1. How long have you been eating a Zero Carb (No Plant Foods) diet?
I started on April 1, 2015, so it has been a full year now.
2. What motivated you to try this way of eating? Weight? Health?
I had eliminated (real) sugar from my diet by going LCHF in January, 2015. I also eliminated all caffeine during that same time. Two months later I transitioned to keto. At this point I had all sugar out of my diet, but I was now addicted to artificial sweeteners! I knew I had to do something to get past that addiction. I was already down to eating very few vegetables (no fruit), so giving them up was not a big deal. It was giving up the faux baked goods and fat bombs that was more difficult, because those were what provided my sweet fix on a daily basis. On April 1, 2015, I ran across Kelly Hogan’s blog, “My Zero Carb Life,” and then Esmée’s blog “Eat Meat Drink Water.” From there I found a couple of different Facebook groups dedicated to zero carb eating. I spent about 8 hours reading and researching that day, and by dinner time that night I had nothing but meat on my plate. I’ve eaten that way ever since that meal a year ago. The sweet addiction is gone!
3. How long did it take you to adapt to a Zero Carb diet, both physically and psychologically?
From a psychological perspective, I adapted to a zero carb diet immediately. I’ve always loved meat and eggs, so I had no problems adjusting to eating nothing but that. Physically speaking, it was a different story. Coming from LCHF/keto, I had already gone through an excruciating “keto flu” in Jan. 2015 and I was already in nutritional ketosis. I started ZC at a normal healthy weight of 131 pounds. I gained 10-12 pounds between my second and fourth months of zero carb. Around July I decided to try decreasing my protein grams (to around 20% of calories) and increasing my fat grams (to about 80% by calories) to see if that would lead to taking off the weight I had gained in the beginning. My weight remained the same, but my clothes continued getting tighter. I also had severe problems with fat digestion and horrible nausea as a result. By October, I was done with the high fat experiment. I increased my protein grams back to around 120-130 grams and decreased fat grams back to around 100 grams. (I’m now currently eating an average of 140g protein per day). The digestive issues and nausea were gone overnight.
When I was 9 months into ZC, I had a full physical including a complete blood workup. My HDL cholesterol was 85, Triglycerides were 55, fasting blood glucose was 85, and all of my vitamin/mineral levels were normal. My LDL cholesterol was elevated, which I expected, but I demanded an LDL particle test for follow up. The results were: NO SMALL DENSE (harmful) particles detected! I have ALL LARGE FLUFFY (benign/good) particles! So no concerns there. A couple of my liver functions were slightly elevated, but I believe that was due to my body trying to continue to detox and adapt to processing fat. To assist my liver, I started drinking decaf green tea, rooibos, and some herbal teas (like dandelion), and I also add fennel, ginger, cayenne, and turmeric to most of my teas as well as a vitamin C and selenium supplement. I also added a daily serving of fish (for omega 3), liver (for choline and folate), and eggs (for choline) to my meals. It was also at this point that I started only wanting one meal a day instead of two.
4. What books or people were most influential in guiding you to this way of eating?
By far, Esmée and the Facebook group Principia Carnivora, which she started with Michael Frieze, have been the most influential resources in my journey. I also do a LOT of reading and researching, but the book “Keto Clarity” by Dr. Eric Westman and Jimmy Moore was a very helpful read when I first transitioned to a ketogenic diet. I love reading new articles and studies as they emerge. I love to learn and expand my knowledge.
5. Do you eat only meat, or do you include eggs, cheese, and cream in your diet?
I eat only meat and eggs. I attempted to add cheese back to my diet in March, and I had no issues with it, but I found it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I can take it or leave it. So cheese is back out. No dairy. I also do not eat processed or cured meats, only fresh.
6. What percentage of your diet is beef verses other types of meats?
I eat only about 40% beef (this includes beef liver and heart). Every meal I eat includes 3-6 oz. fish (salmon, oysters, mussels, sardines, herring, cod, or mackerel), 3-5 oz. beef or chicken liver, 2 eggs, and coconut oil. From there, I also usually add 4-6 oz. beef of some kind and 4-6 oz. of chicken OR pork.
7. When you eat beef, do you cook it rare, medium, or well done?
I eat all of my ground beef raw, never cooked. I cook steaks only 30 seconds on each side leaving the middle raw and cold. I like the flavor of slow cooked beef, like chuck roast and ribs, but the well cooked meat and fat do not digest well for me. If I eat well cooked meat, I must limit my portion to no more than 4 oz., or it will make me very nauseous.
8. Do you add extra fat to your meat? (i.e. butter, lard, tallow)
Anything I cook gets fried in a skillet with about 2 T. of coconut oil. I add no other fat to my meals. (Editor’s note: strictly speaking, coconut oil is not considered to be a “zero carb” food even though it has zero carbs because it comes from a plant. Some people, like Amy, do really well with it, while others, like myself, do not. If you are sensitive to salicylates, it will not be a good addition to your zero carb diet because it is very high in salicylates.)
9. Do you limit your meat consumption or do you eat until satisfied?
I have found that I feel best if I eat only a certain amount. (See question 13 for further details)
10. Do you eat liver or other organ meats? If so, how often?
I eat beef or chicken liver every single day. I eat about one beef heart per month. I would eat kidney, brains, and other organs if I had access to them.
11. Do you consume bone broth? If so, how often?
I only consume bone broth when I have cooked a roast or chicken in the crock pot and there is a good portion of resulting liquid left in the pot. This occurs maybe once every 3 months. So, not often.
12. How many meals do you eat per day on average?
I eat only one meal per day, and I do 1:23 intermittent fasting (eat 1 hour per day and fast for the remaining 23 hours. I usually eat no later than 4 pm, and often much earlier in the day because I sleep better without food in my stomach.
13. How much meat do you eat per day on average?
I eat 20-23 oz. of meat and eggs per day. If I eat anything less than 18 oz., I’ll want to eat again before bed. If I eat more than 24 oz., I am uncomfortably full and very sluggish. 20-23 oz. of food satisfies my body just perfectly.
14. Do you eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, or regular commercially produced meat?
I eat only commercial, conventional, grain fed, Walmart meats purchased on markdown. Liver and fish are the only thing I’ll pay full price for, because it’s already inexpensive enough.
15. Do you drink any beverages besides water? (i.e. coffee, tea)
I drink decaf green and rooibos teas on eating days. I have just started do some short 3-4 day fasts for the health benefits, and I drink only water when I do those.
16. Do you use salt?
Yes, I use salt very liberally. I prefer pink Himalayan salt, but Celtic grey runs a close second. I have chronically low blood pressure and I really seem to need it. If I feel tired, that is usually a sign that I need more sodium.
17. Do you use spices?
Yes, but only pure spices without fillers, non-caking agents, or preservatives. I use curry, cayenne, turmeric, garlic, pepper, and fresh ginger (in my tea only).
18. Do you take any supplements?
I take magnesium, potassium, and sodium (salt) due to long-time low blood pressure (as mentioned above) and leg/foot cramp issues. I also take vitamin D3 during the winter. I am currently taking vitamin C and selenium just for liver support, but I will be eliminating those if my liver functions come back normal after follow up blood work is done.
19. How much money do you spend on food each month?
I spend about $100-150 per month to feed myself.
20. Do you have any tips for making this diet more affordable?
Buy your fresh meats on MARKDOWN. Otherwise, look for SALES each week.
The only exercise I get is 45-60 minutes of walking 5 or 6 days a week.
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 am no longer cold all the time (unless I’m fasting). I sleep much better and more soundly. I am much more mentally alert and more focused. I am no longer enslaved to needing sweets. In fact, I don’t even think about them or consider them to be “food” anymore. I don’t think about food all day anymore. And those 10-12 pounds I gained in the beginning?…..…I lost all those, too.
23. What do you enjoy most about eating a Zero Carb diet?
I love that I only feel a desire to eat once a day. It is so simple! I also love that I can fast for several days without much difficulty. And, of course, I LOVE eating meat!!
24. Do you have any advice for someone who is just beginning a Zero Carb diet?
Eat the meats you like, and don’t “force” yourself to eat meats you don’t yet enjoy. Eventually, you’ll WANT to branch out to eating other things. And go very slow with increasing fat in your diet!!!
25. Are your friends and family supportive of your Zero Carb lifestyle? If not, how do you handle this?
My friends and family are all very supportive, although none of them eat this way.
26. Is there anything you would like share about this way of eating that I have not already asked you?
Yes, this way of eating takes a huge amount of determination and resolve in the beginning, particularly if you get hit with issues right off the bat. Keto flu and digestive issues are the two biggest culprits that can discourage people from continuing a zero carb diet. It takes most people a long time (months for some) to adapt to this way of eating. And for some, like me, it takes a lot of experimenting and tweaking until you find the right balance of foods, amounts of foods, fat, and protein that work the best for YOUR body. Everyone is different. Be patient and don’t give up!
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.