The past two weeks have flown by and I figure I’m overdue for an update on my new zero-carb lifestyle…or as I like to call it, my ribeye diet. Jeff raises an eyebrow at me when I say that, but hey, it is what it is, and so far it’s been ribeye (at least one a day), bacon, eggs, ground beef, butter, ghee, coffee, and an occasional glass of red wine. To sum it up…delicious.
In all seriousness though, I do want to share a little more about why I’m doing this, how I’ve been feeling, and why I’m not concerned about my dietary choices. In fact, I’m quite excited to embrace this lifestyle.
One interesting thing I’ve discovered about the zero-carb community is that many people come to this way of eating because they suffer from various health issues that they are trying to control through diet. Many of them have gone down the all-too-common path of switching to a low-carb diet, then a ketogenic diet, and finally a zero-carb diet after the others have failed to produce optimal or complete results. This was in fact the path I took to finding this diet. As you’ll recall, I was following a ketogenic diet over the last few months when the winter weather brought a return of my Crohn’s symptoms; luckily they were mild, but they definitely returned.
As I bring you along on my adventure into this world of zero-carb living, you might be wondering why I felt this diet would be a safe and viable alternative to my carefully-fermented foods, organic vegetables, coconut oils, and supplements. For starters, I do fall into the camp that believes many of our ancient ancestors lived on meat-only diets. That being said, there are many different cultures around the world that have evolved in various climates eating a variety of diets, but some truly were meat only. Allow me to introduce you to Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
Born in Canada in 1879, Stefansson spent 11 years during the early 1900s exploring the Arctic, spending a large amount of that time with the Mackenzie Eskimos. In his book, The Fat of the Land, originally published in 1960 and released as a digital version in 2016, he described his time spent living with the Eskimos and later his year-long experiment of being supervised by staff at the Bellevue Hospital while living only on meat and water. The experiment was to prove that this was in fact a healthy way of eating. It was an idea that stemmed from a conversation he had with one of the scientific heads of the Food Administration in 1918 during which he said he had, “lived for an aggregate of more than five years, with enjoyment, on just meat and water” during his Arctic explorations. Stefansson recruited another Arctic explorer to be the second subject in this experiment and they both went on to successfully spend one year eating only meat and water under close medical supervision; their health was excellent.
In more recent times, Owsley “The Bear” Stanley, the Grateful Dead’s soundman, followed a zero-carb diet for more than 50 years from 1958 until his death in 2011. In 2006, he posted to the lowcarber.org forum saying, “My eating plan is simple. I just eat meat, any meat. One to six meals a day, and I don’t worry about it. It is all rather yummy.” His health was excellent, as he described it at age 71, “My glucose over 47 years has never varied from 100 mg/dl, I do not have mood changes, I am never hungry. My triglycerides are likewise low and stable…Over a period of 47 years, my body has never shown any deficiencies whatsoever. I seem to have only aged a fraction of the amount seen in my contemporaries.”
With these stories, Steffanson’s research, and the numerous testimonials I found in online groups with people who have been living the zero-carb lifestyle for 10 and 20 years or more, I was confident and ready to try it myself. So, what have I noticed?
Just like The Bear, my mood is great. I have no idea what the biological or possible scientific reasons might be for this, but eating only from the animal kingdom has really put me into a zen-like state over the last couple of weeks. I thought maybe it was unrelated to my diet at first, until I queried some of the groups I’ve recently become a part of and found that many people feel emotionally calm or zen-like after adopting a zero-carb lifestyle. I typically run at a high stress level with work and pressures I put on myself, but lately, from an emotional standpoint, managing life has never been easier.
And speaking of easy, let’s talk about grocery shopping. One quick conversation with the butcher at H-E-B and a few days later I had a 37-pound case of grass-fed ribeye with my name on it 🙂 Toss in a few packages of ground beef and bacon and grocery shopping is a breeze!
On the Crohn’s front, I’m definitely feeling better. The blood, mucus, and pain that had returned in December have all vanished on my zero-carb diet (fingers crossed that things remain like this). I can’t fully describe how unnerving it is to have a bowel movement that is nothing but blood and mucus, as if you’re watching your intestines disintegrate right before your eyes, wondering whether this might be the time a fistula (a tunnel) forms that dangerously connects your intestines to another organ or if an obstruction has formed that will require medical intervention. It is freeing, in a way that I can’t quite explain, to not have your digestive system be at the forefront of your every thought, to be able to move without pain, and to just feel good.
While we’re on the topic of bowel health…our stomach acid completely breaks down the meat we eat, allowing our bodies to utilize nearly every ounce of it. There is very little waste and bowel movements are greatly reduced…which, in my opinion, makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, because it would be really inconvenient to have to have frequent trips to the restroom in the Arctic! But, I digress… Back to bowel health, it is the plant matter that our bodies can’t digest that ends up creating bulk in stools, fermenting and causing gas or bloating, and also aggravating constipation. No fiber is needed on zero carb, the human body can thrive on meat alone.
My appetite has gone through a few interesting fluctuations. My first meal on zero carb was a ribeye (just under one pound) and two eggs…I could barely finish it, I was so full. Then, after about a week, my appetite became insatiable! One evening, I ate about a half pound of ground beef, a ribeye, part of Jeff’s ribeye, bacon, and bulletproof coffee…for just one meal! Finally, though, I think my body is settling back down. My appetite seems to be returning to normal as I enter my third week on this diet. Some long-time zero carbers say that the ravenous appetite is your body’s way of telling you it’s finally getting the nutrients it needs and is craving more of during the adaptation phase. There’s no research on it that I’m aware of, but I do know my body is feeling good.
I also haven’t gained any weight, knock on wood 🙂 I actually started to gain a couple pounds while I was doing the ketogenic diet, but after switching to zero carb, my weight dropped back to where it’s been for the last 18 years. Since I tend to have obsessive tendencies, about a week ago I promised myself I would stop weighing myself everyday and stop measuring my blood glucose…I was pricking my fingers about as often as a diabetic. So, I’ve cut myself off and I’m taking a three-week break from any measurements.
For those who are wondering why, as a non-diabetic, I would check my blood glucose that often…my short version is that weight loss/gain is primarily driven by insulin and insulin is primarily a response to eating (carbohydrates cause the biggest rise in blood glucose). As a data geek, I like tracking things. So when I first started going keto a few months ago, I began tracking my blood ketones and blood glucose to see what was happening in between meals throughout the day. Also, as I began to do more intermittent fasting, it was important to me to monitor my blood sugar as I extended my fasting periods to see whether it was dropping too low or spiking for other reasons not related to eating. As a side note, I’ve learned home glucose monitors are finicky…I can use two different meters and get readings with a 10 point difference at the exact same time. Interesting, to say the least. I can only assume it’s a small glimpse into the world of frustration a diabetic must feel using these devices. But, long story short, before I cut myself off from measuring things, I did notice that both my ketones and blood sugar levels were better and more stable on zero carb than they were on just keto.
Anyway…I feel I may have lost a few readers there on that last paragraph getting too geeky, so I’ll go ahead and wrap this up. So far, I’m feeling really great on zero carb. As many others who have walked this path before me have said, I don’t have any cravings, despite the limited food choices. I also have lots of energy; I feel like I’m finally on the path to reaching my best health yet; and, most importantly, after just two weeks, my Crohn’s seems to have gone back into remission. Bring on the ribeye!
I would love to hear your questions about zero-carb living, so please post in the comments below! Also, just a side note to mention that although meats and eggs have trace amounts of carbohydrates, technically not making this a zero-carb diet, it’s just the name that has stuck long before I came around to start following this diet. In short, a zero-carb diet basically means zero plants and only animal products for food. Coffee and wine are obviously not animal products, but there are zero-carb dieters who do include them in their diets even though they are not “optimal” foods. My goal isn’t to be as strict as humanly possible with this, eliminating all enjoyment from my life, it is to simply find a way that I can stay in remission and live in the best health possible. Now hit me with those questions and comments below!