Zero Carb Interview: Chris Cogswell

Chris on the job as a butcher.

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

I’ve been eating zero carb since Jan 2016, so 18 months.

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

I decided to try ZC after years of researching many diets. I was born with chronic Asthma and Allergies that had me in the ICU multiple times a year. Most years I was in every month, sometimes for weeks at a time. I was actually hooked up to life support at age 8 for a severe attack. For many years the doctor told my mother I wouldn’t live long and may need a heart/lung transplant. I’ve also had digestive issues, abdominal pain, vomiting and loose bowels for many years. In my early teens I had severe migraine, anxiety, anger outburst and multiple leg cramps daily. On top of all of this I had nasal polyps that were removed multiple times through surgery.

For years I followed the doctors advice that didn’t help. Following their orders I went down to 100lbs standing at 5’9. I started paying attention to foods I could tolerate and survived for years on white rice, chicken and frozen veggies. I would spend all of my free time reading and researching, until I found vegetarianism, paleo, then keto/lchf, and then ZC. I’ve tried all of these diets. Some helped and some didn’t. Going low carb Paleo seemed to help the best, but I was still feeling my asthma and had gone up to 165lbs being fat for me (I’m naturally a small guy). So long story short, health was my primary motivation.

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

Physically, it took me 2-3 months. The transition was not fun for me. I felt unwell for weeks and my energy was low for months. Mentally it was easier because I had decided it was for my health and this was going to happen. For the first year…. maybe longer, I was tempted to add in carbs after workouts, because I wanted to get bigger. But I’ve come to realize that bigger isn’t better. Healthier is best!

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

I would have to say, Gary Taubes books; I’ve read all of his nutrition work. And Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise.

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

Now I only eat meat. The first year I would have eggs and some dairy, but noticed that I feel better without them.

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

90% of my diet is beef. I also eat chicken and Duck sometimes.

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

I always have my beef cooked blue rare-rare. The closer to raw the better!!!

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

If I’m eating a leaner cut of meat I will melt butter over it.

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

I always eat until satisfied. I should add that most days, I follow a 16/8 fasting/eating window.

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

I eat beef and lambs liver. Sometimes I eat it raw, straight from the animal. I also eat heart, kidneys, lungs, and sometimes lambs brains. I usually have a small piece of liver every day. Heart once a week, and the others I eat once a month or so.

Chris before adopting an all meat diet.

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

No, I don’t drink broth. I have a hard time with rendered fats.

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

I usually eat 2-3 meals a day during my 8 hour eating window.

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

Lots!!! LoL. On average, I eat 3-4lbs a day. Sometimes more. I am very active though.

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

I eat a mixture of both. Luckily, I’m a butcher for a local farmer, so I have access to both kinds of meat at all times.

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

Yes. I drink water mostly, but have a coffee before a workout for boosted performance. I did drink coffee daily, but have recently stopped that.

16. Do you use salt?

I use salt on everything! I love the stuff! But I make sure it’s Himylayan Pink Salts, or Sea Salt. Never table salt. That stuff is horrible!

17. Do you use spices?

I use a bit of black pepper, but nothing else. The longer I’m ZC, the more I realize what I can and can’t tolerate and spices are a no.

18. Do you take any supplements?

No supplements.

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

don’t spend that much money on meat. Maybe $100 (Canadian) a month. Like I said earlier, I’m a butcher, so I get a weekly allowance of meats….. and I get to eat the miss cuts or ugly steaks!

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

Move to the country and become a butcher! Just joking. Truthfully, shop the sales, and buy the cheaper fatty cuts, or organs. They tend to be least expensive. Some places will give away the fatty trimmings.

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

Yes! I lift weights (full body) 2-3 times a week. I have a heavy labour job that I work 8.5-9 hours daily. Lots of lifting there… Nothing like carrying around a 1/4 beef at 200lbs! I walk 5km to and from work daily, in all weather. And I have three kids ages 6,4, and 1.

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.)

Since going ZC, almost all of my health issues have disappeared. Polyps, bad digestion, bowel pain, headaches, anxiety, muscle cramps, all gone!!! And my asthma is 95% better. I haven’t had to use my rescue inhaler since I started ZC, I’ve been taken off of steroids, and only take my Advair puffer if I get a bad chest cold. My mood has stabilized and I’ve become physically stronger. I’ve also lost 25 lbs. of excess body fat, even though that wasn’t a goal.

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

I get to eat meat all the time! I seriously enjoy every meal, and never get bored of eating the same things Over and over.

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

Just buckle down, find what you like and eat that! At first it may be hard, but it’s worth it. Don’t listen to all of the little tweaks that people use or make it more complicated than it needs to be; listen to your body and be patient.

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

My wife is used to my dietary experiments over the years, so she is ok with it. At first she was a little worried, but after receiving my blood tests… which were perfect, she’s supportive. Other parts of my family aren’t as accepting, but they are all eating SAD and have issues, so I just let them be, and stick to what works for me.

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

Listen to your body! Your body will change, so be aware and be patient. Some foods you can’t eat upfront, but your body might adjust and accept them. It could also go the other way. Don’t force feed what doesn’t work for you. Learn to love yourself and your body. This WOE may change your shape or size, but you’ll become the real (healthy) you, and you’re beautiful!!!

Chris today, enjoying his love of music.

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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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Lamb is My New Best Friend

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So, as I wrote in my previous post – My First 4 Months on Zero Carb – I have been eating a diet of only pork for almost 2 months. The reason is because it was the only meat I could find that was both affordable and low in histamines. However, a friend (thank you, you know who you are!) recently sent me a Precision Xtra Ketone and Blood Glucose Meter, so I could start testing myself and see how the Zero Carb diet was affecting me.

When I started testing my blood sugar, I was very surprised to discover that my fasting glucose level was running between 120-140, with a few post-prandial readings as high as 150! Optimum for people eating a carb-based diet is between 70-90. However, for people on a low-to-no carb diet, levels can be a little higher like 100-110 without it posing any threat to one’s health. In fact, this phenomenon is so common among Low and Zero Carb practitioners that Dr. Petro Dobromylskyj wrote a blog post explaining it titled Physiological Insulin Resistance.

Several others in the Zero Carb group I participate in Principia Carnivora who are Type 2 diabetics also noticed that pork seemed to cause their blood sugars to rise beyond the healthy range, between 150-200. Understandably, these kinds of numbers were making them a bit uncomfortable. One woman decided to do an elimination diet by eating only one kind of meat each day. This is how she pinpointed pork as the primary culprit in her higher than normal glucose readings. Chicken also raised her blood sugar someone higher, but nowhere near as high as pork. Beef seemed to be the best of all the meats she tested.

Because of its unusual effect on blood sugar, I decided to take a closer look at pork to see if I figure out why it might be doing this. I ended finding an interesting study done by the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) which showed that fresh pork in particular – as opposed to marinated or aged pork – caused the red blood blood cells of the person who ate it to agglutinate and stack together in an abnormal fashion.

I also learned from Dr. Peter D’Adamo that pork contains a lectin which is a known panhemaglutinan and will agglutinate all blood types on contact. This may account for the observations made in the WAPF study. I wrote a whole post explaining this in more detail titled Pork.

Interestingly, Dr. H. L. Newbold and Dr. James Salisbury – who both prescribed all-meat diets to their sick patients – found that pork was a less than optimal choice. Newbold reports that his patients simply felt less than well after eating pork, but he does not give much detail beyond this.

Salisbury, on the other hand, says that if one tries to live off of only pork for too long, they will develop what he called “meat dyspepsia.” As far as I can understand, meat dyspepsia involves a sort of reverse peristalsis, in which the meat would try to come up rather than go down like it was supposed to. Today, we might call this gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or simply indigestion.

Salisbury’s understanding of this came from personal experience and clinic observation. He hired a group of young healthy men to eat only one food at a time with him for periods of up to 2 months in order to determine how it would affect the body. What he found was that all meats – except for beef and lamb – would eventually result in this meat dyspepsia if eaten exclusively for too long. He says,

Good fresh beef and mutton stand at the head of all the ailments as foods promotive of human health. Eggs, fish, pork, veal, chickens, turkeys, and game come merely as side dishes: they may be subsisted upon singly for a limited time without bad results. All of these, however, if subsisted upon alone for too long a time… may eventually produce meat dyspepsia… in meat dyspepsia there is more or less distress… about the stomach…

I found this extremely interesting because I seemed to be experiencing more digestive issues with pork the longer I ate it. I did not seem to have much trouble during the first few weeks, but then I started to have increasing trouble with nausea and burping beginning about 2 hours after eating. Because of my histamine sensitivity, I was thinking that my digestive issues were histamine-related.

The pork I was getting was being processed within three day of slaughter, but I was wondering if maybe that was still too many days. I also wondered if perhaps too many histamines were being formed in the meat after I put it in the freezer or while I was thawing it out before cooking. I was feeling confused and a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation to be quite honest.

But after reading the above excerpt from Salisbury’s book The Relation of Alimentation and Disease, I decided to to see if my awesome butchers at The Meat Shop could get me some lamb for comparison. Well, they came through for me once again and got me some fresh lamb that was processed and frozen within 3 days of being slaughtered. This was perfect because now I would be able to test whether or not my reaction to the pork was a histamine issue, or just an issue with the pork itself.

Well, you can imagine my delight when – several hours after eating the lamb – I felt no nausea or digestive distress whatsoever! WOOO-HOOO!!! I cannot tell you what a profoundly negative effect bad digestion can have on one’s mood and mental outlook. Okay, so now that I have clarified this – which is HUGE – I just need to figure out how to create the money I need to be able to afford the lamb on a regular basis.

I was equally delighted to find that after only 2 days of eating lamb, instead of pork, my fasting blood glucose levels have dropped to between 96-113 which is a significant improvement. My post-prandial blood sugar reading last night was was 117.

Based on what Drs. Newbold and Salisbury similarly observed with both themselves and their patients, I imagine that beef would work just as well as lamb for me… if I could find some that was processed within only a few days of being slaughtered and was low in histamines. While I have not yet located a source that fits this criteria, I am sure it is out there somewhere (Ask, and It is Given!), and it is something that I am definitely looking forward to enjoying in the future.

P.S. If you want to learn more about Dr. Salisbury and his Beef and Hot Water diet, I recommend reading Elma Stuart’s book What Must I Do to Get Well? It is a far better presentation of his diet and how to apply it in one’s life than Salisbury’s own laboriously scientific work.