Please note: “Charlie Lyon” is a pseudonym, as the interviewee prefers to remain anonymous.
1. How long have you been eating a Zero Carb (No Plant Foods) diet?
Eight years, went full on with it in 2010 and for the first three years ate only fatty ground beef and the occasional ribeye. Sometime in year four I started branching out and testing other meats, incorporating them into my daily supply to see what happened. It was fine.
2. What motivated you to try this way of eating? Weight? Health?
In 2007 I had a massive coronary event that killed me (yes yes, they brought me back so as Miracle Max said, I was only mostly dead) At the time I was also pre-diabetic, weighed over 210 pounds (I’m 5’9″), had severe IBS, severe arthritis, had lost most of my teeth (no idea I was unable to metabolize plant-sourced calcium) and had chronic GERD and chronic tendonitis, among other less obvious health issues.
3. How long did it take you to adapt to a Zero Carb diet, both physically and psychologically?
Couple different points on this – I had been a strict vegetarian for over 40 years. Others might call me vegan but I never thought of myself in that way. And when I say vegetarian I wasn’t merely plant-based, I was very knowledgeable about it. I worked in health food stores for years, read nutrition books, did the math for complete proteins, avoided fat, watched calories, avoided sugar as an ingredient, ate only whole grains and lots of raw fresh fruits and veggies and so on. I wasn’t a junk food junkie at all. Vegans have often tried to tell me I must have been “doing it wrong…” I have to agree – I was eating plants instead of meat and that is NOT the response they were looking for. oops…
For me the vegetarianism was a byproduct of a meditation path that had an ethical and moral objection to the killing of animals. Psychologically it was very very difficult for me to take that first bite of meat. It was bacon from a neighbor’s farm, and given our friendship it was probably a pig whose name I knew, that I had fed on occasion, and petted. I hadn’t cooked, smelled, or eaten bacon since I was in my late teens. Let me tell you, I felt like one of Pavlov’s dogs at the bell – that first bite was an amazing experience. I licked it and there was a deluge of saliva in my mouth – I took one bite and – CLICK/THUMP – the plate was empty. A half pound of bacon devoured faster than I could blink, and then I sat on the couch in a state of post-prandial bliss that was as good as any sex I’ve ever had. I had no idea how starved my body was for those nutrients. That experience – the complex ecstatic sensations throughout my entire body and the impact on my attention and awareness – was utterly astonishing, especially since I had expected to get sick from my first exposure to meat. That experience immediately demonstrated to me the error of my ways: in fact, and contrary to 40 years of belief in an ideology, meat and fat are very good for the body.
So part one in answer to that question, after the first bite of meat I knew what the reality was and have never had trouble eating it since, regardless of the particular source – beef, pork, lamb, goat, any of the birds, seafood, and so on. Without exception meat always tastes amazingly delicious to me, and the fattier the better. A big thick chunk of pure pork belly fat properly cooked tastes better than candy to me.
Part two in answer to that question is more complicated – I was extremely insulin resistant, and looking back I would say I was actually diabetic instead of only pre-diabetic, although I didn’t have those distinctions at the time. It took me nearly three months of seriously difficult body issues before I converted. I was tired all the time, really exhausted, full of muscle cramps, my bowels were giving me no end of grief, I had headaches, I wasn’t sleeping well and so on.
On the other side, my chronic GERD vanished within 3 days of starting to eat only meat and drinking only water. I had been on and off meds for that for 10 years. Within 3 weeks my chronic arthritis really got small and it was completely gone within 6 weeks. I started losing lots of weight but I didn’t really notice that specifically other than that I kept having to tighten the belt on my pants. I wasn’t doing this to lose weight anyway so I paid little attention to that. My heart arrhythmias vanished. My blood pressure dropped significantly. My blood glucose normalized.
Right around the start of the fourth month I was done with feeling lousy, and was just about to give zero carb up as an unworkable solution. I went to bed one night, zonked out completely in the best night’s sleep I’d had in months, and woke up the next morning feeling great. The odd thing was that I didn’t notice immediately how good I felt. I just got up, started my day, and was halfway through a mid-morning session with a client when it suddenly dawned on me that nothing was wrong. In fact, I felt flat out terrific. I was wide awake at 10 AM still – didn’t need a nap. Didn’t feel like resting or distracting. Nothing hurt, I was full of energy. I felt fully alive physically for the first time in decades. That was another watereshed moment much like the first time I ate bacon. Everything was suddenly really different. Later I realized my metabolism had shifted to the new regime. I had fully adapted to the meat-only diet and my body LOVED it.
4. What books or people were most influential in guiding you to this way of eating?
First off was Lierre Keith’s marvelous book, “The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability”. I’ve told her directly that she literally saved my life. I didn’t recognize that at the time, but it’s clear from this perspective now. She was the first awakening for me after the heart attack – another person who shared my experience of a plant-based diet being catastrophic for human health. Then I read Dr. Mary Enig’s great book, “Eat Fat, Lose Fat” which killed off the lipid hypothesis for me. That was one of the most difficult aspects of this for me – realizing that there is no correlation between cholesterol in the diet, serum lipid levels, and cardiovascular disease. None. Zip. Zero. The Weston Price Foundation was helpful but they were a transition stage for me on the way to the all-meat diet. Certainly Charles Washington and his group ZIOH on Facebook, but we connected long before that group got so crowded and crazy. Eventually I encountered folks like Nora Gedgaudas and Esmée.
It took me about 3 years of reading, talking, researching and testing foods through inclusion and exclusion to discover the effect on my body and health – from the cardiac event to full metabolic conversion. I love warm fuzzies, but at heart I’m a science guy – show me the data – what’s the evidence for your assertions? I’m not going to just believe something because you say so. Prove it to me in the real world.
5. Do you eat only meat, or do you include eggs, cheese, and cream in your diet?
I eat anything from an animal. I’d love to eat more cheese and dairy if I could but it doesn’t agree with me. My partner does. We eat tons of eggs we get from a neighbor who has chickens – four to six eggs per day each. I do eat butter. We also eat seafood. We live in a state with a huge commercial fishery so we eat lobster, scallops, fresh fish, clams, crab. These are mostly easy to catch or easy to forage. Clams, crabs, striped bass, bluefish and so on, all free for the taking with a little time and effort. Smelts in the spring, venison, wild turkey, goose, bass, trout and so on. I have some friends who have fishing boats or lobster boats so I can get those direct and fresh off the boat for a reasonable price. We consider these fairly expensive purchased seafoods to be treats and only have them occasionally.
6. What percentage of your diet is beef verses other types of meats?
I don’t really keep track of percentages, but we do eat lots of beef, probably mostly beef. When we have the money we will buy half a cow (or a steer). We also buy whole chickens, half a pig. We have a couple freezers that we keep rotating.
7. When you eat beef, do you cook it rare, medium, or well done?
Rare – seared well on the outside and bloody in the middle. Beef is far and away the most filling, satisfying and nutritious food we eat. It is always tasty and always filling. When I eat a ribeye for instance, I won’t get hungry again for a long time.
8. Do you add extra fat to your meat? (i.e. butter, lard, tallow)
Yes, frequently – especially if we’ve got a very lean animal. Unfortunately lots of growers believe the low-fat nonsense so calves born in March or April get butchered sometime in Oct/Nov. Nine months is not sufficient a lifespan for an animal to build healthy fat reserves. We prefer very fatty, marbled meat but too many times we see extremely lean, young beef. We would rather buy fatty grocery store meat than too-lean grass-fed. The ideal is slaughter somewhere between 24 and 48 months. That gives the animal a reasonable experience of life and provides exceptional fatty meat on grass. We often add either butter, tallow or bacon fat when we are cooking. All eggs are cooked in bacon fat, or if they are poached, then they are drowned in butter.
9. Do you limit your meat consumption or do you eat until satisfied?
Just like The Lady says (winkwink) When hungry, eat meat until full. When thirsty, drink water. Rinse and repeat.
10. Do you eat liver or other organ meats? If so, how often?
If they are included when we buy half a cow or steer yes, beef heart, liver, tongue and etc. but we don’t seek them out.
11. Do you consume bone broth? If so, how often?
Not usually. We have some frozen but I suspect it’s been in there a couple years. I prefer water.
12. How many meals do you eat per day on average?
Usually two, but occasionally three. It usually depends on physical activity. If I’m doing a lot of work, say cutting, splitting and stacking 6 cords of firewood for the winter then I may get hungry in the evenings. I just listen to my body. If it wants more I give it more.
13. How much meat do you eat per day on average?
I eat about 2 pounds, maybe a little less. My partner typically eats about a third more than I do per day, but she has a high-burn metabolism. We find this both interesting and amusing. I’m in my late 60s and she is in her mid-50s. I out-mass her by maybe 3 inches and 20 pounds and I do a ton more physical labor than she does. She’s a writer, so that bizzy brain of hers is shredding calories far more efficiently than my big ole manly muscles are. LOL
14. Do you eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, or regular commercially produced meat?
We prefer to buy locally sourced whole animals (in either halfs or quarters) from farmers we know. Most of our meat is raised within about 20 miles from our house, and much of it within 5 miles. However if we run short we will absolutely buy grocery meat. Our complaint isn’t so much about grass-fed or not, it’s about oil for transport and the damage to animals and environment from CAFOs.
15. Do you drink any beverages besides water? (i.e. coffee, tea)
She drinks lots of teas and tons of water. I drink nearly all water except for one cup of black coffee in the morning. If I could tolerate it I would gladly drink a couple quarts of raw whole milk per day but it raises hell with my GI system.
16. Do you use salt?
Yes, to taste. Sometimes that’s not very much, other times lots. I tend to use more when working outside in hot weather. Here again I trust my body.
17. Do you use spices?
Occasionally – very occasionally – maybe only a few times a year, but they are all things grown here at the house – thyme, rosemary, dill, basil. I view plants as either medicines or garnish, and only useful in very small amounts.
18. Do you take any supplements?
I don’t take dietary supplements but she does – magnesium. I do take cannabis tincture occasionally at night to help with sleep. I have a medical card for PTSD. I grow my own plants and make my own tinctures. I use MCT oil as the carrier.
19. How much money do you spend on food each month?
I haven’t done the math and I don’t really keep track. Half a cow is about $1,500, and we buy maybe 3 a year. Eggs are 4 bucks a dozen and we go through 6 dozen a week between us, but we often trade eggs and some cheeses for her for work. I’m guessing an approximate average is between $220 and $250 a month each, but that can vary year to year. Bulk beef can run between 3.75 a pound and 4.25 a pound. Pork in bulk is similar.
20. Do you have any tips for making this diet more affordable?
No idea. If you buy grocery meat then watch for sales and buy in bulk then and freeze it. Ground beef is usually less if you get them to add more fat. For instance we do a 2 to 1 ratio at our butcher’s place. 15 pounds of ground beef made from 10 pounds meat to 5 pounds fat trimmings – offcuts from other meat they sell to the low-fat customers, added in and mixed well. That’s often as low as $3.45 a pound. If you buy from farmer folks you know then barter is a real lifesaver. But if you know farmers personally then you know how hard they work. They deserve to be well paid for what they do. Be fair.
21. Do you exercise regularly? If so, how often and how vigorously?
Yes, I try to walk at least 45 minutes every day. This is in the country, so it’s uphill and over dale. I practice Irish Stick fighting with a heavy bag (and other close-infighting combat skills) at least 4 times a week – 1 hour sessions. I literally chop wood, carry water, mow lawns (often with a scythe which I flat out love), shovel driveways and 4 times a week lift free weights. My partner does Tai Chi four times a week, lifts free weights, is a part-time lifeguard at a rehab pool so she swims several times a week, and we try to do our daily walks together whenever our schedules match.
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.)
Yeah, all that and more. I haven’t been this healthy since I was in my late teens and early 20s. Mentally and physically I feel unbelievably great all the time. Mood is good, mind is clear, lots of physical energy. On those rare occasions when I injure myself I heal very quickly. It’s so sad how for most of my life I had no idea that one could feel such physical joy day-to-day and be in a body this way.
23. What do you enjoy most about eating a Zero Carb diet?
Never having to waste time or energy thinking about what to eat. It’s simple and direct. Takes 10 minutes to prep and maybe another 10 to eat and – done. Unless I’m doing a roast or something, but even that, do maybe 15 minutes of prep, into the oven, out, let it rest – carve and eat. It always tastes amazingly delicious and I never get bored.
24. Do you have any advice for someone who is just beginning a Zero Carb diet?
Your body is the lab – do your homework, do the reading and research, do the science and figure out what works best for you, but when you finally do commit – just do it. Listen to your body, not your mind. You cannot do this by halves. Go thirty days and see how you feel. Then another thirty. And so on. Before you know it two years will have slipped by and you will feel great.
25. Are your friends and family supportive of your Zero Carb lifestyle? If not, how do you handle this?
Pretty much, I guess. I’m not particularly plugged into the opinions of others. If folks ask I explain. If they are resistant I shut up. If they are curious I will explain more and point them to other resources.
To add to that, I’m a fairly public figure, so I’m doing this questionnaire as an anonymous contributor. The reason is that I’m too visible and I have no interest in fielding a ton of crap from radical vegans. It’s just a waste of my time, attention, and energy. I don’t really care what others eat unless it’s damaging ecosystems. Most people have no idea that holistic managment of grazers on grass sequesters more carbon in the soil faster than any other technology we know, even more than replanting entire forests. You wanna fix climate change, increase ecosystem resilience and species diversity? We cannot accomplish that without millions of grazers on grass. I do what I can, but you know, I’m mortal and I’ve got work to do. I want to get as much done as possible before I’m gone. What’s the old joke? Lead, follow, or get out of my way.
26. Is there anything you would like share about this way of eating that I have not already asked you?
Yeah, couple other pieces that I think are relevant. I live in a particular place with it’s own local ecosystem. Many things grow wild on this land including micro-life. There are wild strawberries, wild raspberries, wild blueberries, wild grapes, and many kinds of edible mushrooms. In season I will eat several handfulls of each of those. Wild foraged foods are nothing like what we buy in a store – for starters they have very little sugar and are usually tart enough to pucker your mouth. However I eat these things with specific intent.
The surfaces of these local plants living on my place are covered with wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria that are specific to this ecosystem – just like me. I want those wee beasties living in my gut as part of my natural microbiome. With the berries, I usually only get a handfull or two before the berry eaters like the cedar waxwings show up and gobble them all down. The strawberries are insanely tiny, very tart and amazingly flavored. Two of them are about the size of my pinkie fingernail. One day this summer I was walking down to the river when I noticed they were ripe and I had about 20 of them. Before I got back from the canoe ride a large flock of waxwings had come and eaten every one. Never saw another berry there this year. LOL
I also will gather and eat mushrooms. The interesting thing about those is that they are not plants, but are their own separate kingdom – one of the five great kingdoms of life – bacteria, protoctists, plants, animals, and fungi. I suspect they are the symbiotic ancestors of all complex life on land. I know many of them have psychotropic and entheogenic value, but I also suspect all edible species have medicinal qualities just as they are. Nothing on the planet is quite as delicious to me as sliced mushrooms sauteed in butter on a perfectly cooked ribeye. I only get them in season, only from my own land, and only a few times a year. Some years there are none to be found.
Those are my only exceptions and I consider them not as food, but as good medicine. If you are a purist and wanna argue then please feel free to take that up with Gaia herself. I don’t mind, and I’m not suggesting that you do what I do. Figure out what works best for you and do that more. LOL!
Best to you all. Thanks for listening.
Live Long and Prosper.
Thus sayeth me…