smith apples as a treat.  Keeping grains, sugars, starches, and “junk” away from kids is hard. Really hard. But at age three, my daughter wouldn’t take bread or candy if you offered it to her.  She politely says “no thanks” and can fluently explain that sugar and bread would make her feel sick. My kids have never tasted a piece of bread, a cracker, a piece of candy, or even a sweet piece of fruit, such as pineapple. They’ve never had a cookie. They have no sweet tooth at all and eat meat and vegetables quite happily!  They are wonderful eaters and LOVE their low-carb meals. They get excited for every single meal! They don’t feel deprived in the least. (Note: For more information on raising children on low-to-no carbohydrates, please read Kelly’s blod post: Keeping Our Kids Off the Sugar Teet.)

Addendum: Kelly posted this comment in the Facebook Group Zeroing in on Health on March 7, 2015… “Even though my kids do not eat any grains, sweets, or starches, I did allow them to have a small amount of fruit in the morning – mostly Granny Smith apples, honeydew melon, watermelon, and cantaloupe. They ate their fruit along with their eggs, bacon, and sausage. Both of them have experienced mild skin eczema since they were babies. Their dermatologist said this was very common in young child with fair skin. Following L. Amber Wolcox-O’Hearn’s lead, I decided to remove most all of the fruit from my children’s diet. Suddenly, the eczema is completely gone. Seriously! Their skin is perfect for the first time since they were infants. They haven’t missed the fruit or even asked for it, and I certainly haven’t missed hearing them complain of itchy skin.”

Kelly's son enjoying a Zero Carb meal

Kelly’s son enjoying a Zero Carb meal.

25. What do you enjoy most about eating a Zero Carb diet?

It’s simple. I like thinking of my food as fuel, rather than obsessing over getting “treats” each day. I love how I feel, too. I have energy and yet, I’m not an emotional basket-case.  I’m calm and have a very even temperament now. I also love that I don’t have to count calories, starve myself, or workout at the gym to fit into skinny jeans.

26. Do you have any advice for someone who is just beginning a Zero Carb diet?

Keep it simple. Eat meat when you’re hungery. Eat fatty meats when it tastes good to you. Eat leaner meats when that tastes good to you. Eat when you’re hungry, and do something else when you’re not. Drink water when you’re thirsty and don’t force it down when you’re not. Think like a lion who happily eats an antelope every day without being bored by it. Food is fuel, not entertainment. If you give your body the proper fuel, you stay out of the way and allow it to function properly.

27. Is there anything you would like share about this way of eating that I have not already asked you?

No, but I thank you so much for the opportunity to share!

(Note: If you are interested in following Kelly’s ongoing Zero Carb journey, you can do so through her blog My Zero Carb Life.)

The Daily Mail recently published an article on Kelly: North Carolina Woman Who Couldn’t Fall Pregnant Reversed Her Infertility.

Kelly spending quality time with her children.

Kelly spending quality time with her children.

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.