Charles with the baby of a Zero Carb friend – taken during a Zero Carb get together in Los Angeles.
1. How long have you been eating a Zero Carb (No Plant Foods) diet?
August makes 8 years of ZC. I actually began the Atkins Induction Diet in January of 2007 but I never “climbed the carb ladder.” In the interim, I discovered that I didn’t need vegetables and in August, I discarded them altogether. I went on to lose about 32 more lbs., in addition to the 46 lbs. I had already lost on a low carb Atkins-style diet.
2. What motivated you to try this way of eating? Weight? Health?
Prior to carbohydrate restriction, I was obese and diagnosed as pre-diabetic and my doctor threatened medication. I asked for three months to work it out and I went on a low-fat, portion-controlled plan. I began at 221 pounds and went down to 178. I was looking rather “skinny-fat”. I was skinny, non-muscular-looking, and I had love handles. I began lifting weights. The more I worked, out the hungrier I got and the bigger I got. I was gaining about 2 pounds per week. At first, I was told it was all muscle and I did indeed gain muscle, but I still got bigger and bigger. In my initial diagnosis, my doctor said that I ate too much starch but his words didn’t resonate. I traded white starch for brown starch and that helped, but it wasn’t enough. His words came back to me when the scale returned to 208 pounds. I stopped all starches and the weight gain stopped and started going the other way. The workouts stayed the same. I started to look into a starch-less diet and found “low carb” and Atkins. It was very successful beyond my wildest dreams.
3. How long did it take you to adapt to a Zero Carb diet, both physically and psychologically?
I took to carbohydrate restriction like a fish to water. I didn’t miss the things I was giving up because most of them made me feel bad after eating them anyway. I was never much of a soda drinker but I tried Diet Coke and became addicted to it. I didn’t like the way I pined after that drink so I gave it up and focused entirely on water. Best thing I ever did. I felt better almost instantly but in terms of running performance, that probably took a couple of weeks to feel comfortable.
4. What books or people were most influential in guiding you to this way of eating?
Two articles changed my life along with two books. The first, was a Men’s Health articled entitled, “The Cure to Diabetes” describing Dr. Mary Vernon and the way she treated her diabetic patients. The second was, “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” by Taubes. For books, it was “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Taubes and “Not by Bread Alone: The Fat of the Land” by Stefannson. I read many other books, but none had as much impact as those two. I also have credit Jimmy Moore. He made the statement once that if a person follows a particular diet, they should read the book and do exactly what it says. I took that advice and learned as much as I could about Dr. Atkins. That lead to learning about Dr. Blake Donaldson and, eventually, Stefansson.
I was a moderator on Jimmy Moore’s site for the Atkins Diet. There was a man named, Dave who was the moderator of the Zero Carb thread, which was very empty. By the time I understood that his group was not crazy, he kind of disappeared and I never got to really have the conversation with him I wanted to have. No one was particularly interested at the time. I took over that group and we had a single thread on that forum that went on to dominate all the traffic on the board. It wasn’t long before we were kicked out of that forum. That event spurred me to create a group called Zeroing In On Health where our way of eating (i.e. zero plant foods) would be the rule rather than the exception.
I was basically called out by all the low-carb experts of the day who said they did not support my way of eating. It was called “dangerous” and other adjectives. They were fearful because I held the opinion that a healthy woman who was adapted to a Zero Carb diet should have no trouble carrying a healthy baby to term. I was ridiculed and criticized by many. Over the past six years, we have seen several healthy Zero Carb babies born by members of our community. That has been very gratifying to witness.
5. Do you eat only meat, or do you include eggs, cheese, and cream in your diet?
I eat meat. I have cheese very occasionally and I might taste something or other at my wife’s insistence but mostly, I eat meat exclusively and I drink water.
Charles with his son Meir after a run on Biloxi Beach in Mississippi.
6. What percentage of your diet is beef verses other types of meats?
If I had my way, my diet would be 100% beef. However, I also cook for my wife so I have to mix it up. My diet consists of beef, pork, chicken in equal shares – and occasionally seafood.
7. When you eat beef, do you cook it rare, medium, or well done?
I prefer my beef cooked to medium.
8. Do you add extra fat to your meat? (i.e. butter, lard, tallow)
I do not add extra fat to meat as a general rule. However, there are times when it is appealing to eat from the pan drippings or have a little butter on a steak.
9. Do you limit your meat consumption or do you eat until satisfied?
I always eat until I’m full. That varies depending on my appetite, but I typically clean my plate regardless of the amount.
10. Do you eat liver or other organ meats? If so, how often?
I eat no organ meats.
11. Do you consume bone broth? If so, how often?
I don’t consume bone broth. Not because I have anything against it, it’s just not something I waste time with. I like short visits to the kitchen. I might make my wife something exotic but I keep my own eating extremely simple.
Charles enjoying himself at a running event.
12. How many meals do you eat per day on average?
I typically eat three times during the work week and once or twice daily on weekends and holidays.
13. How much meat do you eat per day on average?
I consume about 2 pounds of meat per day, maybe a little more, sometimes a little less.
14. Do you eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, or regular commercially produced meat?
I eat regular, commercially-available meat one would find at a local, American supermarket.
15. Do you drink any beverages besides water? (i.e. coffee, tea, etc)
I drink water exclusively.
16. Do you use salt?
I use salt occasionally.
17. Do you use spices?
I use spices mostly because my wife likes them. If I’m cooking for us, I will use spices. If I’m cooking for myself, then the odds are about 20 percent that I would.
18. Do you take any supplements?
I take no supplements.
19. How much money do you spend on food each month?
For myself, my food bill would probably be about $50 per month, but because I have to buy other things for my wife, it’s higher. She tends to eat out half the time so it’s tough to know what our bill for food really looks like.
20. Do you have any tips for making this diet more affordable?
I like to think of ZC as a way of eating for life. It can be as simple as ground beef and water. One could conceivably spend $20 or $30 and eat three times per day for an entire month.
Charles dressed up for a night on the town.
21. Do you exercise regularly? If so, how often and how vigorously?
I enjoy running but I approach it as a boxer. A boxer sits idle until he has a fight planned. He enters training camp for about six weeks and he runs, lifts weight and focuses on his conditioning. Then, a few weeks out, the trainer comes and they begin to work on the technical aspects of the fight focusing on the opponent and the strategy they will employ. They participate in the fight and then they go back to idle, resting and recuperating until another fight. That is the way I believe exercise should be approached. Find an event, train for it, participate, and go back to life. Exercise is the function of a healthy body. One does not get healthy by exercising.
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 Carb changed my life. I lost some 78 pounds (unfortunately, I did not keep any “before” pictures of myself), my blood pressure normalized, my lipid profile recovered, my skin cleared up, my libido returned, my hair loss slowed, my lazy eye straitened up considerably, my feet no longer smell, my bowel regularity returned, my strength returned, my abdominal muscles returned, and I can run faster than men half my age. I’m sure I’m skipping many things, but that’s how much of a change this was for me. Zero Carb for Life!
A mantra Charles often repeats to Zero Carb “newbies” in his Zeroing in on Health Facebook group.
23. 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 children were raised to eat a low carb diet. They went through the various diet stages with me and adapted very well when meat was their primary option. They noticed how they were no longer hungry and craving snacks all the time. I no longer live with them, but they still report eating a low carb diet. By watching my own transformation, they have the knowledge they need to stay healthy. If they ever run into trouble with their health, they have told me they would switch to meat-only diet without hesitation.
24. What do you enjoy most about eating a Zero Carb diet?
That’s hard to say, but the most rewarding thing has been the interaction with other people who eat like me. They are some of the sharpest, most intelligent, and deep-thinking people I’ve ever encountered. Zero Carb is responsible for many psychological changes as well. Zero Carb people tend to have a better outlook, a more critical eye and they tend to be very direct. I have come to value their opinions more than anyone else in life. If I want a straight-forward, unbiased opinion, I ask a Zero Carb person. I am very thankful for all of my Zero Carb friends I’ve had the pleasure of knowing over the past 7 years. I have eaten at their homes, at restaurants, etc. I have traveled the country meeting these people and I will forever be grateful to them for their counsel.
25. Do you have any advice for someone who is just beginning a Zero Carb diet?
Find a piece of meat you enjoy and eat it until you’re full. Don’t eat again until you’re hungry. Drink water.
26. Is there anything you would like share about this way of eating that I have not already asked you?
ZC is not the easiest thing for most people to do. However, there is great reward for the effort.
Charles has a Facebook group called Zeroing in on Health where he and other Zero Carb veterans provide support and information to others who are interested in this lifestyle.
Charles dressed for the office.
Please visit my Interviews page 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 Charles Washington in his Facebook group Zeroing in on Health or Michael Frieze in his Facebook group Principia Carnivora for guidance and support. These two groups use different approaches, so if you find that one does not suit you, please check out the other one.