Zero Carb Interview: Malaena Medford

You can see the dramatic change in Malaena’s body composition over the course of her journey from how she looked before starting a Ketogenic diet with a weight of 256 lbs., then after several years on a Ketogenic diet with a weight of 179 lbs., and finally today after 15 months on a Zero Carb diet with a weight of 130 lbs. An incredible transformation!

Editor’s Note: You will notice that Malaena has a beard in her most recent photos. This is not because she is undergoing a sex changing and taking male hormones. The hair growth on her face is caused by a condition called hypertrichosis or hirsutism, also known as “werewolf syndrome.” She is a female and capable of procreating like one, and the hair on her face is not caused by a hormonal imbalance; it’s a genetic mutation.

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

I’ve been Carnivore for around fifteen months, a bit over a year now.

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

When I was 25, I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian of 2 years, and I was horrifically ill; I suffered from hair loss, weight gain despite following guidelines for it, my eyes were sunken in with dark circles around them, I always woke up feeling as if I had been poisoned, severe peripheral neuropathy, I was suffering symptoms of early-onset dementia, severe arthritis, hand tremors made it hard for me to draw, chronic fatigue, heart arrhythmia, and other symptoms. Then one day, I had such a severe attack that my intestines ruptured and I nearly bled out. I was on my deathbed.

I came to the conclusion that this was not working, and therefore it must be wrong or it would be fixing my health. I began looking for information online, and it was so very hard to wade through the junk and the good things. Then, I ran into people on YouTube who were praising Paleo and the health benefits. I looked at it with a wary eye, having been duped by the other “diet.” I was shocked at the amount of animal fat I was being told to eat, and some groups even ate raw meat, something I actually enjoy. I went into it, but kept my “healthy whole grains” because I thought I “needed” them. I was still overweight. 

I later began to attend Purdue University in Nutrition and Human Health for a Bachelor of Science degree, and it changed my life. I learned that grains and legumes were clearly poisonous, and sugar was the cause of disease—this is hard scientific fact. Plant foods, not animal foods, cause the chronic diseases of modern peoples (and ancient—Egypt was vegetarian and horrifically ill). I found Tom Naughton, who taught me how to identify bunk science and to be skeptical about everything. I also discovered Georgia Ede, who taught me how to pick apart a study with a fine-toothed comb, as well as Konstantin Monastyrsky, who taught me that fiber is terrible.

With their guidance and having learned basic biology, physiology, and biochemistry, I formulated a diet which would help me. It worked. Then I found out I was practicing the Ketogenic lifestyle. Over a period of five years, I had dropped down to 179 lbs (81 kg) from the 256+ lbs (116 kg or more) I started at (at 5’6″ in height), but I still had a bit more excess body fat I needed to shed off. However, it simply wouldn’t go away. While perusing around Facebook, I found groups labeled “Zero Carb” and thought: “That can’t be healthy!” But, after some research and thorough investigation, I realized that the reality was quite the opposite. I decided to give it a go and some of my illnesses became better.

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

Psychologically, it took me a week to get into it, because I’m a scientist and it took me that long to find all the science to show only benefits and no detriments. This website, Zero Carb Zen, helped a lot when I found it and read all the very useful information it provides on this way of eating. Physically, it was easy, because I was already Ketogenic and close to Carnivore to begin with, and I don’t actually like plants much anyways.

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

I mentioned the three who showed me how to analyze science and were active on social media (Tom Naughton, Dr. Georgia Ede and Mr. Konstantin Monastyrsky), From them, I quickly learned how beneficial an all-meat diet was for the body and mind. Other books I read were Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe, Know Your Fats and other works by Mary Enig, I watched the documentary, Fat Head, by Tom Naughton, and I joined several Zero Carb Carnivore Facebook groups, like Principia Carnivora, where I found the writings of Vilhjalmur Stefansson and others. 

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

I include all of the items listed, mostly as a garnish or treat, but I do not eat egg whites because I’m allergic.

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

I’d say beef and other ruminants is roughly 93% of what I eat and everything else is just a garnish. I’m not a fan of poultry except for the skin and I like the bones for various purposes, and I don’t do well with pork but I can have bacon as a treat on occasion; I do enjoy lard. However, pork and chicken both give me headaches if not eaten sparingly and in tiny amounts. I also eat lots of seafood, especially fatty kinds. Elk and bison are my favorite meats.

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

I mostly eat it entirely raw.

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

Sometimes, depending on if I’m craving it or not, and if it’s a lean cut. It’s actually a traditional method to spread fat on lean, and it makes sense to me from a nutritional standpoint.

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

I eat as much as I wish, but because I have a tiny stomach now, my meals tend to extend out over a two hour period. From the outside, it probably looks like I’m just snacking. Once I am satisfied, I won’t eat again for a while.

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

Yes, organ meats comprise up 90% of my food intake. I eat liver about every two to three days.

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

Haven’t tried it, but it looks interesting. I eat the soft part of bones and chew on the hard bits of cartilage. The bones themselves have good calcium which is mostly bioavailable.

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

Usually I eat 2-3 times per day unless I am having one of my ravenous days, then I seem to snack all day on cheese and raw meat. Only happens once a month.

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

It really depends, to be honest. I would say about 2 lbs. (0.9 kg) unless I can’t afford it.

A typical meal for Malaena of beef, bacon, and raw beef heart.

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

I cannot afford the luxury of the more nutrient-packed grass-fed, so I raise chickens for eggs and eat the commercial beef. I have elk and bison on occasion which is free from the meat storage for hunters, and it’s superior in flavor to anything I’ve ever tasted in my life.

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

I make a tonic of raw apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, pink salt, and water based on the medicinal aspects of each ingredient. This aids with digestion, helps the gut biome, aids with fat metabolism, and the salt helps with one of my chronic conditions, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). It’s not essential to existence, it’s just something I do. The only time I drink tea is when not feeling well, and it’s just plain mint.

16. Do you use salt? 

Yes, as stated above, for medical reasons. I only consume salt directly until it begins to taste bad, which I take as my body having had its fill. When things taste too salty, I know I do not need salt at all. I listen to this and use it to aid in my disability.

17. Do you use spices?

Yes, but few and only on occasion or for medicinal purposes; I’m a naturopathic botanical practitioner.

18. Do you take any supplements?

Vitamin D3 due to having porphyria which causes a violent sensitivity to light.

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

Only $120 because that’s all I get for food, but my mother knows how to get great deals and organs are inexpensive.

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

Look for sales, don’t pooh-pooh organ meats because they are meat and can be made delicious, don’t be afraid of day-old bin sales—you can find some pretty great deals there, and to be honest, this diet is way more affordable than a carb-based one because I don’t eat massive amounts like when I had my carb addiction out of control.

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

I am 90% bed-ridden but I never stop moving and don’t know why. Regular exercise includes resistance bands and yoga, along with heavy weights, but I cannot do anything rigorous because the POTS doesn’t allow it. My blood pools in my legs and won’t go to my brain, and my heartbeat goes in the range of 150 beats per minute which can be life-threatening. Rigorous exercise isn’t necessary so I’m not all that worried about it. I can run if I need, but I shouldn’t do it just because of the POTS.

Looking at my most recent photo which I took for this interview, I must say that I feel a bit self-conscious about those twigs attached to my hips, and the general atrophy of my musculature. Don’t judge me, please. This is progress so far. As I’m sure you can imagine, I have severe image issues and taking these pictures was hard. My mom cracked jokes to make me smile.

When I was 14, I was benching 200 lbs (91 kg) with my arms and could lift 600 lbs (272 kg) with my legs. Now, at the age of 31, my muscles look really horrible because I’m permanently crippled due to the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, the hyper-mobility type, so my leg joints slide around and my shoulders constantly pop in and out of their sockets. This is painful and it makes resistance training a real challenge. I walk with forearm crutches, which is why my arms are bigger than my legs. My goal weight is 150 lbs. with increased muscle and bone mass, but unfortunately my legs won’t change much.

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.)

I lost weight and my areas of pudge are gone. 

My neuropathy pains vanished once I completely removed carbohydrates from my diet. 

My gastrointestinal problems went away entirely once I found my balance of meat to fat. 

I don’t like variety. Autism has this thing where we just hate change and flavor/texture is a major part of that. On a mixed diet, I felt compelled to force variety in my diet for nutritional purposes. Now, on a purely Carnivore diet, I am finally free of this stress because there is no need for variety! I love being able to eat only a few foods and know that I am getting all of the vitamins and minerals I need for optimum health.

My cognitive capability has increased and my mental clarity is back. 

I’m no longer angry all the time like I was as a vegetarian. 

I hardly get sick at all. 

My muscles are getting big again and exercise is easier. 

My hormones are balanced and all my hormone-based functions are now regular. 

My hair and nails aren’t so brittle anymore.

My blood panels are fantastic, and I feel great in comparison to how I felt before. 

Basically, everything about my health has improved significantly.

Editor’s Note: I asked Malaena if the Zero Carb diet had any positive effect on her POTS, and so she explained a bit more about the complexity of her medical issues…

POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) is a sub-disorder connected to both my Porphyria and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. My main disorders are porphyria (acute-symptoms match hereditary coproporphyria but tests are expensive); Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, hypermobility type with POTS as a symptom attached to both of those two; hypertrichosis or hirsutism, also known as “werewolf syndrome,” which is excessive hair growth, with mine being male-pattern but not influenced by hormones; and Asperger’s Autism with savant trait.
These are all genetic disorders; I was born with them.
Zero Carb has definitely had an impact in helping the negative symptoms of the Porphyria and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and has made my cognitive function (affected by the Asperger’s Autism) improve, but did nothing about the hypertrichosis because it’s just a defect in my gene code and not caused by diet.
My form of POTS is extreme and severe, and even plant avoidance does nothing to control it, but it’s definitely more manageable. I attempted a 3-month hamburger and butter fast which made me feel fantastic, but it did nothing for the POTS. I still have to take salt, and I am bed-bound 90% of the time. This is because my POTS is not diet-induced, it’s a genetic coding flaw. I was born without the ability to control proper blood flow and this is caused by those two genetic disorders, so diet cannot do anything for it.

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

The simplicity of the diet and the sense of security I feel knowing that I have dramatically reduced my susceptibility to cardiovascular disease and so many other modern illnesses.

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

You can do it! — just wash away everything you think you know about healthy eating. Eat simply and don’t fret about nonsensical things. Look for good deals and, if you can afford it, get meats from local ranchers instead of supporting the big commercial corporations. The more we buy local, pasture-raised meat, the cheaper meat will become and the more affordable it will be for everyone.

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

Yes, they are, with the exception of my cousin’s family. They are stuck on the government guidelines and think everything the authorities say is absolutely true and based on science. My cousin chastises me and torments me, saying how bad it is for me to eat this way and then offers me some soy product because he’s convinced there’s nothing wrong with it. For the most part though, whenever someone questions me about my unusual diet, I simply open my mouth and scientific and medical jargon flies out, LOL. Then they usually want to know more and ask how they, too, can become healthier. Not all the time, but it’s often the case.

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

This way of eating would be a fantastic community thing for areas which allow livestock. The group efforts of caring for the animals, the preparation of the meat, using animal hides for things, and other such practices would reduce our global impact. Plant cropping, plastics, and fossil fuels have a huge and negative impact on our planet, and one of the things which could help is restorative grazing, which gives us more meat while simultaneously restoring the land to lush forests and meadows. This is not currently part of the Carnivore-lifestyle, but many of the popular practitioners and promoters of a Low/No Carb diet, like Tim Noakes, are pointing out the environmental advantages of a diet based on meat from ruminants that are allowed to graze on the land naturally.

Gregg Sheehan, a member of our Zero Carb community, has made a page on his website devoted to collecting Malaena’s wisdom regarding a Zero Carb diet into one place.

Diet Shack – Malaena Medford

Malaena is also creating her own website on the benefits of a Carnivore diet.

Grove of Wisdom

If you wish you learn more about a Zero Carb, All-Meat diet, please join us in our Facebook group Principia Carnivora.