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.
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.
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.
6. 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).
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.