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.

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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