Zero Carb Interview: Elaine Anderson

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?

This website.

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.
With gratitude.

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?

Everything.

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 ela95126@gmail.com. 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.

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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.

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Zero Carb Testimonial: Peg

Raw Ground Beef & Raw Suet

Hello Esmee,

Reading through the testimonials on your blog helped me a great deal when I decided to take the plunge into zero carb eating and, if you are open to it, I would like to share my experience thus far with your readers as there are some aspects that are quite different from other people’s experience and may help others going through similar issues as me.

I prefer to remain anonymous so no photos. You can call me Peg.

Some background:

I have chronic fatigue, and have been struggling with it for over two years (self-diagnosed; I have never been to a doctor as I didn’t believe they would be able to help me–and I can’t afford it!). It started with a complete digestive system crash and the sudden onset of a lot of food intolerances.

Basically it went like this: In the winter of 2014 I was 220 pounds (I am a 5’8” woman in my late 30s) and decided I needed to improve my health and physical fitness. I cut out sugar, processed foods, caffeine (except green tea), grains and beans and lost 30 pounds throughout the spring. In the summer I started doing bodyweight exercises and moved into weight training by fall. I had dropped 70 pounds total, gained muscle I never had before and basically felt the best I ever had in my life.

After I started seriously weight training I got cocky about my progress and robust health and returned to eating some of the things I had previously given up, telling myself that it was ok, I would just work it off in the gym. It started with ice cream a couple times a week and moved into bread, cookies, pie, cake and other treats. For brevity; over the winter I began to experience more and more fatigue and frequent bouts of constipation and bloating (that became so extreme I looked three months pregnant!). I wrote this all off as the effects of winter, being cold, less sun, etc. and wouldn’t even have noticed a pattern to it all if I hadn’t been journaling my workouts and day-to-day feelings at the time (and even then, I only recognized the pattern when I re-read them months later).

In February, after a family celebration where I said “screw it” and ate whatever I wanted because I was feeling pretty crappy already (bloated, constipated, run-down) my entire digestive system crashed. I will omit the details for brevity sake, but suffice it to say, I was suddenly struck with major food intolerances and had an extremely limited diet for quite a few weeks until I was able to have a somewhat-less-limited diet that has subsequently remained pretty limited these past 2+ years.

I had to sleep early at night and nap during the day. My mind was foggy and unclear most of the time. I lost all the muscle I had build up as any exertion at all exhausted me for days. Over the past couple of years I have gone through waves of improvement and then crashes. I took supplements, herbs, teas and amino acids by the boatload. With all the supplements I wound up feeling good this past winter (it is early May as I write this) and got cocky again and thought I could eat sweets. I crashed badly and set myself all the way back to the beginning, giving me a really bad summer and a difficult winter struggling to pull myself back out of the pit of fatigue and weakness.

In late January I decided I would reset my digestive system by fasting, which turned into a fresh juice fast for 2 weeks (because my body simply couldn’t tolerate having no food at all). It helped considerably and I started feeling better but started to experience some extreme hunger so started eating again. I tried to add food back slowly but soon found myself overeating and consuming around 3000-4000 calories a day. And my digestion was failing again.

By early March I had learned about low carb high fat and started adjusting my diet to cut back on the sugar I was consuming with all the fruit/juice. I ate mostly ground turkey, eggs, cheese (I hadn’t been able to digest beef well for months), chicken fat and skin, bacon and bacon fat, coconut oil and salad greens with occasional small amounts of fruit. I realized the fruit was making me hungrier and causing me to overeat so I did more research and came across some information on zero carb and found Amber O’Hearn’s and Esmee’s blogs, and was especially impressed by the Anderson family (I had to find it using the Wayback Machine!) and Kelly Hogan’s blog. The information I learned in the stories I read struck a chord in me and I knew this is what I needed to do.

Zero carb journey

In the beginning:

When I started a month and a half ago I decided to cut out anything that was not from the animal kingdom (so no more coconut oil). I ate chicken thighs, bacon, rotisserie turkey, ground turkey with chicken or bacon fat pork tenderloin, steak, and a lot of eggs. For fats I ate chicken fat, tallow, bacon fat and ghee. I tried eating cheese for the first couple of days but realized it made me feel more hungry and was screwing with my digestive system and creating mucus (I was so sad!). After about a week I also cut out eggs because I believed they were making me more hungry and giving me a tendency to overeat. I feel better without them (though I miss them sometimes) and I was right; they were making me overeat for some reason.

As time went on I tried to focus on eating more beef. I came to realize that I digest it better when it is not well done and came to enjoy it quite a bit. I was eating mostly cheap steaks and 70% ground beef patties cooked rare and juicy in bacon fat. In fact, after a couple of weeks I started to feel like I was eating the best thing I ever ate every time I had beef! I was still experiencing loose stools and occasional diarrhea but wasn’t too worried about it.

In the beginning I was cooking some of my food in ghee and eating chicken skins fried in chicken fat. After awhile the ghee started to turn me off so I stopped eating it, and I was getting stomach aches and diarrhea whenever I had chicken skin or fat. I would feel really nauseous about an hour or two after eating and have to lay down for a couple of hours. Later on I figured out that seltzer water helped abate this feeling (most of the time) but I didn’t think I should be feeling that way so I eventually cut out poultry.

I then began to realize that any extra fat was giving me stomach aches and diarrhea too.

I was in a conundrum about the fat. On the one hand I knew that I needed to get the majority of calories from fat but on the other hand, too much fat seemed to give me the runs. I can’t afford expensive steaks as I have a budget of about $5 a day (with occasional extras) so i was having to add fat in the form of bacon grease and chicken fat to my food. I came across some information about eating beef raw and fat raw as well so I looked up ideas for raw fat and came across suet.

I got some suet the other night and have been chopping it up and mixing it with raw ground beef (70% mostly) and sea salt and I LOVE IT. I can’t believe I actually like it (the texture takes some getting used to) but my body must be really happy eating that way because it tastes delicious to me. Plus, I’m no longer getting stomach aches an hour or so after eating and I had my first normal bowel movement in weeks this morning!

What I eat now:

After 6 weeks of experimentation I now eat raw beef (cheapest steaks and ground beef), raw suet and low sodium bacon as a treat. I discovered early on that I digested my beef better when it was cooked less and finally got brave enough to try it raw. It changed my life! Raw beef mixed with chopped raw suet makes me feel good, drastically cut down on my stomach aches and regulated my bowels. And–surprise of surprises–I LOVE it. The bacon satisfies my residual desire for snacking but upsets my stomach if I overindulge (regular bacon upsets my system immediately and tastes wretched to me now).

I eat three meals a day, sometimes more if necessary. For all three meals I eat raw ground beef (70 or 80%) or raw chopped/shaved steak with a big chunk of raw suet chopped up and mixed into it, doused with sea salt (I’ve found I can tolerate a LOT more fat now that I’m eating raw suet and it has cut down on my beef consumption, from 2 pounds to about 1.3 pounds). Our grocery store packages ground beef in 1.3 pound packages and, now that I’m adding the suet, it seems to be enough for me for one day. We make low sodium bacon frequently at work, so I snack on this during the day. I’ve been eating anywhere from 2-8 pieces in a day (though today I had 8 and my stomach is a bit upset, so I think I will be cutting back on the bacon). I drink salt water in the morning and at night and sometimes in the afternoon if I feel I need it and regular water throughout the day. If my stomach is upset (or sometimes if I just want the bubbly) I will drink a plain seltzer water. I take 10 mg of astaxanthin a day.

I have had an electrolyte imbalance for quite a while that manifests itself in scary heart palpitations so I put sea salt on everything I eat and drink warm salt water three times a day. I am hoping that as my body acclimates more to this way of eating that things will balance out and I will eventually be able to do away with the salt. I purposefully stopped taking all supplements as my intention and hope is to be able to heal my body enough that it is producing what it needs (the one exception is the recent addition of astaxanthin as it is getting close to summer and it prevents my fair skin from burning in the sun)

Difficulties and things I’ve learned:

I really struggled with the fat ratios. I knew that I needed to eat more fat than I was eating, but every time I tried to add more fat it would nauseate me, give me bad stomach aches hours later and give me diarrhea. I recently realized that it is rendered fat I have an issue with. Once I started adding chopped raw suet to my raw beef all that changed.

Hunger has also been–and still is–an issue. On the one hand I can handle long periods of time without eating much better than I ever could–when it’s necessary. But I still think about eating constantly and partially plan my day around my three meals. I believe this is partially due to craving too much protein as a consequence of eating too little fat. I understand that too much protein can cause a glycemic response and I think that has been my problem as, up until 2 days ago I wasn’t able to tolerate much fat (because it was cooked/rendered). I am hoping that as I go longer eating the way I’m eating now my hunger will even out and I won’t feel the need to eat so much protein in a day. I also haven’t lost any weight since eating this way (in fact, I gained a few pounds, but I think it’s water, or glycogen as it drops off after a bout of diarrhea).

In the beginning I didn’t notice if I suffered any “keto flu” symptoms as I felt pretty crummy already. I had a runny nose up until about 3 weeks ago (that got worse when I ate, for some reason) but got better as I restructured my diet and removed some things. For the first month I was really wondering if this was going to help me because things weren’t getting better as quickly and dramatically as they seemed to for most of the other people who submitted their stories.

The thing that kept me going was that, despite how awful I felt, my mind was becoming clear and focused and it hadn’t been that way for many months so I knew something had to be right. Plus, I kept reminding myself that I was starting over from scratch; no supplements at all, just healing through diet, and had to constantly remind myself that it was likely to take longer for me to feel better as this was something that I had been going through for years.

The other thing that helped me stick to it was that I kept a journal of how I was feeling throughout the day in an app on my phone so I have been able to go back and see subtle improvements I didn’t notice as they were happening. This has been vital to my sticking with it! There are a lot of changes I never would have noticed if I hadn’t recorded them and been able to look back and see the patterns.

The entire process thus far has been figuring out what works for me in conjunction with what I am able to buy. Over the course of about 6 weeks I went from having a semi-varied diet to having a very limited one (raw beef and raw beef fat) but I am surprisingly happy with that! This way of eating feels so good to me and I feel happy every time I eat my bowl of pink-and-white mush!

Things I have noticed have improved:

I have NO cravings for sweets, not even fruit! (this is mind-boggling to me. I could never imagine my life without fruit)

My tastes have changed–I don’t just tolerate raw beef, I really enjoy it!

My sense of smell has changed–I can enjoy the smells of foods I used to love without craving them (that, in and of itself, is nothing short of miraculous to me!).

I can enjoy baking (I work in a bakery!) without even wanting to try anything I’m making

My mind is clear and focused in a way it hasn’t been for many months

I have motivation to do things I didn’t/couldn’t before (like household chores)

The ways of eating that work for healthy people did not work for me and I think this is important for others who are coming from a place of compromised health when they embark on this way of eating. I can’t have any dairy or eggs. Any kind of rendered fat gives me diarrhea if I eat more than a couple of teaspoons of it at a time. Because of my current electrolyte issue I require vast quantities of salt to keep my heart beating normally. Even though I require a lot of salt, I need to eat low sodium bacon instead of regular bacon because it makes me feel ill. Raw beef with raw fat seems to work well for me, even though it’s the cheapest stuff at the store and not the fancy grass-fed stuff (though I would surely eat that if I could afford it!).

I still have the fatigue, but I can see and feel myself getting better (and have proof of it from what I have recorded in my journal). My energy has improved over the past few weeks. I used to nap for 2 hours every day and now I don’t. I used to have to lean on my husband walking to work and home because I was so weak and wobbly and now I can walk unsupported. My mind was so foggy and unclear that I couldn’t do much of anything at home other than watch movies or sleep (after a shortened workday). Now I am back to reading, journaling, studying a language, doing brain-improvement exercises, watching documentaries and even having the motivation and energy to do chores around the house. I have also started to be able to do a bit more physically. I have started practicing Tai Chi again and have even been able to dance with my husband a bit. I am able to interact more with family and pets and friends.

My advice for others starting out on zero carb:

One way of doing things is going to work for every body! Just because the majority of zero carbers eat bacon and steaks and cheese and eggs and lose weight and get strong and feel great two weeks into it does not mean you will. It took me 6 weeks to start feeling noticeably better. It took me almost 5 of those weeks to figure out that my body doesn’t deal well with rendered fat. A lot of things that help other people didn’t help me and I had to pay very close attention to my own body and go against convention sometimes.

Keep a journal of what you’re eating and how you’re feeling every day. You will be surprised at the changes and patterns you don’t notice while they’re happening.
Learn to listen to your body. Just because something works for most people doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. Experiment and learn as you go.
Don’t expect immediate improvement. Some people notice dramatic improvement right away. But if you’re coming from a place of compromised health it might take awhile for things to get better. Some things will get worse. Pay attention and readjust accordingly, but don’t give up just because 2 weeks have gone by and you’re not feeling fantastic (this is where keeping a journal REALLY helps).

If you’re committed to improving your health you will find what works for you. Just keep at it!

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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.

Zero Carb Interview: Rustik Johnson

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

A little less than 2 years.

Prior to discovering the all-meat Zero Carb, I tried the Gerson Therapy (juices and coffee enemas) and Orthomolecular Therapy (high dose vitamins and minerals), Fecal Transplant (I was desperate!), Chelation Therapy. I tried many different food therapies and diets, in addition to many other alternative therapies like Reiki and Crystals, but none of them healed me.

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

Health. I started having weird symptoms around age 21. At the age of 26, I was finally diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis through MRI which showed demyelination of my nerves. I am now 32 and, thanks to eating a Zero Carb diet and doing alternate day dry fasting, I am like a whole new person.

Prior to getting sick, I used to drink 6 cups of coffee, 8 Red Bull, 8 liters of diet soda, 40 cigarettes, lots of Jack Daniels, and many different steroids from the age of 18. I would stay up for 3 days in a row, I was with a different girl every night, I felt like the King of the World!

I am so clean now that if I have even one cup of coffee, it will keep me awake for two days straight!

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

About 2 months for Zero Carb and fasting together.

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

I read many authors and books: Rob Woff, Loren Cordain, The Walhs Protocol, GAPS, Primal Blue Print, etc. I developed an eczema on my right foot and by reading zero carb forums I learned that vegetables had toxins and antinutrients in them and so I figured out that this is what was causing the eczema. I also discovered that certain plant foods caused my pain to flare up and come back.

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

Only meat. The whole animal: brain, heart, intestines, liver, kidney, everything. It is is my medicine. No dairy. No eggs.

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6. What percentage of your diet is beef versus other types of meats?

I try to eat 100% lamb because I know for sure that is grass feed. When I eat meat from animals fed grains, I don’t feel good at all.

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

My preference is well done. I like my meat roasted.
I believe this is the way our ancestors cooked it over a fire. I did try raw meat and fermented meat in the beginning, but I did not feel good eating my meat that way.

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

No, I eat only the fat that comes with the meat. I don’t eat any of the liquid fat that melts out of the meat because I think this fat has been damaged by oxidation.

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

I let my appetite guide me and eat until satisfied.

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

When I kill a lamb the first two meals are just the organ meats, then I only have the muscle meat.

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

No, I don’t consume it. I think that our ancestors didn’t consume it… but i bought a pressure cooker and so I may try it. I bought it because i am a compulsive buyer! Jajajaja

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

I eat one meal every two days and I dry fast in between. So, I eat and drink to satiety during a 4 hour window, then I dry fast for 44 hours and then drink water and eat again during another 4 hour window. This is called alternate day fasting and it has been shown to reduce inflammation.

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

3 kg (6.5 lbs) – weight includes bones – or so for each meal, once every other day. For reference, I am 6’2” and weigh 165 lbs today.

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

Only Grassfed! When I eat meat from grain fed animals, I do not feel well at all.

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

No, only water. I drink about 4-5 liters during my 4 hour eating/drinking window every other day.

16. Do you use salt?

No, because I don’t believe our ancestors ate it.

17. Do you use spices?

No, again, because I don’t believe our ancestors ate them.

18. Do you take any supplements?

No. I took a ton of supplements as part of some of the other therapies I tried, but I could feel no discernible benefits from any of them really.

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

I eat 3 lambs per months which totals $200.

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

Yeah… live like our ancestors! I think that they ate only once every 2-3 days…. and rested in between…. but a person can’t do that so easily today, so you must adapt our life in this time period to mimic how we used to eat.

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

10 km every shining day: a combination of sprint, run, walk, and 15 min weight training.

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.)

Zero carbs and dry fasting together have put the Multiple Sclerosis into complete remission… it has given me extreme health, like being a kid again. I haven’t needed to return to my neurologist for any reason. And I never get sick with viruses since I started eating this way. Also, I have lost over 100 lbs since my diagnosis and changing my diet.

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

The food! That is my greatest joy… and extreme health too obviously.

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

Yeah that don’t let the adaptation process scare you. At first, you may experience unpleasant and weird symptoms like fatigue, constipation, tremors, fever, and a lot of other things. This is normal. Don’t worry; you will be okay. It took my body about 2 months to fully adapt to this way of eating. Now I feel fantastic!

25. Are your friends and family supportive of your Zero Carb lifestyle? If not, how do you handle this?

I don’t care! Jajajaja

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

This eating and fasting regimen is very difficult to do at first, but it gets easier and the end results are so worth it. It has given me my life back!

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You can read more about Rustik’s healing journey on his new blog: Healing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally

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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.

 

Zero Carb Interview: James Cordes

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James with his fiancée Lauren

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

Since April 10, 2009. Coming up on 8 years.

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

When I first started restricting carbs my motivation was weight loss. Going zero carb was more about mastering cravings, though. I knew low carb worked great for losing weight, but my cravings still got the best of me from time to time. When I heard about ZC in April 2009 and how some people completely mastered their cravings, I gave it a shot. After 30 days my cravings were completely gone and I knew I was going to be ZC for life.

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

About 30 days, I think. It’s been a long time since I started. I remember gaining weight at first. I think I started ZC at 222 and jumped up to 228 before I started losing again. In any case, I was told there might be some weight gain at the start and it didn’t worry me. My energy was great. Psychologically, I was loving how my cravings were melting away. I’ve always liked the feeling of having control over my urges and impulses. ZC made me feel like I was a complete master of my domain when it came to food.

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

I delivered newspapers back when I was in college so that meant being up by 4 AM to get on the road. Anyway, I kept some pretty weird hours back in those days and PBS was the only TV station that carried good programming overnight. I ended up getting pulled in by an episode of Frontline called “Diet Wars” that featured Gary Taubes. I didn’t know anything about dietary science or carb restriction, but Gary came off so intelligently in that episode. He just struck me as a guy who knew what he was talking about.

Fast forward 3-4 years: I’ve graduated college, I’ve put on 40 lbs, I’m unhappy about my weight. I know I need to do something about it, but I don’t know what. Then I remember that smart guy from Frontline. I do a little bit of googling and find out Gary wrote a book: Good Calories, Bad Calories. Perfect.

This is probably early 2009 or so. Anyway, I start reading GCBC and researching low carb info online. My weight drops from 265 to 225 or so. I still fall off the wagon a couple times a month, which is discouraging, but at least I know low carb works and that it is healthy. I’m no longer fearful of saturated fat or high cholesterol or any of the high-fat fear mongering that was still somewhat prevalent, even in 2009. The paradigm was starting to shift, but we weren’t close to a tipping point just yet.

I’m droning on now, but to get back to the question at hand: Gary Taubes was my first big influence and he led me to Charles Washington and the ZIOH forum, which was my second big influence.

I found ZIOH when I was googling some references in the back of Good Calories, Bad Calories. I read around the forum a bit and saw people who had mastered their cravings on ZC (Charles among them). I gave it a shot and the rest is history.

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

The first 3 years or so I only ate unseasoned beef and water. At the time, the hardcore people on ZIOH were beef and water only and I wanted to feel hardcore too. Besides, it truly did work. My cravings were 100% gone. There were other people on ZIOH eating a more diverse diet (other meat, dairy, cured meats, etc). Some of them weren’t having cravings, but others were struggling. I figured I’d play it safe and just eat beef and drink water.

I opened up a bit after I met my fiancee. She went low carb when we got serious and is ZC most days, but she needs a bit more variety to be content. Now my diet includes chicken, pork, some occasional cured meats, some occasional cheeses or heavy whipping cream.

My weight did go up a bit when I added those items back to my diet. I was always around 185-195 lbs on just beef and water. Now I range from 200 to 210. I’m 6’6″ tall, by the way, so the extra weight isn’t all that visible and my clothes fit just the same as before.

I’ve made this answer needlessly long again, but I think I will go back to beef and water mostly in the future, when I can get my fiancee on board. Within the confines of ZC, I do experience cravings for dairy and cured meats when I’m eating the more diverse menu. I don’t crave carbs at all, but I do crave those “ZC snack foods” from time to time. That’s not the case when I’m just beef and water.


img_14286. What percentage of your diet is beef versus other types of meats?

Right now I’d say I’m 65% beef and 35% other meats and dairy. I’d like to get that back to about 90% beef and 10% other.

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

Usually medium rare, but sometimes I get the urge for something a little more cooked and I’ll go up to medium.

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

Only if I’m eating a very lean meat like chicken breasts or my home made jerky (which is nothing more than dehydrated round roast).

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

I don’t limit myself at all. I eat until I’m full or until the hunger is gone. I usually eat once or twice a day. I don’t track portions or count calories or do anything like that.

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

I don’t. It never sounded tasty to me so I never looked in to it. I know some people do it for extra nutrients or something like that, but I’ve just never looked into it because it didn’t seem that appealing to eat. I’ve also never felt like I was deficient in anything. My energy has always been pretty good. Who knows though, maybe I’m missing out on some extra boost and I just don’t know it!

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

I’ve never tried it. Maybe this is another extra boost I’m missing out on! I’ve just never looked into it.

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

Usually 1 or 2. On very rare occasion, maybe 3.

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

I probably average 2 lbs of meat a day. Just depends on the day. Some days I’m sure I break 3 lbs. Some days I probably only eat a pound. Generally I’m eating about 2 lbs though.

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Stocking up on ground beef!

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

Mostly commercially produced meat. Your normal grocery store fare. I do have a big bucket of grass-fed tallow I use for my pemmican. I might have a few grass fed steaks/burgers a year if they are marked down for quick sale.

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

Mostly just flat water. I’ll have plain canned selzer water once in a while if I want some bubbles.

16. Do you use salt?

Yes. Pink Himalayan salt or the Celtic Sea salt or Real Salt puts out a nice salt with a bunch of other minerals and stuff in it. I’m usually using one of those salts. Meat + Salt = Tasty

17. Do you use spices?

I’ll put pepper on my steaks sometimes. My fiancee likes garlic powder and montreal steak seasoning on her steaks so I’ll have some of that once in a while if she doesn’t finish her steak.

18. Do you take any supplements?

No

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

About $400 for two people. We could eat much cheaper, but we like to eat a lot of steaks. If we switched to cheap cuts of pork, ground beef, chicken thighs and eggs I’m sure we could eat heartily for less than $200 per month.

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

Eggs. Whole Chickens, chicken thighs, chicken legs, chicken wings. Cheap cuts of pork. Ground beef. Get a deep freezer. Look for sales. Look for items that have been reduced for quick sale. Stock up, pack your freezer.

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

I don’t really exercise. I play disc golf, which means a lot of walking during the spring/summer/fall months. That’s about it.

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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.)

Lost cravings for all carby foods. Lost excess body fat. My energy is much better. In the beginning of ZC, my focus was much better. It’s not as good now, but I blame my social media addiction for that, haha! I get sick much less often. When I do get sick, it is very mild and I recover much quicker.

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

The control and flexibility it gives me.

I’m no longer a slave to my hunger or my cravings. If I have to go a full day without eating, it’s really not a big deal. My body will just eat some of its fat reserves.

My moods are even. I don’t get cranky when I haven’t eaten. Life is just smoother; there are no big ups and downs any more.

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

Commit to doing ZC for a couple months before you assess whether to tweak it or discard it. The human mind can rationalize all number of things on a day to day basis. Commit to giving yourself a big enough sample size of data so that you can fairly assess whether or not ZC will work for you.

I’d also recommend going straight to beef and water because you’ll find out what you’re really made of and
you’ll save a bunch of time trying to find out what you are and aren’t sensitive to; instead of juggling cheese and cured meats and chicken and trying to figure which variable is affecting your progress the most. Simplify the equation. Remove as many variables as possible.

25. Are your friends and family supportive of your Zero Carb lifestyle? If not, how do you handle this?

Yes, they are supportive. My fiancée eats ZC most days and she knows it’s the healthiest path. My parents know it is healthy too.

I’ve met a lot of people that question my way of eating, but you can’t be scared to own ZC. I’ve never felt embarrassed or ashamed to eat this way. I know it’s healthy. I know it’s right for me. I think people sense that when they talk to me so I’ve never really gotten any grief about it.

Also, the paradigm has shifted a lot more in our favor. Paleo diets, keto diets, etc. These things are much more widely accepted now and ZC isn’t nearly as fringe as it once was.

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

Nothing comes to mind. Let me know if you have any further questions in the future!

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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.

 

Zero Carb Interview: Amber O’Hearn

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

I’ve been eating an essentially plant-free diet for almost 7 years, starting in November of 2009.

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

My original reason for trying a meat-only diet was for fat loss. I was at my wit’s end, because my very low carb, but plant heavy diet, even though it had helped me get to into great shape in the past, wasn’t as effective anymore and I was slowly getting fatter and fatter.

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

It’s funny. It took me way longer to adapt to the diet mentally than physically. I spent three weeks planning and giving myself pep talks, and even then, I only felt able to commit to it with the promise to myself that it was going to be of very limited duration. Once I started, though, I felt comfortable within a mere few days.

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

The only guidance I had toward this diet at that time was the Zero Carb forum run primarily by Charles Washington, and the inspiring stories there. I also had read Owsley Stanley’s (aka The Bear) essays on the subject.

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

I eat mostly just meat, but I will eat occasional eggs and dairy. I find that dairy increases my appetite significantly and I have an addiction-like response to fermented dairy in particular, so I’m wary of that.

6. What percentage of your diet is beef versus other types of meats?

I eat from all the food groups: ruminants (e.g. beef and lamb), poultry, pork, and fish and shellfish, but beef is the base of my food pyramid.

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

I prefer my beef steaks rare, but other cuts I treat individually. To my taste, short ribs are divine roasted for several hours, but ground chuck is best raw or lightly seared.

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

I often eat butter, lard, or tallow either on or with my meat, depending on how lean it is.

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

I have played around with fasting, but my usual mode of operation is to eat once or twice a day when I get hungry, until I feel satiated. Then I stop.

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

Of organ meats, I mostly eat liver, only because that’s what I have easiest access to. I tend to get a craving for it every few weeks. I’ll eat a lot of it for a few days and then I don’t want it again for a while. I’m not very systematic about it.

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

I like bone broth. Just like with the organs I tend to drink it in phases; every day for a few days and then not again for a few weeks. I enjoy bone marrow also.

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

I mostly eat two meals a day, at lunch time and again at supper. I often feel better if my first meal is a little later than traditional lunch, but lunch is a social activity at my workplace, and it’s a trade-off.

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

I eat about 1.5 to 2 pounds of meat a day.

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

I want to support sustainable and humane farming, but the health benefits I’ve received don’t depend on it, so I often eat conventional meat for financial reasons.

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

I do drink coffee and occasionally herbal tea. It’s my plant vice.

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Amber enjoying cold leftovers for lunch.

16. Do you use salt?

I do sometimes use salt, but during my transition to this diet I used none, and so I’m acclimated to the taste of meat without it, and find I often don’t want it.

17. Do you use spices?

When I’m out, or a guest, I will usually not refuse meat that has up to a moderate amount of spice, but I almost never use it in my own cooking.

18. Do you take any supplements?

I have played around with a variety of supplements, but the only ones I take with any consistency are: turmeric and citrus bioflavonoids, to reduce symptoms of endometriosis; and magnesium, just because I think our whole food chain is deficient in it.

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

This is difficult to estimate, because I have children with me part time. Overall, the cost is certainly higher than if I ate grains, but fruits and vegetables are expensive by calorie. I’m probably spending less than I used to.

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Amber’s son enjoying a stick of butter by itself.

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

Buying cheaper cuts and mixing in pork, poultry, and eggs helps keep cost down. Don’t forget that ill health is a major expense. I’ve never missed work due to illness and have seen my doctor only for labs and preventive care.

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

I do a slow-burn style weight-lifting once a week, and walk, run or bike now and then if I feel like 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)

I lost over 60 pounds eating this way, but the most important benefit was that my Type II Bipolar Disorder, which mainly manifested as severe suicidal depression, is in complete remission. I’ve been off all psychiatric drugs since I started eating a carnivorous diet, and the only times I’ve had symptoms are when I have done experiments with plant foods, supplements, or had excessive alcohol consumption.

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

My third child was conceived when I started this diet the first time, and I didn’t stay Zero Carb during the first two trimesters, due to severe nausea and carb cravings. By the third trimester I ate very low carb with some carnivorous days. I’ve been essentially plant free since the birth, so that included his entire breastfeeding period. I had better milk supply and better mood and stamina than with the previous two children.

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 youngest child ate almost no plants for the first few years of his life. Now he has just few plants in his diet, mainly carrots and bell peppers. The others have eaten lower carb and even zero carb in the past, but eat high carb out in the world. It is a difficult social navigation for them, even though they understand the benefits.

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

It’s hard to think of anything better about carnivorous eating than the freedom from living with Type II Bipolar Disorder and suicidal depression. However, one thing I love about my diet is that I trust my appetite completely now. My body stays in a range of about five pounds no matter what I do. That’s freeing. I also love that I’m especially resistant to disease now. I never worry about the latest viruses going around. I feel robust.

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

My advice to a beginner is to commit to going into it as completely as possible for at least three weeks. You want to eliminate as many confounding factors as possible and stay at it long enough to start seeing changes. Please see my and Zooko’s blog post “Eat Meat. Not Too Little. Mostly Fat.” for our full advice on starting.

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

Not that I can think of.

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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 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.

This interview has been translated into Hebrew by Tomer Aviad and may be read here:

ראיון אפס פחמימות עם אמבר הואירן

Why Do You Eat Your Meat Raw?

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Why Do You Eat Your Meat Raw?

It seems like almost every week that a new person who has stumbled into our Zero Carb Facebook group Principia Carnivora asks this question. Since it comes up so often, I have decided to take some time to articulate my personal reasons for choosing raw meat over cooked meat.

When I first started a Zero Carb diet 21 months ago on January 1, 2015, I began with a wide variety of animal foods: eggs, cheese, butter, cream, bone broth, chicken, pork, and beef. All of it cooked. I really struggled with Zero Carb in the beginning because I simply did not feel that good no matter what I ate. Removing all plant foods from my diet certainly helped, but I was still experiencing a lot of negative symptoms from the animal foods I was eating. The biggest symptom with the most impact on my quality of life is chronic migraine headaches.

About 6 months into my Zero Carb journey, I finally discovered that I am histamine intolerant. Histamines are in all aged and fermented foods, as well as eggs and any foods that are slow-cooked, and this is why I have continued to struggle with chronic migraine headaches on a Zero Carb diet. One-by-one, I removed everything from my diet except for beef. And even with the beef, I have to make sure that I get it as fresh as possible and use it immediately. The longer beef – or any meat – is aged, the more histamines it will contain. The longer a steak sits on the shelf after being cut off of a main primal piece by the butcher, the more histamines it will contain.

All last winter (2015-2016), I was eating very lightly pan-fried fatty beef chuck roast steaks. And when I say lightly, I mean 30-60 seconds per side, leaving the meat blue-rare inside. This was working to some extent, but I did not feel all that good. In fact, I got a terrible cold virus last winter that came back three separate times! I literally never get viruses, so to have the same one three times in just a few months was both very worrisome and very unpleasant. The last time I had a virus prior to this was in the winter of 1999-2000, when – incidentally – I was also eating a fair amount of cooked meat (one of my earlier attempts to escape veganism, LOL!).

So, I knew I should be eating my meat raw, but the cold, wet winter and the state of my mind at the time, were really making it difficult for me to do this. Once the weather warmed up a bit, however, I decided to give fresh raw ground beef another try. After a few weeks, I got used to it and then the taste of the cooked meat wasn’t all that enticing any more. Nevertheless, I continued to have a cooked meal here and there, very rarely. But each time I did this – I noticed that 1) I did not feel as well after eating the cooked meat as I did after eating the raw meat; 2) I did not digest the cooked meat as well as I digested the raw meat; and 3) I could tolerate much more fat when I ate it raw verses cooked.

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LEM Big Bite #12 All Stainless Steel Meat Grinder

One of the things I have personally found very helpful on my Zero Carb Journey is periodic fasts. I have completed three separate 16-day fasts (each were a combination of water and dry) over the past 21 months. Each of these fasts has helped me quite significantly. Histamines build up in the body over time and fasting is the single most effective method I have discovered to allow my body to eliminate them from “storage.” When the meat I can normally eat without issue begins to give me migraine headaches, then I know my histamine “bucket” is full so-to-speak and it is time for another fast.

I just completed my most recent 16-day fast a week ago. It went really well. But coming off the fast has been both challenging and enlightening. First, I decided to experiment with Fiji water and it gave me a migraine headache and caused me to feel generally crappy. This tells me that the company adds minerals to the Fiji water, which is implied but not directly stated on the label. I am 100% certain of this because I felt exactly the same way as I always feel after taking any supplements of any kind. They all make me very very very sick just like the Fiji water did.

After I recovered from the Fiji water debacle, I decided to try cooking my meat one night. I had broken my fast 6 days earlier and – up to that point – I had eaten only raw ground beef according to my usual custom. Although I am kind of unhappy with myself for choosing to cook my meat this night, I gained an enormous amount of clarity about what my body does and does not like due to this unhappy choice. So, ultimately, the experience was an extremely valuable one because of the new knowledge it brought me.

Needless to say, my body had a very negative response to the cooked meat. I started getting a migraine headache within a few hours of eating it and, 3-days later, I am still suffering the consequences. The next morning, lymph nodes throughout my body were incredibly painful. The effects from eating the cooked meat were so bad, that I actually had to go back on a short dry fast to give my body a chance to work through it. I tried eating my normal fresh raw ground beef the next day, but that just made the migraine headache and lymphatic inflammation worse.

This is one of the reasons I am such a huge advocate for both fasting and doing a bare bones version of the Zero Carb diet if you are new to this way of eating. There are so many potential variables when you eat any and all animal foods that there is really no way to tell how you are responding to them if you include them all indiscriminately. If you start with just fatty beef and water, then you have removed all of the most potentially problematic foods in one fell swoop. After you have eaten only beef and water for 30-days, you can then test other Zero Carb foods one at a time to see how you do with them.

Fasting takes this process one step further by eliminating all food for a period of time. This way when you add back a food, whether from a basic beef and water diet or from a fully fasted state, your body can give you a much clearer response to whatever food you are testing. This is what happened to me with this last fast I did. Being away from any cooked meat for a while prior to the fast, and then doing a long fast, made it considerably easier for my body to let me know that it really really really does not like cooked meat.

Prior to this, I was living in a fantasy world that I could sort of go back and forth between raw and occasional cooked – if and when I felt the desire for it – but this experience has shown me just how utterly delusional that idea was! From here on out, I am no longer seeing cooked meat as an option for myself. This was a very powerful transformative “a-ha” moment for me. I will never again choose to eat meat that has been cooked even the tiniest bit. Cooked meat is now in the same category as plant foods: it is no longer a “food” as far as I am concerned.

While some people might find this realization to be even more restrictive than what most would already perceive to be a very restrictive Zero Carb diet, I personally find it quite liberating to have finally reached a very definitive conclusion on this issue. There is no more doubt about it, and it is one less decision I need to make. It is all raw all the way for me!

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Zero Carb Interview: Reanna Percifield

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

Since mid-July of 2015.

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

To improve health and fitness. Originally I started out eating low carb high fat, and after almost 2 years of experimenting with that I stumbled upon the idea of zero carb while reading in a health forum. After doing some more research I decided to give it a try, and after the first day my energy levels were better than how I felt most of the time on low carb. Sure, low carb was great, but zero carb made me feel exponentially better from day one, despite some mild adaptation symptoms. I suspect various plant foods were giving me issues that I was previously unaware of.

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

Physically, it took me about 3 months. Thankfully, since I was previously low carb and intermittently fasting, my body already had experience being in a ketogenic state. This made adaptation fairly easy for me. For the first couple of weeks I had some manageable energy fluctuations, and the first 3 months or so I had some digestive issues. However I believe these issues were mainly caused by Candida overgrowth, resulting in leaky gut syndrome (which I had for years, but didn’t realize it at the time – I assumed it was allergies until it finally died off thanks to this diet).

Psychologically, it took me a very short time to adapt… maybe a week or two. I felt so great overall that I was completely happy with eating only animal products. Occasionally I did have mild cravings for treats I ate while on low carb such as dark chocolate. But upon trying them again out of curiosity, I did not like how they made me feel and they did not taste as good as I remembered.

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

Media:
This website and the Facebook group Principia Carnivora of course!
Alan Savory TEDtalk: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Barry Groves: Homo Carnivorous What We are Designed to Eat video lecture
The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith
Eat Meat and Stop Jogging by Mike Sheridan

People:
Anyone who is long term zero carb really! I recall the first people I learned about when I came across this way of eating were Owsley Stanley and Derek Nance.

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

For the most part, I only eat meat and eggs. On occasion I might have butter/ghee or cheese, although I am no longer a big fan of dairy. However when I first started zero carb, I did include butter and cheese quite regularly.

6. What percentage of your diet is beef verses other types of meats?

About 90%. It is certainly my main meat, although I also have pork, lamb, chicken, and fish. This may drastically change in the future, as I plan to eventually obtain all of my food from wild game.

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

I prefer it very rare, and have had it raw a few times out of curiosity.

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

When I first started zero carb I did all the time, but now I rarely do because I don’t crave fat as much. Only if I think the meat is too lean will I cook it in extra fat such as lard or ghee. I mainly do this with fish because I tend to get fatty cuts of meat such as ribeye, chuck, and new york steaks.

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

I eat until satisfied.

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

I almost never eat organ meats, but only because they are not very accessible in my area. Otherwise I would certainly include some, although I am not a big fan of liver.

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

I no longer consume bone broth, although I did a few times in the beginning.

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

I always have one meal per day.

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

I eat about 2 pounds a day on average, but my appetite can vary so it is not uncommon for me to eat between 1.5-2.5 pounds.

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

I eat both, but the majority is commercially produced for now.

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

Only water. I used to have tea but no longer desire it. Occasionally I will have plain sparkling mineral water.

16. Do you use salt?

Yes, I use as much salt as my palate happens to want at the time.

17. Do you use spices?

Yes, primarily pepper and granulated garlic.

18. Do you take any supplements?

I often take fish oil for Omega 3’s because I don’t get to eat much seafood (often pricey in my area) and Vitamin D3 when I don’t have adequate access to the sun.

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

$250-$300 per month.

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

Keep an eye out for meats on sale/markdown. Get to know a butcher – sometimes you can get less popular cuts or perfectly good meat trimmings for a low price. If needed, most people could probably do just fine on only ground beef and eggs – that would likely make your food bill almost half of what mine is. I just enjoy having steak when I can!

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

Yes, almost every day I do moderate to intense resistance exercises that works most or all of my body to a degree (such as pushups, dips, hanging leg raises, squats, lunges, etc.). I commonly add weight or intensity if it feels too easy because this way of eating gives me a lot of energy. I also walk and hike on a regular basis.

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.)

So far I have not been sick once since I started this diet. My energy levels are fantastic and my overall health is great, close to its optimal state I think. I also healed a pretty tough case of Candida overgrowth. I had it for years thanks to the standard American diet + antibiotics, but didn’t realize it because all of my symptoms were insidious and allergy-like (mainly chronic skin-flare ups and digestive problems). When it started to die off from this diet it became much more obvious what the problem was. Upon completely eliminating dairy (even butter) and restricting eggs for a couple of months, my gut lining was finally able to heal. Although I was never really overweight, there has been quite a big change in my body composition: I started out at about 25% body fat, now I’m around 18% and it still seems to be slowly but surely creeping down. My exercise performance is better than ever and strength is always improving. I don’t require as much sleep as I used to: I usually don’t need more than 6 hours now, when previously I would need 7-9. Zero carb has also greatly improved my mental clarity and overall stability. Gone are the days of my mood and behavior being negatively influenced by what I eat!

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

Definitely the simplicity. And despite the simplicity, I’m not even remotely bored of what I eat! It’s great to truly enjoy something so simple and know you’re doing your body good. I no longer desire non-animal food at all. Saves me plenty of time too.

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

Don’t overcomplicate things. Don’t count calories, the notion of calories-in-calories-out is a proven myth – you’re just stressing yourself out without reason. Don’t track macros unless you have a good reason to (such as if your energy levels are still off after awhile or if you have certain health problems). This isn’t a fancy fad diet, it’s a simple way of life based on human history. Treat it as such!

25. Are your friends and family supportive of your Zero Carb lifestyle? If not, how do you handle this?

Most of my friends and family actually are not aware. It’s not something I really talk about unless I’m asked about it or I think I might be able to help someone. However, those that are aware tend to be either supportive or apathetic. When it comes to those who are negative, I either try to inform them if they’re genuinely curious, or I pay no mind to them if they clearly have no interest in my view.

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

I just want to emphasize how easy and simple this way of eating really is once you get used to it. No overthinking needed here. I believe too many people are scared away from this diet because it seems so difficult and off-the-wall. But it is very doable and backed by loads of legitimate information. You must have some determination in the beginning, but with time it only becomes easier. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I’m never going back. Zero carb helped me decide where I want my life to go and what really matters to me.

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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 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.