Zero Carb Interview: Amber O’Hearn

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

I’ve been eating an essentially plant-free diet for almost 7 years, starting in November of 2009.

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

My original reason for trying a meat-only diet was for fat loss. I was at my wit’s end, because my very low carb, but plant heavy diet, even though it had helped me get to into great shape in the past, wasn’t as effective anymore and I was slowly getting fatter and fatter.

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

It’s funny. It took me way longer to adapt to the diet mentally than physically. I spent three weeks planning and giving myself pep talks, and even then, I only felt able to commit to it with the promise to myself that it was going to be of very limited duration. Once I started, though, I felt comfortable within a mere few days.

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

The only guidance I had toward this diet at that time was the Zero Carb forum run primarily by Charles Washington, and the inspiring stories there. I also had read Owsley Stanley’s (aka The Bear) essays on the subject.

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

I eat mostly just meat, but I will eat occasional eggs and dairy. I find that dairy increases my appetite significantly and I have an addiction-like response to fermented dairy in particular, so I’m wary of that.

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

I eat from all the food groups: ruminants (e.g. beef and lamb), poultry, pork, and fish and shellfish, but beef is the base of my food pyramid.

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

I prefer my beef steaks rare, but other cuts I treat individually. To my taste, short ribs are divine roasted for several hours, but ground chuck is best raw or lightly seared.

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

I often eat butter, lard, or tallow either on or with my meat, depending on how lean it is.

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

I have played around with fasting, but my usual mode of operation is to eat once or twice a day when I get hungry, until I feel satiated. Then I stop.

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

Of organ meats, I mostly eat liver, only because that’s what I have easiest access to. I tend to get a craving for it every few weeks. I’ll eat a lot of it for a few days and then I don’t want it again for a while. I’m not very systematic about it.

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

I like bone broth. Just like with the organs I tend to drink it in phases; every day for a few days and then not again for a few weeks. I enjoy bone marrow also.

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

I mostly eat two meals a day, at lunch time and again at supper. I often feel better if my first meal is a little later than traditional lunch, but lunch is a social activity at my workplace, and it’s a trade-off.

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

I eat about 1.5 to 2 pounds of meat a day.

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

I want to support sustainable and humane farming, but the health benefits I’ve received don’t depend on it, so I often eat conventional meat for financial reasons.

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

I do drink coffee and occasionally herbal tea. It’s my plant vice.

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Amber enjoying cold leftovers for lunch.

16. Do you use salt?

I do sometimes use salt, but during my transition to this diet I used none, and so I’m acclimated to the taste of meat without it, and find I often don’t want it.

17. Do you use spices?

When I’m out, or a guest, I will usually not refuse meat that has up to a moderate amount of spice, but I almost never use it in my own cooking.

18. Do you take any supplements?

I have played around with a variety of supplements, but the only ones I take with any consistency are: turmeric and citrus bioflavonoids, to reduce symptoms of endometriosis; and magnesium, just because I think our whole food chain is deficient in it.

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

This is difficult to estimate, because I have children with me part time. Overall, the cost is certainly higher than if I ate grains, but fruits and vegetables are expensive by calorie. I’m probably spending less than I used to.

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Amber’s son enjoying a stick of butter by itself.

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

Buying cheaper cuts and mixing in pork, poultry, and eggs helps keep cost down. Don’t forget that ill health is a major expense. I’ve never missed work due to illness and have seen my doctor only for labs and preventive care.

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

I do a slow-burn style weight-lifting once a week, and walk, run or bike now and then if I feel like it.

22. What benefits have you experienced since beginning a Zero Carb diet? (i.e. recovery from illness, overall health, body composition, exercise performance, hormonal, mental or psychological, etc)

I lost over 60 pounds eating this way, but the most important benefit was that my Type II Bipolar Disorder, which mainly manifested as severe suicidal depression, is in complete remission. I’ve been off all psychiatric drugs since I started eating a carnivorous diet, and the only times I’ve had symptoms are when I have done experiments with plant foods, supplements, or had excessive alcohol consumption.

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

My third child was conceived when I started this diet the first time, and I didn’t stay Zero Carb during the first two trimesters, due to severe nausea and carb cravings. By the third trimester I ate very low carb with some carnivorous days. I’ve been essentially plant free since the birth, so that included his entire breastfeeding period. I had better milk supply and better mood and stamina than with the previous two children.

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?

My youngest child ate almost no plants for the first few years of his life. Now he has just few plants in his diet, mainly carrots and bell peppers. The others have eaten lower carb and even zero carb in the past, but eat high carb out in the world. It is a difficult social navigation for them, even though they understand the benefits.

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

It’s hard to think of anything better about carnivorous eating than the freedom from living with Type II Bipolar Disorder and suicidal depression. However, one thing I love about my diet is that I trust my appetite completely now. My body stays in a range of about five pounds no matter what I do. That’s freeing. I also love that I’m especially resistant to disease now. I never worry about the latest viruses going around. I feel robust.

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

My advice to a beginner is to commit to going into it as completely as possible for at least three weeks. You want to eliminate as many confounding factors as possible and stay at it long enough to start seeing changes. Please see my and Zooko’s blog post “Eat Meat. Not Too Little. Mostly Fat.” for our full advice on starting.

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

Not that I can think of.

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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.

This interview has been translated into Hebrew by Tomer Aviad and may be read here:

ראיון אפס פחמימות עם אמבר הואירן

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Zero Carb Interview: Christine Scholtes

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Christine and her two healthy children.

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

I started Atkins around April 2010, just after finding out I had Type 2 diabetes and got orders from the hospital to get a prescription for the drug Metformin. I told the doctor I was probably diabetic for quite a few years without knowing it, so giving it a few months to try and take care of it without drugs wouldn’t change anything. I saw that even salad made my blood sugar (BS) rise, so after stumbling on info about Zero Carb in May 2010, I decided to give it a try.

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

Health, to take care of my diabetes, and I’ve always been overweight and obese, so if something can solve both problems at the same time… 🙂 Let’s go for it!

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

I think it went pretty fast physically. Psychologically, I’d say it takes YEARS to get rid (or master) of the brainwashing we have been subjected to by the medical industry and the “government guidelines” (which are the same in Belgium as in the US). I still sometimes feel “guilty” for enjoying fat, butter, or a good piece of meat.

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

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, of course, and Eat Fat, Get Thin and Trick and Treat by Barry Groves, Fiber Menace by Konstantin Monastyrsky and The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. Plus, I read a whole lot of websites.

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

I am still eating eggs, cheese (but not every day), butter,and  cream (in coffee & tea).

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

I would estimate that 80% of the meat I eat is beef.

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

Medium, but moving more towards rare.

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

Yes, butter or tallow if I have any at hand.

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

I eat until satisfied, but because of my diabetes, I try not to overdo the total amount of protein. HOWEVER, I don’t weigh or count anything, but just following my instinct. I try to listen to what my body is telling me.

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Christine after her initial 5 months on Zero Carb.

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

With the exception of Foie Gras, I don’t like organ meats, so I never eat any.

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

Yes, once or twice a week perhaps.

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

I usually eat twice a day, but occasionally three times.

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

Anywhere from 1 to 2 pounds, depending on the kind of meat, and whether or not I fancy eggs for breakfast, etc.

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

Most of the meat here in Belgium is grass-fed, grain-finished, and I usually buy it from the supermarket, but I pay attention to where it comes from. My brother was a butcher, so I know the difference between good and bad quality meat.

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

Coffee & tea, but I do not overdo it.

16. Do you use salt?

Yes, pink Himalayan.

17. Do you use spices?

Mostly pepper, but sometimes Mexican (i.e. oregano, cumin, etc.) or whatever sounds good at the moment.

18. Do you take any supplements?

I sometimes take magnesium & vitamin D3, but nothing regular.

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

It’s hard to say. I used to get lots of meat from my brother’s place either free or at a very good price. But now, I guess it’s about 250 Euros per month.

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

I don’t mind buying tenderized cuts, or cheaper pieces that are just the tips of more expensive ones. That makes it about 10 Euros per kilo as opposed to 15 Euros per kilo. I raid the meat section after the weekend, and I can sometimes buy meat for a whole week at a 30-50% discount.

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

I don’t. I have two young children, that’s plenty of exercise. 🙂

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.)

The starting point was controlling my Type 2 diabetes. There were many “small” ailments that went away when it started to get better. I had monthly ovarian cysts (not PCOS, but regular, painful cysts) which I could feel on one side or the other. I also had a polyp removed in 2007. There was not much chance of pregnancy with all that. But I got pregnant just a year after starting Zero Carb, and – even though I was already 37 years old and it was a first child – it worked immediately (my husband was away for 5 months and I was pregnant just a month after he returned). Body composition was spectacular. Right at the beginning, I had put on at least 5 pounds, BUT I lost one dress size – almost 2 – and even my husband noticed the difference. So more weight, but smaller body size. My overall health changed too. For example, I didn’t get sick that first winter, and my skin got smoother on my elbows – no cream or other treatment needed. Most importantly, all my diabetic symptoms improved – fatigue, eyesight, etc.

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

I had my first baby while eating totally Zero Carb. It was a pretty easy pregnancy health wise, though I did experience a lot of nausea. I actually lost over 35 pounds during my pregnancy, and delivered an 8.8 pound baby girl in perfect health, despite all the warning from the diabetic pregnancy specialist in Croatia (where I was living at the time). I had to spend 24 hours in the hospital every month during my pregnancy for blood sugar monitoring. My doctor wanted to put me on insulin right from the start, even though I had normal BS numbers. She said that my baby would have a normal weight but no muscles – only fat under the skin – because of all the weight I was losing through the Zero Carb way of eating. She told me my baby would be stupid from all the ketones in my blood. Well, I finally give birth in another hospital with different doctors who didn’t understand why the specialist wanted me on insulin with such good BS numbers.

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I breastfed my first child for almost 2 and a half years, but – unfortunately -was not able to maintain a Zero Carb diet during that time because my husband started behaving crazy, left me at home with no money, no car (we lived in the woods far away from a supermarket), not much food besides things like high carbohydrate pasta, etc. This was a very frustrating situation for me, but I just had to eat what was available.

I became pregnant with Baby #2 before my body was ready (i.e. I was still not back to Zero Carb, I had gained 50 additional pounds from the carbs I was forced to eat, and my BS numbers were running high for the same reason). Because I could not bring my BS down through food, my doctor insisted that I had start injecting insulin. That’s hell! And I don’t understand how people can prefer doing that to simply not eating carbs?! I had a second healthy baby girl – just a tad in hypo at birth – but she was okay after a few hours. I’m still breastfeeding her (she’ll be 1 year old tomorrow), and I am planning to continue for another year or two so she has the best start in life as possible. Now, I am finally back on Zero Carb and feeling really good. But it is a delicate balance with my BS, and I have to be very careful with my diet.

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Christine after giving birth to her first child while on a Zero Carb diet.

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?

When I was basically alone with my first child, I was able to feed her a mostly Zero Carb diet. In fact, her first birthday cake was a ham & cream mousse covered in unsweetened whipped cream. But my husband and my mother (with whom we live now) both gave her carbs (bread, soda, etc.) behind my back. She still loves meat but unfortunately, she also loves pasta & potatoes a bit too much now. I would rather she had a piece of chocolate from time to time, rather than regular bread and other empty carbs of the kind. I am hoping I can keep my second child Zero Carb a bit longer. It is very difficult, though, to keep carbs out of their diet when even the school gives them to all the kids – all of the snacks they provide are rich in sugar. But I will still try to teach her to recognize which foods are good for her when she gets older.

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

I used to be a big foodie. I’m a chef, a pastry chef & a catering chef by profession, so my life revolved around food for a long time. And now, I basically can’t be bothered, to do any baking or cooking of complex recipes. It’s freed a lot of time for me to do other things!

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

Stop finding excuses, get rid of the carbs in your fridge & pantry, and jump right in. Eat as often as you feel hungry – five or ten times a day at the beginning if need be – there is no “written plan” that we must all eat only twice or it won’t work. You abused your body for decades because you believed the good doctor and the good advice (like I did). But, give it time – lots of time – to start healing. Maybe you’ll put on weight at the start, maybe you will start losing right away, maybe you’ll stall for a few weeks. We all have a different experience because we have damaged our bodies in so many ways.

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

Because I tried and failed at so many diets, my family is not always the most supportive. My (soon to be ex) husband is not much help. For him, a piece of pizza or cake is “just once.” Nobody around me understands the very addictive nature of sugar and carbohydrates. They think (mostly my mother) that it’s just a question of willpower. She suffers from Crohn’s Disease, and she knows she’s much better without carbs in her diet, but she’s even more addicted than I am. She’ll make waffles or cakes right under my nose! My friends are better, and they are usually willing to find a restaurant where I can get the food I need for Zero Carb, or they’ll try and make me some good meat if they invite me for dinner.

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

I’d like to say that I have tried so many diets – I avoided the craziest ones, but I basically spent 20 years doing the yo-yo thing. Thus, I can easily compare all of that experience with Zero Carb eating. Zero Carb is harder at the beginning. You can get headaches and other unpleasant symptoms of  the so-called Zero Carb “flu” while your body is making the transition to becoming a fat burner. But it’s much easier in the long run, and you will eventually feel so much better that you won’t want to get back to where you were before.

You have to be vigilant, though, because carbs are nasty and they can easily sneak their way back into your diet. So you must keep an eye on them. Don’t try to over-complicate things. It is meat & water. If you have issues, get rid of the cheese, the cream, maybe even the spices. This helps you establish a clear baseline. Then you can try adding them back – one at a time – and see how they affect you. Zero Carb is NOT the same thing as LCHF diet, 10 or 20 gms of carbohydrate from plant foods can really make a difference for the worse.

Also, don’t be put off by a failed attempt. I failed many times and simply tried again. One of my mistakes was to add too much fat too quickly, so I got really disgusted after only a short time on ZC, and fell back into my old carby diet again. Now I try and follow my instinct. Sometimes I add a lot of fat to my meat, sometimes I don’t. We don’t have fatty meat here, like what is available in the US. Sometimes, I even feel like eating cold cubes of butter, and I do. It can take a while to find your true hunger again, or to feel full. You have to relearn so many things, and the body needs time o heal. But in the end, it’s really, really worth it.

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A recent picture of Christine with her two children.

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 us in the Facebook group Principia Carnivora for support