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

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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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What Must I Do to Get Well? by Elma Stuart

What Must I Do to Get Well by Elma Stuart

This is a book about Dr. James Henry Salisbury’s Beef and Hot Water Diet Therapy for healing. It was observed to help everything from diabetes to epilepsy to rheumatism to gout to migraines to insomnia to asthma to cancer. This is the 25th edition of the book and was published in 1898. The first edition was published in the mid-1880s and each edition was larger and more comprehensive than the last. This is the most complete edition that I have found. It may have been the final edition.

The author was bedridden for 9 years with what today would be labeled Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She went to 43 doctors in an effort to regain her health. None of their recommendations worked. She learned about Dr. Salisbury’s diet through an ad in her local newspaper and ordered his book The Relation of Alimentation and Disease.

A good neighbor helped her to do the diet by purchasing, grinding, and cooking all of her meals every day for 7 months until she was strong enough to do it for herself. All of the meat was purchased daily (from animals slaughtered that morning) and ground fresh just prior to cooking. Interestingly, this would have prevented any significant formation of histamines in the meat. Elma says it took her about a year on Dr. Salisbury’s diet to regain her health. At the time of publication, Elma had eaten beef and hot water exclusively for 11 years.

The main difference between Dr. Salisbury’s diet and what the Zero Carb community recommends is that it prescribes lean beef, rather than fatty beef.  Elma says that she has witnessed hundreds, if not thousands, of people recover from very serious illnesses using Dr. Salisbury’s diet. The book is fascinating and has many funny passages.

To read the free PDF version of her book, please click on the link below:

What Must I Do to Get Well? And How Can I Keep So? by Elma Stuart

 

On a side note, those of you who like nineteenth century English literature will enjoy discovering that Elma Stuart was very good friends with the well-known feminist and philosophical novelist George Eliot (a.k.a. Maryann Evans). They wrote many letters back and forth over an 8 year period, from 1872 to 1880.

To read the free PDF version of the exant letters, please click on the link below:

Letters from George Eliot to Elma Stuart