Zero Carb Interview: Jennifer Dodds

Jennifer Before & After her weight loss journey, using both a standard low carb diet and then a zero carb diet.

1. How long have you been eating a Zero Carb diet?

Over three years now, I started  April 23, 2015.

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

My entire life I was morbidly obese. I remember being very young at the doctor, maybe kindergarten checkup, my mother was asking about my weight. He told her to watch my portions and I would grow into it. Growing up, we tried everything!  Portion control, Slim Fast while I was still in daycare, Fen-Phen in middle and high school, Atkins, low fat, food pyramid, diabetic, just everything. I saw dietitians multiple times and followed their plans as well but I was never successful and never  was able to stick to anything  very long. 

By the time I was 15, I weighed 350 lbs. I  was a type two diabetic with migraines, PCOS, depression, and social anxiety. I would count every single carb, exercise, take my medications and was on insulin. I did all of this and my blood sugar was still out of control with readings in the 2-300’s sometimes higher. It was bad. After I graduated high school and I was more on my own, I ignored it all together. I also ballooned up to 420+ lbs. I wanted to have gastric bypass but insurance wouldn’t approve and I needed to lose weight for them to even consider me. I’m not exactly sure what happened then, but I just started losing weight without trying. I had my appendix removed and after that I steadily lost, but my blood sugars remained out of control. I did eventually diet again and got myself down to around 250 lbs. by my late 20’s, mostly by watching carbohydrate intake. 

Then an accident that nearly took my life really shook my world. I remember very little of the following years besides highlights, like getting married and buying our house. I slept nearly all the time, ate what was convenient and gained back 75 pounds of what I had lost. Then in January of 2015, weighing in at 325 lbs. after two days of no food and cleaning my bowels out, I had surgery to remove a fibroid from my uterus. It was a rough surgery. I lost a considerable amount of blood and it took a lot longer than anticipated. Afterwards I was just sick. I needed multiple blood transfusions. I had a home health nurse coming in to pack my huge open wound. She was putting a roll and a half of gauze in my abdomen every day! I wasn’t healing at all.  

Then the bad news hit. As I was lying on a trauma table in the local ER, where I had to meet my OB for him to clean my wound, he told me that the pathology had come back from my fibroid. He was wrong, it was a tumor. He explained that it was called a STUMP tumor and that it was very rare. STUMP stands for smooth muscle tumor of uncertain malignant potential. In other words, it is cancer without quite being cancer.  And because it is so rare they haven’t done much research on it. Laying there looking up at those bright lights, after all I had been through I just lost it. He says quit crying  Dodds!  Your going to live!  

A week later my husband and I made the trek to the oncology department two hours away. His news was just as grim. There is no way my OB could have gotten all of the cells from the tumor and I would have to have my uterus removed. I was devastated!   always thought that someday I would be a mother  I called my OB on the way home and he came on the phone and told me that having my uterus removed was my decision to make. That it was ok to ask questions and research before I made a final decision. So that’s exactly what I did!  

My aunt had a friend who had lived decades with cancer. I started researching and I decided that the best thing I could do for myself was to get rid of all sugar. So I started with a low carb high fat diet sometime in February of 15. But I could not get my blood sugars where I wanted them to be. I think it was around this time that I found Esmee’s website Zero Carb Zen and began reading all the information here. I was doing an egg fast when I decided to never go back to carbohydrates. And that’s it. Something clicked. It only took a few days and I knew this was the magic key I had been searching for my whole life! I had never felt satisfied before, and now I was. On a carb-based diet, I was always full, but still hungry! I was morbidly obese, and yet malnourished. 

Jennifer’s mother, little sister, and herself when she was about 6 years old.

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

It was still a serious mental struggle. Overcoming a lifetime of using food as comfort in every situation isn’t easy. I didn’t realize just how much I ate in social situations like family parties. I just ate constantly because of nerves! I remember having a panic attack and wondering what the heck was going on and it was because I wasn’t allowing myself to eat for comfort that evening. The physical adaptation was a lot quicker than the mental, probably 6 months initially although I continue to heal. Mental adaptation took a lot longer, probably a full year. Lifetime mental habits are hard to break. I still look in the fridge whenever I walk into my parent’s house!

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

I remember reading the Anderson Family interview, probably sometime in late 2014. I had already resolved myself to lose weight before I went in for surgery and was already doing some research on how to fix my hormones. I remember thinking, low carb yes, but there is no way that can be healthy! Like what I was doing to myself was healthy! I remember finding Esmee’s website fairly early on in my journey. I also read about Owsley Stanley (a.k.a. “The Bear”) and Vilhjalmur Stefansson. If you’re reading  this with the same skepticism I had, one month isn’t going to hurt you! Give it a try!

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

It has varied over the years. I ditched the eggs fairly early on. I did try and add them back in a couple of times. I even tried fresh from the farm eggs, and yolks only, but my body still reacts. I was eating butter, bacon and occasionally cheese for about a year until I realized they were contributing to my headaches. For the first six months or so, it was all fare game! Then naturally over time, I went to beef only. At first, I was fine with ground beef, even frozen beef patties. Now my husband calls me a “meat snob” because I will only eat fatty, fresh beef. I will eat leftovers if absolutely necessary but they have to be made from super fresh beef and eaten the next day.  If I am going on a day trip, I cook my meat let it cool then vacuum seal it. But only if I’m going to be eating it the next day.

Jennifer as a teenager with her little sister.

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

100%

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

Very rare. I sear my meat then put it in the oven at 270 degrees until warm through, the opposite works too. Lately, I have been eating a bite or two raw. I like it, it tastes very sweet! But I’m not quite ready to eat a full meal like that!

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

Not currently, but I have been toying with the idea of finding a constant source of beef trimmings. The meat around here seems to be getting more and more lean and I have been hungry.

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

I eat until satisfied, but I do realize when I am eating more than I should and then try to see if there is a reason. I typically eat only once a day unless I feel I am truly hungry.

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

No, but I  do enjoy it. There is something in it called tyramine which can cause increase in pressure and the brain and lead to headaches for some people. I realized I was reacting to beef liver as well as cheese and bacon because of the tyramine.

Jennifer and her little sister as young adults.

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

No, I have never liked it.

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

One, sometimes two. I do really well on one meal a day unless my pain is flared up, then I tend to eat more.

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

 I’d say roughly 2 lbs. Some days it’s a lot more, some a lot less.  I eat to hunger.

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

Regular grocery store meat. I am interested to see what locally raised beef would do for me, but that is costly!

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

I only drink water. We purchased a reverse osmosis filtration system for under the sink. I was seeing an oily surface on my drinking water and when you boil it there was a lot of sediment. My husband drinks coffee and I was having to clean the build up on the coffee pot nearly every week. I noticed a difference as soon as I quit drinking the tap water and my husband also noticed a difference! I did have a couple brief flings with coffee that turned out bad for me. If you haven’t tried giving it up yet, I highly suggest it!

Jennifer’s little sister and herself after they had both lost significant weight on a very low carb diet.

16. Do you use salt?

Yes, I have several different kinds of salts I use! My favorite is grey Celtic sea salt. I also use pink Hawaiian and have some others.  

17. Do you use spices?

No.

18. Do you take any supplements?

Magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K and small amounts of calcium and vitamin C

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

Roughly $200-$250

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

I managed to find a source of whole New York Strip for $3-4/ lb. That is what I have been eating lately. Otherwise it is the fattiest chuck roast I can find.

My husband eats what I call “Crappy Keto,” so here is what I have found to keep it less expensive. Chicken thighs are $.99 a lb on average. I cut the bone out and fry them skin side down in bacon grease till brown and crispy. They are the best! I always have chicken thighs ready to go in the fridge.

Liver is super cheap and is packed with nutrients.

Chuck roast tends to be the best priced beef with good fat and fries up good in chunks. I buy a couple big roasts and cut it into strips.

Salting beforehand also makes cheaper cuts more tender and flavorful.

If you have an Aldi’s, it is your friend!

Get yourself a vacuum sealer and buy when sales are good. Summer sales are great for doing this! Meat prices tend to go up in January when everyone is trying to “diet.” Then I tend to only find lean meats on sale and what I really prefer is super expensive. That is when the frozen stuff comes in handy.

Make friends with the dairy/deli/meat department!  They will sell you the past date stuff super cheep!  

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

I have physical therapy routines that I have to do in order to keep moving but nothing strenuous. I also do a bit of light yoga. I also walk quite a bit but not as much as I feel I should. 

Jennifer today after a total weight loss of 270 lbs.!

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 noticed improvement in the time it takes wounds to heal and I just don’t pick up bacteria and viruses like everyone else. 

I do still occasionally have seasonal allergies but nothing like before.  

After my surgery, I went through three months of little to no improvement and being on constant antibiotics. But within a week of switching to Zero Carb, both my home care nurse and I noticed a huge difference in the healing of my incision. The infection cleared up soon after.  

Zero carb also made my blood sugars steady for the first time and got rid of the estrogen dominance that had plagued me my entire life.  

It took quite a few months for my weight to go down. I even gained back 10 pounds of what I had lost between surgery and my time on a low carb high fat diet.  In fact, it was a good six months before I started to see steady weight loss. But now I am down to 150 lbs. which is 270 lbs. less than my all-time high of 420 lbs. I do, however, still have a fair amount of excess skin to deal with, but I am not surprised since I was so over weight all my life.

I also suspect I have a connective tissue disorder holding me back. After two severe traumas to my head and neck, I have developed some pretty severe symptoms that have continued to increase. I have been diagnosed with Arnold Chiari malformation and told that I have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome of the head and neck. But I suspect otherwise and am sending my information to yet another specialist. But I am still trying my best in physical therapy and at home to avoid any serious surgery. 

Before I lost the weight, it was hard to find a doctor who would take my symptoms seriously. I heard from most of them that I simply needed to lose weight and that my MRIs were completely normal — which they weren’t. (Side tip: always ask for the report and a CD of any tests you have done.)  

Well, it’s really sad, but since I have lost the excess body fat, the doctors are taking me and my symptoms more seriously. Ironically, though, some of them are now trying to blame my symptoms on the weight loss itself! As far as I’m concerned, I still don’t have an accurate diagnosis, but I feel we’re closer than ever to figuring it out. I will say that a Zero Carb diet has helped tremendously with chronic pain, by eliminating practically all of the inflammation. If not for this, I don’t know how I would have coped. 

During the year and a half following my surgery, I went through a time of severe anxiety and stress. My Zero Carb way of eating was a constant in my life that I could hold on to. It was a way for me to control at least some part of my body when the rest of it seemed so totally out of control. Even though my physical problems often make it hard to think and remember things, Zero Carb provides a clarity in my mind and spirit, like a fog has been lifted from me. Also, I find it much easier to calm myself when I do start to feel some anxiety. Through Zero Carb, I feel that I have come more fully into who I truly am.

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

The freedom!  All my life I felt trapped, not only by my own body, but by the food I ate. I am no longer constantly hungry. I see food for what it truly is, fuel not entertainment.

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

Prepare your food ahead of time. Have snacks on hand like cooked bacon. The time I spent eating a very low carb diet before I started a Zero Carb diet really helped the transition both mentally and physically. Mentally, I was able to see that even on a very low carb diet I wasn’t able to control my eating, even with such strict rules. Physically, I was able to transition from a standard American diet to a very low carb diet to a Zero Carb diet slowly, in stages, making it  a little less jarring to my system. Find a good support system. Even though I was a lurker for the most part, and rarely posted comments, I was a passive participant in various Zero Carb groups on Facebook that kept me going.

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

I believe so!  They have all seen me struggle my entire life with my weight and health, and now they are really happy for me.

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

Do your best to get off of any medications you are taking. One medication I had been taking for years I finally ditched and lost 30 lbs. very quickly. I continued with another and messed up my stomach and digestion. It is healing now that I have stopped it, but I was making myself miserable in the meantime. If you have any chronic health problems, a Zero Carb diet is an excellent way to help yourself  get a grasp of what is truly going on. It helped me connect to my body and truly understand it in ways I have never experienced before.  

Jennifer and her husband who follows a low carbohydrate diet and has also lost a significant amount of weight.

If you are interested in connecting with other like-minded carnivores, please join us in our Zero Carb Facebook group Principia Carnivora.

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Lex Rooker: The Unique Healing Power of an All-Raw Zero Carb Diet

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Editor’s note: This testimonial was originally published on a raw paleo forum website. However, it has since been removed for unknown reasons. I contacted Lex via email and asked him if I could please re-publish it on my blog, and he gave me his permission to do so. As someone who only benefits by eating his meat and other animal foods raw, I feel his story is simply too valuable to get lost in the ethers.

Health Problems From the Start & Conventional Treatments

It seems I’ve always had some sort of health problem. I was born in 1951. My mother had no breast milk so I had to be bottle fed. I was prone to colic and my thymus gland (a baby’s 1st defense against infection), didn’t shrink at the rate the doctors thought it should so they decided to intervene. At that time the doctors thought that radiation would cure everything so they gave radiation treatments to my lower throat area. This did cause the thymus gland to shrink, however, it also caused tumors to grow on my thyroid gland by the time I was age six. The tumors were removed, they were said to be benign so everyone thought that was that. Unfortunately, the tumors returned when I was 10 and they had to be removed again – this time they took half the thyroid too. Problem apparently solved.

By age 15 I had cystic acne, which again was treated with radiation. It did seem to help the acne, but 20 years later I started developing skin cancer lesions on the areas of my face that had been exposed to the radiation. To this day I see a dermatologist every six months to have the lesions frozen off. And I now refuse all forms of “preventive diagnostic radiation” like annual dental X-rays.

I was a heavy milk drinker as I was told by parents and doctors that milk was important for health. The more dairy products I ate the worse my acne and I had constant post nasal drip and phlegm. This got remarkably better when I gave up dairy, but I digress…

As a teenager I started getting migraine headaches. I would get at least 3 headaches a month, and the pain was so bad that at times I just wanted to die. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, and just prescribed heavy duty pain killers. I started reading everything I could find about health at that time in hopes of finding something that would take the headaches away.

Alternative Health Options

I read Sheldon, Bragg, Carrington, Professor Hotima, Victoris Kulvinskas, Norman Walker, Wigmore, Pritikin – you name the guru, I tried the cure. I did a 31 day distilled water fast (Bragg), and went from 180 lbs to about 96 lbs – almost died, but was convinced that it would be worth it if the headaches went away, and they did for almost 2 years. The problem was that I was so weakened by the fast that it took those 2 years to recover, and then the headaches returned.

I juiced carrots, celery, parsley, beats, and turnip greens and drank the juice by the quart until my skin turned orange (Walker). I raised wheat grass and drank 8 oz of wheat grass juice per day (Wigmore). I sprouted soybeans, wheat, millet, buckwheat, and sunflower seeds, and made ‘rejuvilac’ (Kulvinskasv). I made ‘Essene’ bread from sprouted grains and lentils. I ate cherries by the bushel basket when they were in season (Sheldon), and drank a quart of a tonic made from apple cider vinegar and honey every day (Bragg). None of this did any good. My headaches were as bad as ever, and I felt terrible most of the time.

By then we had the vegetarian movement so I went totally vegan from about 1978 until 1989. My health became so bad that it was painful to get up in the morning. My joints hurt and my teeth were losing their enamel. Not only did I have the killer headaches that would send me to bed in the dark with a heating pad over my face, but my muscles would go into hard painful cramps and spasms that would send me to the emergency room for a shot of muscle relaxant and pain killer.

The interesting part is, I was eating large amounts of whole grains and avoided all those bad “fats” like the plague. I tried the fruitarian route and only lasted a couple of weeks before I was so weak that I could hardly move.
About this time I discovered Pritikin, and that probably saved my life. I went back to eating meat in small amounts but held to the low fat theory because of all those “studies” that showed that animal fat was the cause of heart disease and cancer. At least life was somewhat normal and I felt OK (but not great) most of the time. Still had the headaches but they were once a month or so.

Paleolithic Transition

It was in late 1999 that I ran across Ray Audette’s book Neanderthin. This is also about the time that this wonderful world of the Internet really started to become useful. I started researching the Paleo type diets and began to slowly move in that direction. I still cooked everything, but cut out grains, dairy, and the like but was convinced that my diet still needed to be predominately fruits and vegetables with just small amounts of meat – sort of a super Pritikin without the grains, dairy, and potatoes. I would eat large salads (2 gallon bowl) of mixed greens and veggies with about 8 oz of meat at a meal.

Things got considerably better on my interpretation of the Neanderthin diet, but by this time I’m getting older. I hit 50 in 2001. I was still getting the occasion headache but now it was once every couple of months. I have also suffered from Prostatitis (inflamed prostate gland) since about age 25. I’d get flair-ups every couple of years that would send me to the hospital and I’d be on antibiotics for 6 – 8 weeks. One of these bouts hit in 2003 and this is when they discovered that my blood pressure was rising (147/90 at the time), blood sugar was elevated (fasting level 140), and triglycerides were about 500. All of this was attributed by the medical profession to just normal aging. This was also about the time that the dentist determined that I had advanced gum disease would need to see a specialist as both gums and bone holding the teeth were receding.

I was told that I would need to start taking blood pressure medication, diabetic pills, and cholesterol reducing drugs. The doctors said, “Of course there will be side effects like impotence, nausea, headaches, etc., but we should be able to control most of those by rotating through different drugs” As you can imagine, I was not thrilled.

It was back to the Internet where my next revelation was that I got the “hunter/gatherer” thing backwards. Hunter is first and so diet should be mostly meat. Gathering is for lean times when meat is not available. I had been doing almost the exact opposite. So now I moved to eating a large serving of meat or eggs at each meal but was sure to supplement with a salad and fruit to get all those necessary vitamins and minerals that you just couldn’t get from meat (you know, like vitamin C). I still cooked the meat to at least medium well and I just couldn’t eat fat, it would make me gag. I did notice an immediate improvement in digestion with the change to a higher protein way of eating. Much less gas and indigestion.

About this time a friend gave me a book on the Lewis and Clarke expedition where many of their journal entries were reproduced. I found it amazing to read that each man would often eat 9 lbs of meat after a day of heavy labor. Lewis also recounted that when they would kill a large animal, that the Indians would eat the organs raw. There were times when they subsisted on nothing but Pemmican (mostly dried raw meat and fat) yet remained in perfect health. This helped me to better understand just how much meat I really needed to eat as well as the importance of fat.

A year or so ago I ran across Geoff’s Raw Paleo Diet Yahoo! group and read every post with relish. It is this group and the links that Geoff provided that gave me the courage to try eating meat raw and ultimately doing away with fruits and veggies altogether. I figured that if Vilhjalmur Stefansson could do it then I could too. It was not easy but I did do it almost over night. I think the transition took about 3 months total. I’ve recounted some of the milestones of my return to health in that forum. In the beginning I would have killed for a Pepsi or cookie or a piece of fruit. Now I don’t miss the carbs at all, and seldom think about food. I eat once a day, about 2 lbs of mixed raw organ and muscle meat from grass fed beef – that’s it.

At this time my blood pressure is 102/67, my blood sugar stays right around 95 – 100, pulse has dropped from a resting rate of 78 to a resting rate of 60, and the dentist is amazed at the return of bone density and solid pink gums. Pain from arthritis in hands and knees is completely gone. Cancerous lesions on my face have all but disappeared (I used to have at least a dozen every 6 months and last month there were none). Still have prostate issues but I do see improvement there also. I used to get up every 2 hours at night, and after a year on this diet it is every 3 – 4 hours depending on how much water I drink before going to bed. I will be going to the doctor for a physical in a few weeks and will report cholesterol, triglycerides, and anything else of interest to the group when I get the results.

Lex Rooker’s journal is still publically available on-line and may be read here:

htstp://www.rawpaleodietforum.com/journals/lex’s-journal/

 

Zero Carb Testimonial: Stephany

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

I stated on January 1, 2016 and, after just 45 days, I feel fantastic! After going low carb/low fat (HCQ) in March of last year 2015, then low carb paleo and keto after that, I have finally found what really works for me: Zero Carb aka All animal foods and zero plant foods.

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

Health. And curiosity! As I said before, I discovered lowcarb in March last year. I was suffering from many health issues: obesity, extreme fatigue, bouts of depression, allergies, asthma-like symptoms, migraine attacks, panic attacks to name just a few.

I did some research, and soon found out that I was probably pre-diabetic – if not yet type 2 diabetes. I did not dare go to the doctor because I knew he would just give me drugs. Also, food became more and more of a problem. No matter what I ate, I felt miserable afterwards, extremely tired and I’d have the strangest allergic reactions.

At that time I was eating a high carb low fat diet: masses of whole grains, lots of fruit and veggies, no butter, some meat and fish. Coffee with sugar and mostly low-fat snacks to finish. I did not understand it because I thought I was eating a healthy diet. I never thought of questioning my diet choices and I thought it was just me.

At the end of February I was at my deepest point and looked for help. I asked my pharmacist if he could recommend a nutritional expert. He smiled and said, he was just working on something new and asked if I could wait a couple of weeks. I thought, why not? I really trust him because a couple of years before he helped me heal my gut. Back then, we both did not know about the benefits of lowcarb.

Anyway, mid-March 2015 my journey started. First of all, let me be clear about this: I did not expect to lose any weight and weight loss has never been my first goal. I wanted to be fitter and healthier. I never felt really bad about being obese – at least not until I started developing the above mentioned symptoms.

First I did HCQ: 3 weeks of low carb and low fat to reset the body, then 3 weeks of low carb and high fat. The idea of HCQ is that you can return to your normal eating pattern eating after 6 weeks because the body has been reset.

Well, the first 3 days of HCQ were hell. I had such a headache, and I was so nauseous and dizzy I thought I would faint. But I stayed the course and lo and behold: After 3 days I felt like new. Within a week many of my health issues were gone. Just like that! I was energized, had no more brain fog and simply felt fine. I remember waking up one morning and feeling awake and not tired. That was a completely new experience after years of being tired all the time. Also, the weight simply dropped off.

Picture: Before Beginning My Journey and Today

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It was soon clear to me that I would not return to my old way of eating. So I started reading books and searching the web. I was so surprised when I saw all the information on low carb. It did not take me long to stumble across paleo and keto. I did a couple of months of low carb paleo. When I re-introduced the so-called safe starches, many of my health issues came back.

At around that time I also discovered your blog for the first time and was really fascinated. But somehow, I did not really go for it and instead went keto. However, on keto I stopped losing weight and I noticed that I was returning to bad eating habits: lots of keto treats and so-called “healthified” keto food (e.g. coconut cookies with sweetener, coconut pancakes with sweetener, etc.).

Also, I started to obsess over food. I was counting macros and weighing my food. And I developed a funny kind of rash and some allergic reactions again (probably because of all the nut flours). So, at the end of December I decided this was getting out of hand and did the full monty: zero carb – all animal and no plants. I have not regretted it one second.

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

Psychologically: right away. I knew instinctively that this was the right way of eating for me.

Physically: The first 2 weeks I felt a bit weak and had some keto flu symptoms which surprised me because I thought I was keto-adapted. Looking back I now realize I probably was not really adapted yet.

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

In the beginning of my lowcarb experience I read a lot of books by Dr. Strunz (a German doctor) and a lot of the paleo books.

I liked Chris Kresser’s “The Paleo Cure” a lot, even though I do not agree with all his views (e.g. on safe starches – I think for some people like myself the body is so broken that even safe starches are not an option anymore. In fact, I think there is no such thing as a safe starch). But his 30 day reset really helped me. I did a very strict version of the 30 day reset: lots of meat, fish, good fats and veggies. No fruit, no nuts, no seeds, and other stuff that was allowed. In fact, this 30 day reset was better than the crap I ate afterwards on keto.

Another good source for getting started was Mark Sisson. I know many people do not like him because he is too commercial but his basic ideas are pretty ok: lots of fat, enough meat, some veggies, some fruit and nuts. The thing is, he wants to reach as many people as possible so he is very lenient. But I’m ok with that.

I also read this Zero Carb Zen blog from beginning to end and back again, as well as both of L. Amber O’Hearn’s blogs (Empiri.ca and Ketotic.org), and Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore. Even though I was really fascinated by the zero carb concept I could not yet bring myself to try it. I’d have a couple of zero carb days and then I’d eat a keto treat or lots of veggies again.

Right now I’m reading Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas. Next on my reading list is The Fat of the Land by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. I guess I should have started with those, but well, it is a journey and I learn every day.

When I decided to go Zero Carb, I also joined the Zero Carb Facebook group Principia Carnivora. This group has been a blessing. The people in this group are the kindest, most helpful and most intelligent people ever! I am learning constantly from them.

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

I eat porc, beef, chicken, fish, rabbit, eggs, and butter. In the beginning of zero carb I went a bit wild on dairy, esp. heavy cream and cream cheese and also on bacon and ham. After two weeks I cut those out and felt an improvement again.

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

Hmm, I do not really know. I’d say 50% beef, 50% other meat. But I want to eat more beef. I notice that on pure beef days I feel even better.

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

Steak is rare to medium. I used to eat ground beef well-done but meanwhile I have tried some raw ground beef and absolutely loved it.

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

Yes, most of the meat I get is pretty lean, so I slather it in butter. I use the beef fat that I get from my meat broth to cook my steaks and I use lard for porc.

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

I eat until satisfied. But it was something I had to learn: to eat enough, not to over-eat and not to stop too early. It is a pity how we forget to listen to the signals our bodies give us.

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

Yes, once or twice a week: liver, tongue, heart, lung. I believe in the concept of eating the animal from nose to tail. I find especially beef tongue very nourishing.

Do you consume bone or meat broth? If so, how often?

Yes, once a week I cook a meat/bone broth. I do not drink it that often anymore. I use the fat for cooking steak and my husband uses the broth for cooking his veggies.

Picture: Delicious, healing broth.

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How many meals do you eat per day on average?

I’m down to two meals, but my aim is to eat one meal a day. However, I have learned not too hurry anything. On keto I tried to do intermittent fasting but it did not work out (so much for the idea of thinking I was keto-adapted). On Zero Carb it just happened. I’d have breakfast and a late lunch and at dinner time I found out I was not hungry so I did not eat. I notice now that I’m not even really hungry in the morning, but I still have breakfast. I think this is more a psychological thing. But as I said, I’m not hurrying anything. I trust that I’ll know when the time has come 🙂

How much meat do you eat per day on average?

No idea. I do not count any calories, do not weigh any meat, do not worry about macros. I did that on keto and it drove me crazy. I’m no longer occupied with “healthified” treats and carb substitutes. The credo is indeed simple. Eat meat. Drink water. Be happy 🙂

A normal day looks like this: breakfast (at about 6.30 a.m.) is some eggs, and/or some steaks, and a very weak coffee blended with butter. Lunch (at about 2.30 p.m.) is meat with butter, sometimes some extra eggs. I no longer need dinner – I cannot believe this myself.

Picture: Beef is very lean so I slather it in butter.

imageDo you eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, or regular commercially produced meat?

Both. Porc is mostly from my local butcher, beef is mostly from a local farmer, rabbit and chicken are self-raised. Except for the butter, I do not buy or eat anything with a barcode anymore.

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

I drink one cup of freshly ground coffee blended with lots of butter in the morning. I have not been able to drink coffee for a long time, so I am very happy I can drink this one cup again. I am forever grateful to a good friend who gave me a coffee grinder as a Christmas present.

Do you use salt?

Yes, but less and less.

Do you use spices?

No. I have never liked them.

Do you take any supplements?

I do, but I’m ready to let them go. I take a multi-vitamin, omega 3 and magnesium. But as I said, as soon as I find fattier cuts of beef, I’ll let them go. Again, I trust that I’ll know when the time has come.

How much money do you spend on food each month?
Not as much as when I was eating high carb and low fat.

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

I do not think this way of eating is expensive at all. I’d say: Buy the fattier cuts, try to buy in bulk. I live in a rural area where I can buy high-quality food at a reasonable price. I am grateful for this every single day.

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

Yes, 3 to 4 times a week since going zerocarb. Not because I have to but because I want to. Nothing big, but it is fun and I am becoming more muscular. In the beginning of Zero Carb I did not workout because I felt a bit weak but the last couple of days I had so much energy that I started some body weight lifting.

In this respect I noted an interesting development with my blood ketones: when I was on keto and in the beginning of Zero Carb I’d have blood ketones at 1.1 but my FBG would still be at 85 to 90. The last couple of days my blood ketones dropped to 0.6 to 0.9 but my FBG also dropped to 75. I feel much alerter and awake than ever before 🙂

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.)

LowCarb stopped many allergies and gave me more energy and mental clarity, but I still felt bloated and constipated most of the time.

With Zero Carb, I have no more allergies, stronger muscles, no fatigue, absolute mental clarity, and a deep calmness. Oh yes, I sleep wonderfully every night even though I have a lot of stress going on at work. Also, no more bloating and constipation.

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

The simplicity! And it is so delicious. The few people who know I am eating this way often ask me, if it does not get boring. I can say: No, it does not. I enjoy every meal without obsessing over it beforehand or afterwards. My taste buds get better and better.

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

Eat meat. Drink water. Be happy. Be patient. Trust the process. Your body needs time to heal. I’ve been Zero Carb for one month, before that keto for about 2 months and low carb for about 8 months. My body is still healing and sometimes I think I’m still adapting.

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

My husband was a bit worried in the beginning, but now he is okay with my choice. My closest relatives and friends are also ok with this. I do not really worry about what others think or say – I never did and I am not going to start doing this now.

If people ask me what I did to lose so much weight, I tell them that I went low carb. Depending on their reaction I might or might not say that I’m completely zero carb. I’m not being militant or anything about this way of eating. Everybody has to find what is correct for them. For some people it is enough to go low carb, for some primal or paleo is the solution, and for some it is zero carb.
I did a lot of reading and research, and now even arguments about the moral aspects do not get me off track.

In fact, I think this way of eating is more sustainable for the planet than other diets. Which does not mean that I favor mass meat production, not at all. But I no longer believe that going meatless will save the planet. I recommend Ash Simmonds’ site highsteaks.com, the excellent book The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith, or Allan Savory’s project savory.global for more info.

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

No, I can only advise to everybody who is having health problems or feeling stuck in lowcarb limbo: Try zero carb for 30 days. I do not regret many things but I do regret that I did not start Zero Carb when I first learned about it which was last August when I discovered this blog. Instead of listening to my gut I listened to the voice of reason which said I would perish if I stopped eating veggies and fruit and that it would be boring to eat only meat. I was so wrong! So from now on, I’ll listen to my healthy gut. Others can eat veggies, I’m happy with meat and water 🙂

Not all of my health issues have been solved yet and I still have some weight to lose but steak by steak and egg by egg I’m getting there. This WOE rocks!

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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 Carb veterans.

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.

 

Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 2

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This article is an addendum to my last post Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 1. If you have not read that article, please do so before proceeding. I intended to discuss the information below in that post, but I forgot. Special thanks to Raymund Edwards of the Facebook group Optimal Ketogenic Living for bringing it to my attention.

Okay, so I want to be absolutely clear: I am not recommending that anyone practicing a Zero Carb diet should eat only their minimum requirement for protein. Eating too little protein on a Zero Carb diet can be just as detrimental as eating too much protein.

While Dr. Ron Rosedale is a proponent of eating only your minimum daily requirement, it is important to understand that he prescribes a Low Carb High Fat diet, not a Zero Carb diet. This means that his patients can get part of their nutrients from very low carb fruits and vegetables. However, people who eat a Zero Carb diet must get all of their nutrients from meat and other animal products.

There are very few nutrients in the fat portion of meat. While fat does have some fat soluble vitamins, it has no appreciable amount of water soluble B vitamins or minerals. It is the lean portion of the meat that contains most of the nutrients. So, restricting protein too much will also restrict total nutrient intake and, thus, compromise overall health and nutritional status.

This is why children who eat a very High Fat Ketogenic diet to manage their epilepsy are given vitamin and mineral supplements. 90% of their calories come from fat, and it is impossible for them get enough essential nutrients from the other foods they eat to meet their nutritional needs. But, in their case, the benefits of the high fat diet outweigh the nutrient shortfall, so supplements are used to make up the difference.

It is important, therefore, to find a happy medium with your protein intake. Again, I believe that our best examples for optimal protein consumption on a Zero Carb diet was provided by Stefansson and Donaldson. Both of these men ate and recommended a protein intake of between 100-140 gm per day.

During the year long Bellvue study, Stefansson showed no sign of nutritional deficiencies, not even for vitamin C. And Donaldson never once mentions the need to prescribe nutritional supplements to his patients while they followed his dietary program.

So, optimal protein on a Zero Carb diet is not about eating the least amount of protein that your body needs to function because – to reiterate – if you restrict protein too much, you restrict the lean portion of meat; and if you restrict the lean portion of meat too much, you restrict essential nutrients; and if you restrict essential nutrients too much, you risk compromising your total health profile.

But, optimal protein on a Zero Carb diet is also not about eating unlimited quantities of protein. Too much protein is no better than too little. You do not need 200+ grams of protein per day, and eating that much on a regular basis has its own set of potentially negative effects. Like everything else in life, it is about finding balance.

This is why fat consumption is the key to being successful on a Zero Carb diet long term. If 75-80% of your calories come from fat, like it did for Stefansson and Donaldson, it is unlikely that you will eat too much protein. Fat is the macronutrient that provides satiety. If you eat enough fat with your lean, you will not be so inclined to overeat protein.

Just don’t go overboard in the opposite direction either unless you have a really good medical reason such as epilepsy, diabetes, or cancer management. And if you do need to keep your protein at the bare minimum due to a serious medical condition, then it probably would be wise to incorporate nutritional supplements into your program.

If you following a Zero Carb diet and would like support, please join us in Principia Carnivora on Facebook.

 

Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 1


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Many long time practitioners of a Zero Carb diet have shied away from discussions on macronutrient amounts and ratios in an effort to keep things simple. The general recommendation is to eat as much fatty meat as you want whenever you feel hungry. I understand the pull of this advice. We all want things to be as uncomplicated as possible, and having to the calculate protein and fat content of one’s diet can put some people into a mathematical tailspin. While this basic advice works well for some people, it does not work well for everyone. Therefore, I am going to dive headfirst into this subject and try to explain why this might be the case.

I have been practicing a Zero Carb diet now for 9 months. Not as long as some have, certainly, but long enough to know how this diet affects my body. I have made it through the initial adaptation process that occurs when one eliminates all plant foods and carbohydrates from their diet, and so any unpleasant symptoms I may be experiencing from the diet now are probably not due to that.

I had many challenges when first starting this diet due to histamine intolerance, and it was difficult for me to even find a meat that was low enough in histamines that I could eat without getting a migraine and feeling generally awful. I had only one source of beef that was not aged very long and was low in histamines, but it was from grassfed cows and was also low in fat. When I tried to add other fats to it, I did not feel well. Any rendered fat (such as tallow, lard, or butter) caused serious digestive problems (like hours of nausea and burping).

However, I was experiencing enough benefits from this way of eating that I continued on with the leaner grassfed meat because I could not figure out what else to do. But the longer I ate it, the worse I felt. It did not satisfy my hunger even after eating 2 lbs of it, and I was constantly thinking about eating again. It also made me very tired and lethargic, as well as extremely thirsty. I really didn’t know what else to do.

Then, I decided to do a water fast with my dog to help with some of his health problems, and we ended up going for 16 days. After the fast was over, I found that my histamine tolerance was much improved. I tested steaks from both Costco and Sprouts and found that I could eat them without developing a migraine afterwards. This was a welcome surprise. Now I could eat meat with more fat on it, and I found that I felt so much better. The fat that is part of the meat itself did not create the same kind of digestive upset that rendered fats did.

Throughout all of this, I finally decided to read two classic works by individuals who were very knowledgeable and experienced with eating and recommending an all-meat diet: The Fat of the Land by Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Strong Medicine by Blake Donaldson. Both of these books should – in my opinion – be required reading for anyone who is interesting in trying a Zero Carb diet.

Stefansson was an anthropologist who spent 10 years off and on living with the Arctic Natives and eating their diet. He experienced their way of life first hand and wrote about it in many books. When he returned to civilization, however, his academic colleagues did not believe he was telling the truth about the Native diet, so Stefansson agreed to allow a group of doctors to supervise him for one full year while eating an all-meat diet. The details of this unique study performed at Bellevue Hospital in New York can be read here: “Prolonged Meat Diets with a Study of Kidney Function and Ketosis.”

The upshot of that study was that neither Stefansson nor his colleague Karsten Andersen, who also participated, showed any signs of nutritional deficiencies or other health problems as a result of eating an all-meat diet for an entire year. The most interesting part of this study for me was the macronutrient profile of their diet. These two men both ate an average of 100-140 gm of protein and 200-300 gm of fat, totally 2100-3000 calories per day. That amount of protein equals about 14-20 oz of meat (lean portion) per day. All of the rest of their calories came from fat. There diet derived 75-80% of all calories from fat. Clearly, their meat was much fattier in 1929 than most of the meat we have available to us in supermarkets today.

Stefansson also explains that when one first starts a high fat diet, they have to go through an adaptation period (in the same way that you do when you refuse or remove carbohydrates from your diet). It takes about 3-4 weeks for the digestive system to adjust, and one may experience nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. He was surprisingly prescient in his understanding of why this occurred and states that the gut bacteria have to undergo significant alteration before we can effectively utilize the higher level of fat in the diet. In other words, he was talking about the GUT BIOME!

So, it is important for people new to a Zero Carb diet, or new to increasing the fat in their current Zero Carb diet, to understand this and be patient with their body. Lex Rooker, a long time raw meat eater, was very nauseated when he decided to up his fat from 65% to 80%. It took his body a while to adjust to the new level, but once it did, he felt much better over all. If you increase your fat percentage slowly over a period of days or weeks, you will experience less negative symptoms. It can be very helpful initially to eat 2-4 smaller meals, rather than one bigger meal, and reduce the amount of fat your digestive system must process at one time. When Stefansson lived with the Arctic Natives, they ate 4 meals per day; and during the Bellevue study, Stefansson and Andersen ate 3 times a day. They never ate all of their food for the day at one sitting.

Donaldson was a physician who practiced medicine from approximately 1900-1960. He stumbled upon the all-meat diet at some point during his career and began prescribing it to all of his sick and obese patients. He recommended 6 oz of meat (lean portion) and 2 oz of fat eaten 3 times per day, for a total of 3000 calories per day. This macronutrient profile is uncannily similar to what Stefansson and Andersen both ate during the Bellevue study. Fat provides about 75-80% of total calories with his recommended ratio of lean to fat. Donaldson said that if his patients ate less than this amount of meat, or skipped meals, their weight loss actually slowed down. He felt that a certain amount of protein was necessary to stoke the metabolic fire needed to burn body fat. He claims to have had a very high success rate with his patients. But since there is no study documenting his results, we can only take his word for it.

Another very interesting doctor who prescribed a mostly all-meat diet for his sick and obese patients was Dr. H.L. Newbold who practiced orthomolecular medicine from approximately 1940-1990. He had the good fortune to work with a brilliant doctor named Theron Randolph who taught Newbold how food allergies can cause serious mental and physical health problems. After many years of practice, Newbold wrote a little known, but very interesting, book called The Type A – Type B Weight Loss Diet. Like Donaldson, he recommended about 16-24 oz of very fatty meat per day, according to appetite. He found that his patients responded best to bone-in ribeye steaks.

Joe and Charlene Andersen have followed a Zero Carb diet for almost 2 decades now and have eaten very fatty ribeyes almost exclusively throughout this time. They also ate a lot of pemmican in the beginning of their journey, and that too is very high in fat. Here is a picture of the ribeyes they buy and eat on a regular basis.

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So, what does all this mean for modern day Zero Carb practitioners who want to thrive on this diet?

It is my opinion, based on what I have read from the above authors, as well as my own experience of eating this diet for 9 months now, that recommending people eat as much fatty meat as they want according to hunger will only be successful if the meat they are eating is actually fatty, and their cooking method preserves the fat. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but there are others – like myself – who have been consuming large amounts (2 or more lbs. per day) of lean-ish meat on a regular basis for many months. The result is that some of them have gained weight, failed to lose weight, are still experiencing inflammation, and feel generally blasé. In short, they are not experiencing the “Zen” of Zero Carb.

I believe the main reason they are not experiencing the results they are wanting and expecting is because – in some cases – they are eating too much protein. Too much protein can raise insulin and prevent weight loss, as I describe in my post “Insulin, Glucagon, and Fat Metabolism.” Chronically elevated insulin can also lead to all kinds of health problems. Amy Berger has explored some of the many illnesses that seem to be a direct result of high insulin levels in her terrific blog post “It’s the Insulin Stupid – Part 2.”

When I was eating 2 lbs of lean-ish ground beef, my total protein intake was close to 250 grams a day. Not only is that amount of protein not necessary, it can even be detrimental over the long term. When protein is broken down during digestion, toxic by-products like ammonia are created. These toxins must be eliminated through the kidneys, and the kidneys need water to do their job. This explains why I was so unbelievably thirsty while eating 2 lbs of lean-ish meat per day. As soon as I reduced my protein to 100 gm (16 oz of meat) and increased my fat to almost 200 gm per day, the fierce thirst vanished almost overnight. So, if someone is eating an all-meat diet and they have already made it through the adaptation period (first 4-6 weeks) and they are still incredibly thirsty, I think they would be wise to take a look at how much protein versus fat they are eating.

For economic reasons, many people use ground beef as a staple food on their Zero Carb diet, and it is not always as fatty as they think. When raw, 80/20 ground beef is 70% fat, but after cooking, the fat percentage drops to less than 60%. If you pour all the fat from the pan back over your ground beef, you will be getting close to percentage of fat recommended by Stefansson, Donaldson, and Newbold. But if you do not add the fat back to your ground beef, then you will fall short. You can also lose a lot of fat from a fatty steak if you barbecue it and the fat drips off the meat during the cooking process. This, not only is the original fat content of the meat important, but so is the cooking method. If you lose a lot of fat during cooking, then you will need to add extra fat to your meal to make up the deficit.

How much protein does a person need for health? This is a very controversial subject. Dr. Ron Rosedale comes down on the side that less is better. He recommends 1 gm of protein per kilogram of lean body mass. You figure that out, you take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 and then subtract 10%. I weigh 115 lb —> divided by 2.2 —> 52 kg —> minus 10% —> 46 gm of protein per day to meet absolute needs. For a thorough look at the potential downside of eating TOO MUCH protein, read Rosedale’s post “Protein: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Now, it is important to understand that Rosedale is an endocrinologist who treats patients with severe metabolic derangement. The more insulin resistant you are, the less protein you can eat without it converting into glucose. Though many of us today do suffer from insulin resistance to one degree or another, as explained in Amy Berger’s excellent post “It’s the Insulin Stupid – Part 1,” it is unlikely that we all need to limit our protein intake to that low of a level.

In fact, low carb dietitian Franzka Spritzler argues that limiting protein too much could both prevent weight loss and compromise overall health. She has done an outstanding job of laying out the research in her post “In Defense of High Protein, Low Carb Diets.” Interestingly, her recommendations -based on the research she sites – fall somewhere between 100-120 gm of protein per day for most people, and this coincides almost perfectly with the practical experience of Stefansson, Donaldson, and Newbold.

If you simply follow these basic guidelines laid out by these three early Zero Carb pioneers, you will likely do just fine. But if you are very insulin resistant and want to gauge your upper limit for protein more specifically, you can do so by testing your morning blood glucose after a 12 hour overnight fast. If your glucose is higher than 90 mg/dL (5.0 mmol/L), then you are likely eating too much protein for your particular metabolism. You can inch your protein down 10 gm at a time until your glucose comes down to below 90 mg/dL (5.0 mmol/L). This process will help you identify your personal protein limit and tailor a Zero Carb diet in a way that will serve you best.

Many people on a Zero Carb diet are discouraged from calculating their macronutrient ratios. I feel this is a mistake. If one wishes to be successful eating an all-meat diet for the long term, I think it is imperative to have a basic understanding of how much protein and fat you are eating. This is not something that needs to become an all consuming obsession with every single meal calculated and tracked. The joy of a Zero Carb diet is – for many – the freedom it provides in that regard compared to the more complicated Low Carb Ketogenic diets they may have tried previously. But if you do not have epilepsy or cancer or some other potentially fatal illness that you are using a Zero Carb diet to treat, then there is no need to be that specific.

Once you have a concept of how much meat equals 100 gm, and how much fat needs to be added to that meat to achieve a ratio of 70-80% calories as fat, then it becomes very easy. After you do it a few times, you will develop a sixth sense for how much of each you need by the way it looks on your plate and how you feel after eating it. Michael Frieze – who has practiced a Zero Carb diet for over 5 years now – developed an intuitive approach that has worked very well for him. He simple eats all of the fat on his meat first until he is maxed out on fat. Only then does he begin to eat the lean portion of his meat. If there is not enough fat on the meat, he will eat butter straight until he has satisfied his fat hunger before proceeding on to the lean portion of his meat. He says he learned this from The Bear (aka Owsley Stanley) who practiced a Zero Carb diet successfully for 50 years.

Neither Michael nor Joe and Charlene ever track anything with their food. They just eat really fatty meat and place a high priority on the fat, and all three of them are thriving on this diet. So clearly tracking is not necessary if you have access to really fatty meat and can afford to eat it on a regular basis. However, if you are a bit of a nerd like me and enjoy tracking and calculating things, and you find it fun and interesting (rather than complicated and stressful), then of course you are free to do so. I personally use the free online program Cronometer.

In conclusion, while it is important not to eat too much protein, it is also important to eat enough. Based on the above discussion, 100 gm of protein (16 oz of meat) per day is a good place to start, and then you can fine tune – up or down – from there, depending on your personal needs. If you find yourself hungry after eating this amount of meat, then you may not be eating enough fat. Stefansson and Andersen ate 2 gm of fat for every gm of protein. So, if you eat 25 gm of protein (4 oz of meat) be sure to eat 50 gm of fat with it (as part of the meat itself or added extra to make up the difference). There is no hard and fast rule that will be perfect for everyone, but this is the formula recommended and practiced by people who were and are very experienced with this diet.

Related articles:

Optimal Protein on a Zero Carb Diet – Part 2

Is a Zero Carb Diet a Ketogenic Diet?

If you are doing a Zero Carb diet and would like support, please join us in Principia Carnivora on Facebook.

 

Is a Zero Carb Diet a Ketogenic Diet?

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The answer to this question might surprise you. Many people assume that carbohydrates are the only factor that matters for ketone production, but this is not the case. Too much protein per day, too much protein at one time, and too much protein late in the day can also prevent ketosis. So, no, a Zero Carb diet is not – by default – also a Ketogenic diet.

The Zero Carb community has been quite vociferous about discouraging practitioners from testing themselves for ketones and have even gone so far as to ridicule and make fun of people who chose to do say. They claim that it is neither necessary nor important to test for ketones while practicing a Zero Carb diet. Some even go so far as to say (and apparently believe) that a Zero Carb diet is automatically a ketogenic diet which is absolutely not true.

People new to Zero Carb are generally instructed to eat as much fatty meat as they need to feel satisfied and to eat according to hunger. This advice can work well if the meat actually is fatty, but much of the meat we have available to us today is no where near as fatty as meat was in the past. On the one hand, animals are being preferentially bred for leanness, and on the other hand, butchers have been trained to remove much of the “excess” fat before putting it up for sale. This means that much of the meat we buy to day is quite a bit leaner than what practioners of an all meat diet ate.

For example, in the 1928 Bellevue study with Vilhjalmur Stefansson, author of The Fat of the Land, and his collegue Karsten Andersen, the macronutrient ratios were 20% protein and 80% fat. These two men consumed between 100-140 gm of protein and 200-300 gm of fat each day. Now, it is not possible to achieve this ratio if one eats even the fattiest cuts of beef sold in most supermarkets. Chuck roast and ribeye come the closest, but even the cuts are often below 70% fat by calories.

Many people who practice Zero Carb today rely predominant on ground beef because it is the most affordable option. However, most ground beef is surprisingly lean. Even 70/30 (70% lean and 30% fat by weight) ground beef after cooking is only 60% fat and a whopping 40% protein by calories. So, if a person eats only 70/30 ground beef – assuming they can actually find this ratio – they will be consuming much less fat and much more protein than Stefansson and Andersen did during their year long study.

However, it should be noted that the numbers above are for cooked ground beef. If you include all of the fat that renders out of 70/30 ratio, or if you eat the ground beef raw like me, then you would not necessarily need to add extra to the 70/30 ratio. So, it depends to some extent on your method of cooking and length of cooking time. You can use a program like http://www.cronometer.com to help you figure out exact how much fat you are eating.

Too much protein can raise insulin in the same way that too much carbohydrate can, and this – in turn – will prevent you from making ketones. If you do not get enough fat on a Zero Carb diet, you can easily over eat protein. Two pounds of 70/30 ground beef supplies 230 gm of protein, about 100 gm more than a person needs. When eating ground beef with no added fat, it is very easy to eat 2 lbs a day because it is not very satiating.

I went through a period of eating only lean ground beef and my fasting blood glucose was consistently elevated to between 100-115 mg/dL all the time. Furthermore, my blood ketones were barley registering at 0.3 mmol/L. The minimum level of ketones need for nutritional ketosis is 0.5. However, after I decided to lower my protein and increase my fat, my fasting glucose decreased to between 75-85 mg/dL, and my ketones increased to 0.8 mmol/L in just a few day. Additionally, I FELT MUCH BETTER.

Eating 2 lbs of ground beef a day with no added fat left me feeling bloated, tired, and less able to focus mentally. I also experienced a chronic low grade headachiness and made me edgy and irritable. It also left me physically dissatisfied and craving more food. I was thinking about food constantly and wanting to eat again. Clearly, both my brain and body were not being satisfied by plain ole ground beef. Since I reduced the protein and increased the fat, all of these negative symptoms have disappeared.

Dr. Blake Donaldson, a doctor in the early 1900s, also discovered the merits of a very low carb mostly meat diet for curing his patients of obesity. He based his program largely upon the research of Stefansson and instructed his patients to eat 6 ox of lean and 2 oz of fat 3 times per day. He told his patients they could eat more if they wish, as long as they kept the ratio (3 parts lean to 1 part fat) the same, but they were told to never eat less than this amount. Donaldson felt that 18 ounce of lean, which provides a little over 100 gm of protein, was the amount necessary to replenish and repair vital body tissues and to facilitate the burning of body fat. He says that if his patients ate less than this or skipped meals, their weight loss would slow or come to a complete halt. He apparently has excellent results with this protocol. Please see his book Strong Medicine for more details.

Michael Frieze has been practicing a Zero Carb diet successfully for over 5 years now. However, he will be the first to tell you that his first 6 to 12 months of eating this way was fairly difficult. It took his body a long time to adapt to the diet, and he had to work out some kinks. The three most important things he discovered – from my perspective – was 1) eating enough meat; 2) eating the meat rare; and 3) eating the fat parts of the meat preferentially before eating the lean. Each of these changes improved the way he felt on this diet.

For the purpose of this discussion, the most important of these discoveries by Michael is number 3. As he explains it, he will eat as much of the fat on the meat first until his “fat” hunger is satisfied. If there is not enough fat on the meat to satisfy him, then he will eat butter straight until he feels satiated. Then he will eat as much of the lean part of the meat as he desires. He says that this prevents him from both over eating and under eating fat. Basically, this approach acts as a biological barometer for his fat requirements. Once he has reached his limit, the fat will start to make him feel nauseated and he knows – at this point – that he has had enough.

The problem with ground beef – aside from being generally low in fat – is that the fat and the lean are all mixed together, making it impossible to preferentially eat the fat first. So, there is no way a person’s biological barometer can guide them with ground beef. Therefore, it becomes imperative to do some calculations to figure out how much fat you will likely need to add in order to achieve 80% fat by calories for a meal. If you are lucky enough to find 70/30 ground beef which is 60% fat by calories, you would need to add 1 oz of butter per 3 oz of ground beef to attain close to 80% fat by calories. This is the exact ratio that Dr. Donaldson’s recommends.

So, while a Zero Carb diet can have benefits even if you are not in a state of nutritional ketosis, those who are looked upon as early Zero Carb pioneers (i.e. Stefansson and Donaldson) were definitely eating and recommending macronutrient ratios that would almost guarantee nutritional ketosis. It is my contention that if we were eating the meat they were eating, then our Zero Carb diet would also be a Ketogenic diet. But, the changes in the meat itself, as well as the butchering practices, has removed much of the fat that would naturally be present in the meat we eat.

While some people do just fine eating as much meat as they wish on a Zero Carb diet, others like myself, do not. If you are following a Zero Carb diet and not experiencing the result you desire, then it seems logical to me that one should take a closer look at what our Zero Carb predecessors (i.e. Stefansson and Donaldson) were eating, as well as what our current long term Zero Carb practioners (i.e. Michael Frieze) are actually eating because these are people who have successfully practiced this way of eating for many years.

It is important to understand that I am not advocating any type of restriction here. I am simply suggesting that if you are following a Zero Carb diet and experiencing the benefits you desire, then you may wish to adjust your macronutrient ratios according to what Steffanson and Donaldson practiced and recommended. Donaldson set a minimum intake for his patients, but not a maximum. He told them to eat as much as they needed to satisfy hunger as long as they kept the 3:1 (lean:fat) ratio the same. If you do this, it is unlikely that you will still want to eat a full 2 pounds of ground beef because that would require eating an additional 10 oz of fat along with it.

After much reading and experimentation on my own body, I have come to the conclusion that combining the philosophy of a Zero Carb diet (eat only from the animal kingdom, primarily meat) with the knowledge of a Ketogenic Diet (eat a balance of macronutrients that supports ketosis) is vastly superior to either approach by itself. If you wish to learn more about the benefits of and how to eat ketogenically, I highly recommend Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek.

 

Zero Carb Interview: Kevin Fenderson

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Kevin today.

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

I’ve been eating zero carb for a little over a year now. Although, I was trying to eat zero carb for about six months before I finally committed to it. I probably could count all the way back, as some people consider those times we fail as still zero carb as long as we learn from them. Others are super-strict and say you need to restart your count any time you step outside the zero carb path. Three years in and you have a stick of celery? You’re now back on day one! I take a more moderate view. As long as you’re consistently on the right path, a rare misstep isn’t cause to restart. My original six months had far too many missteps for me to claim any sort of consistency though.

All that to just say, a little over a year.

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

Honestly? It was probably just curiosity and fascination. There might have been a little health improvement thrown in, but that really just pointed me in the right direction. I discovered that fiber caused me more problems than it helped. That eventually led me to reading more on it. I think Ash Simmonds posted something in the reddit keto group about fiber being bad. I didn’t know much about him at the time. I read his post on fiber and the links.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled on The Fat of the Land by Stefansson on Ash’s website. That book remains my strongest influence. When I have a question, I usually find that it’s answered somewhere in there. I kept thinking to myself, “I want to do that.” That is going a whole year eating just meat.

When I first found out about it, I was still losing weight. But, weight loss didn’t play a role. I figured that I had weight loss solved with keto. This wouldn’t interfere with keto, but it wasn’t like I needed this for weight loss. I also felt better than I had in years, because of the weight I had already lost, so I didn’t think I had any health issues that needed curing. Nope, it was just fascination and my love for trying new things out on myself.

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Kevin prior to beginnging his low carbohydrate journey.

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

I adapted physically really quickly, but that is probably because I had already been eating a very low carb diet. The mental transition was hardest for me, especially because I didn’t know other people who were doing it when I started trying it out. I had read that it could be done. Then I would stay awake at night worrying that I would end up getting scurvy or something and everyone would know how stupid I had been. I would last a week or more and then eat some vegetables, just in case. That is probably why it took me six months of failing before it stuck. Then, I saw Amber O’Hearn’s 30-day guide and decided that other people were out there who had done at least a month and survived. Up until this point, I was still set on going a whole year because I wanted to replicate the experiment Stefansson had done for myself. That was too much to mentally commit to. It’s probably part of why I kept failing. So, I decided I would do a month. A month is a lot more doable. I could do a month.

There was only one problem. She said no artificial sweeteners (AS). And, I started looking into that. That’s also when I found Zeroing In On Health and their forum. I read through there and they were all doing meat only. But, they were also very against artificial sweeteners. I thought that was stupid. I didn’t have any problems with them. I had lost weight just fine with artificial sweeteners. I decided the first thing I would test would be their theory on AS. I don’t know why this took priority. Maybe it was a last ditch effort, mentally, to find an excuse to not just give up plants for 30 days.

I was at my goal weight already and losing more while eating as much as I wanted (on a ketogenic plan) and not counting/restricting calories. I decided that I would give the month of June as an initial 30 day challenge. I would eat 1 or more artificially sweetened things each day. I would ensure I stayed below my carb goal, but every single day I would eat something sweet. I would also continue to eat as much as I wanted. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to state that June was a total train-wreck for me. I gained weight way beyond even what the increased calories suggested I should. I started to realize how I the sweeteners caused cravings for me and how I ended up eating more because of them. I had only had sweet things every once in a while, up to this point, and their impact had been minimal compared to the weight loss from keto. They clearly were not good for me. Then again, maybe this was all the power of suggestion? Maybe I believed I craved more because I had been reading that they caused cravings? I don’t know. I do know that the 500 or so calories a day I was eating didn’t explain why I went from losing over a pound a week to gaining over a pound a week.

After that, I decided I would do it “their” way for 30 days. I would just do meat, coffee, some cheese, and avoid all the sweeteners. I would also stop taking any supplements except my daily allergy medicine. Naturally, you would assume that I started on July 1st. No, I kept putting it off. I don’t know exactly why. It wasn’t until the middle of July that I actually started.

When I started, I lurked on the old forums every day, read through The Bear’s megathread, and read everything else I could find. I think knowing it had been done before by lots of people helped me. In two to three weeks, I was already sure that I wouldn’t be stopping when the 30 days were over. I was already feeling better than I had in my whole life. When I started, I would have argued that I was in good health. I didn’t know how bad I felt all the time because it was what I thought was normal.

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Kevin prior to beginning his low carbohydrate journey.

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

Without a doubt The Fat of the Land remains the most important book for me. That would be followed by Bear’s megathread, which could be a book in itself. Then I have to give credit to Ash Simmonds whose research and website – High Steaks: Meat is Life – helped point me in this direction. Amber, like I said, is the one who made it bite-sized for me and that encouraged me enough to actually do it. And, of course, all the other zero-carbers out there. Back then, they were all congregated on the ZIOH forums. Now they’re spread over several facebook groups.

With all that said, I think The Fat of the Land should be required reading for those considering eating this way.

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

I include eggs and dairy in my diet. I am currently trying a period without any dairy, but it’s not having any dramatic impact on things. I will probably go back to the occasional slice of cheese with my burger. I don’t use a lot of cream (sour or heavy), but I have used some of the past year. I don’t worry too much about dairy. I do know I’ll gain a little weight and retain it for a while after eating a bunch of dairy. It’s nothing extreme (a kg or so) and it does go away, but dairy is a good way to get my weight up.

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A whole chuck roast purchased in bulk.

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

I eat mostly beef. When it comes to percentages, it would be at least 90%. Some weeks it’s 100%. I also like lamb, bacon, ribs, and chicken wings. If I could find cheaper lamb or mutton, that would make up a large portion of my diet. The problem is that lamb is easily twice as expensive as beef where I am. If they were the same price, it would be 50/50 beef and lamb. As it is, I probably eat more pork than lamb because it’s cheaper.

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The chuck roast cut into steaks and ready to freeze for the week.

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

It depends on what I feel like. When it comes to ground beef, I’ll do medium to medium well. Steaks and other cuts I like as rare as I can get them.

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A meal of rare steak and eggs.

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

Almost never. I will sometimes add grease when cooking, but I don’t intentionally add it to already cooked meat. That said, if the meat is really lean or dry, I am probably going to add some fat to make it palatable.

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Chuck roast steaks on the grill.

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

I don’t limit myself at all. I eat until I’m not interested in any more or I’ve run out of food. I try and cook enough so that I always end up with leftovers.

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Big grilled chuck roast steak ready to eat.

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

I have had some liverwurst and sweetbreads in the last year. They’re not a big part of my diet. Maybe once every 3-4 months. I happen to like them. I also roast and eat bone marrow on a semi-regular basis. Maybe once every couple of months.

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

Nope. I’m just too lazy to make things that far in advance.

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

Usually two meals a day, sometimes three. I have rare days where I eat only once and other rare days where I eat four or more times. I don’t restrict myself to a certain number of meals. I do try to avoid snacking. If I am going to eat, I am going to eat enough to be a full meal.

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

To be completely honest, I have no idea. I don’t measure it in any way and I prepare as much as looks good to me. It’s certainly more than a pound and probably less than three. I figure my purchases around a little over two pounds a day. Sometimes it lasts longer than I expect and others it’s gone sooner. It’s hard to really say for sure, because I don’t really track it in any detailed manner. When the meat gets low, I go and buy around 30 pounds (13-14 kg) with the expectation that it will last another two weeks.

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

I buy the regular commercially produced meat. I’ve bought the other stuff, but didn’t find any significant difference in how it made me feel or even how it tasted. I realize that some people claim to be able to taste the difference, I didn’t taste anything better or special about it.

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Kevin treating himself to some ribeyes.

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

Coffee is my main beverage. I’ve switched to mostly decaf and I pour it over ice and drink it watered down and cold most of the day. I also drink a lot of sparkling water and plain old tap water.

16. Do you use salt?

I love salt. I don’t always use it. I have had days where I didn’t want or use it. But, I just like it a lot. I don’t believe it’s a necessity. It’s a habit and a taste that I have kept. I do salt most of my food.

17. Do you use spices?

I will use spices with my meat. I have a couple steak mixes that I like. I also have a rib rub that I use. It’s my brother-in-law’s rub and he made me a big batch without the usual sugar. I don’t use any rub with sugar in it.

The majority of the time, it’s just salt and maybe a little pepper though. It’s simple, but that’s what I like.

18. Do you take any supplements?

No. I decided to stop taking supplements when I decided to test this out. I figured that if I needed to take supplements, there was something missing from this way of eating.

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

I spend about $200 a month just on myself. I could probably get it lower than that, and I could easily get it higher than that. But, that is a comfortable place I’ve found between economy and taste preference.

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

Buy in bulk and buy uncut hunks of beef or use a lot of ground beef. Really, it’s not more expensive than I was eating before. It might even be less expensive because vegetables and fruit are very expensive on a per calorie basis.

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

Define regularly. I exercise when I feel like it and to the degree I feel like. I would probably say no to it being regular and most of it is low intensity.

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Kevin participating in a recent race.

22. What benefits have you experienced since beginning a Zero Carb diet? (i.e. recovery from illness, overall health, body composition)

This is the hardest question for me to answer. It’s not that I have received no benefits. It’s just that I’ve ranted about them all before and I don’t like repeating myself. I’ll go over them and try and add ones that came later.

One of the biggest benefits is unseen by everyone. I am no longer at war with my own body. I trust it now and we’re on the same team. I used to fight against what my body wanted, because when I gave it what it wanted I got fatter and more miserable. Because of that, I was monitoring and controlling everything. These days, I count and monitor almost nothing. I weigh myself daily, although I don’t care if it goes up or down, and I keep an eye on the level of meat in the fridge. I don’t want it to get too low. I have one shelf just for me, I prefer to keep it looking like this.

There’s about six pounds of ground beef, 15 pounds of ribeye, and some leftover roasted leg of lamb (in the container at the front left). You can’t see the second five-pound tube of ground beef, it’s under the container in the back. That one has a chuck steak. This is the only thing I worry about when it comes to food. If that shelf gets bare, I need to go to the deep freeze or get to the store.

I don’t worry about how much I eat. I go out of my way to not measure it. I trust my body to let me know when it’s had enough. I trust that, when it does, I’m not going to get fat again.

I have lost all desire for breads, starches, and sweets. That’s major for me. I used to bake bread, bagels, and rolls weekly. I lived on bread and rice. I couldn’t imagine life without it. Now, I can’t even remember why I liked it so much.

My digestion (the whole process from eating to elimination) is massively better. I burp less, I fart less, I have no more of those stinky tonsil stones, I don’t “gurgle” as I digest, I don’t get cramps, I don’t get plugged up. Hell, I don’t even think about it. I didn’t realize how messed up my gut was until it wasn’t messed up any more. I remember an ex-girlfriend who could tell, over the phone, if I had eaten pizza because she could hear my gut complaining. I no longer have issues with hemorrhoids.

I haven’t had a migraine since going keto, which has continued through zero carb. This is huge. I would get a few a year. They had decreased from when I started getting them, but they never went away. The migraines would be debilitating. I would just write the whole day off as a waste. None. I haven’t had one in what will soon be two years. Unless you suffer from migraines, you can never know how awesome that is.

Around the 6-8 month mark, my allergies stopped bothering me. I don’t know exactly when. I know I tried to get off the allergy medicine before the six month mark, but I couldn’t do it. I forgot to take it a few days around the eight month mark, and realized I was fine. I never resumed taking it and the allergies never returned.

Overall, I have never felt better physically or mentally in my entire life. I just feel good all the time.

23. Have you conceived, given birth, or breastfed while on a Zero Carb diet? If so, what was your experience?

Not from lack of trying. [wink, wink, nudge, nudge] I’m a guy, so I can’t actually do any of those things, and my wife and I aren’t trying for a child at this time.

24. 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?

I wish, but I am the only person in my household who eats this way. My [step]son is very observant and will often comment on how I eat. He is acutely aware of how much sugar is in everything. He will never be zero carb though. When he’s at his dad’s house, he drinks green juices and other stuff like that. His dad and I have almost the opposite idea of ideal nutrition.

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

Well, the food is great and it makes me feel great. I get to eat all the foods that I like, and I don’t feel horrible all the time anymore.

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

Aside from reading The Fat of the Land? Sure. It would be to trust the process and give it six months, at a minimum. Maybe break it down into a 30 day trial, but six months is a major turning point. It’s hard at first. It gets easier and easier.

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

This area has improved dramatically, but not everyone is on board. My wife used to hate this way of eating. It was annoying/embarrassing when she wanted to go out to eat. I was probably slowly killing myself. I spend too much on meat. Although, I will reiterate that the amount I spend on meat is less than the total I was spending on a mixed diet before. She begged me to “eat normally” for our honeymoon, just so she wouldn’t be worried or stressed about me eating while we were on vacation. Stupidly, I agreed. Well, all my issues (gas, cramping, lethargy, etc.) returned with a vengeance as soon as I started eating crap. It was day two or three when she came to me and said, “You can go back to eating just meat again. I like it a lot better when you eat that way. You don’t fart and you’re a lot happier.” Ever since then, she’s never questioned it again. She won’t do it herself, but she knows it’s right for me.

I have a couple close work friends. They are fine with it. They ended up accepting it without too much question. I get a lot of comments from family, especially some members who are in an MLM-scheme that pushes vitamins and supplements. But, everyone who is close enough to know about this is also close enough to know that I’m going to do things my way, so they just don’t fight it.

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

Nope. I think I have pretty much covered it.

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Kevin enjoying life with his beautiful wife.

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.