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!
5 thoughts on “The ribeye chronicles, chapter 1 (two weeks on zero carb)”
Well, it seems you have definitely done your homework on this antidote. So I’ll just ask the usual questions human carnivores generally get plus a personal anecdote.
1. How have you factored in protein poisoning or “rabbit starvation?” My brother’s son has had GI problems as long as he can remember and since standard doctors were clueless, he sees a naturopath who has him eat mostly beef. After a couple of months on this diet with all going well he went into a psychotic state and ended up in the emergency room where again they were clueless until his naturopath explained to them what was going on. He is better now. Last time I talked to him he said he still eats lots of beef but has to include other nutrients to prevent further psychotic episodes.
2. What precautions are you taking against pancreatitis? You’re taking care of the insulin producing side of the pancreas by eliminating most if not all carbs but the other side processes fats. I work with a fellow who has suffered from pancreatitis for the last thirty years. He has to be careful with the quantity of fats he ingests.
3. Do carnivores require lots of exercise? The Maasai, I’ve read, average walking or running twelve miles a day. Innuits and other Eskimo people burn inordinate amounts of energy staying warm during their winters where they eat meat almost exclusively.
4. Are you worried at all about uric acid? When I exceed a certain amount of red meat, my knees ache and I know a few people suffering from gout.
5. What about colon cancer? My colonoscopy proved positive for a couple of precancerous polyps. I was instructed to eat more fiber and less meat. Of course I don’t suffer from CD. So it was no problem transitioning to whole plants.
6. What is your take on “blue zones?” Blue zones are those areas around the globe where the residents, due to their lifestyles which are mostly plant based whole foods and lots of exercise, tend to live extraordinarily long disease free lives. If you were not suffering from CD would you entertain living these lifestyles?
Do you think mycotoxins may be one of the causes of CD? The reason I ask is from my own personal experience with an adverse reaction to the smallpox vaccination I received as a recruit in the Marine Corps. I developed cowpox, which over the next few weeks of boot camp had me looking like a leper with my entire outer skin coming off much like a snake’s skin does. In the Corps there is no bed rest for cowpox. Anyway, for the next several years I suffered all kinds of skin rashes and lesions (Dermatitis). Almost two years into my military life I spent eleven days in the hospital for acute dermatitis. Medicines, soaps, detergents, clothes, insect bites, diesel fuel, certain plants, heat, cold, stress, or whatever would cause a flare up. I remember stressing out working answering telephones and my ear at the end of the day looked like it was melting. Athlete’s foot and jock itch were constants. Mosquito bites were like bee stings and bee stings needed the Epipen. However, interesting enough, I don’t recall any immediate effects coming from food intake. Several years ago while watching TV as we men tend to do by scanning the channels during commercials, I came across a show (infomercial) by Doug Kaufmann who claimed the causes of almost all diseases are fungi/yeasts/mycotoxins. His website is Know the Cause. Anyway, the first step is to eliminate all processed foods especially those with yeasts and sugars from one’s diet. In fact he advocates going on a fungal free diet which is similar to the diet you are on now except for nuts, berries and veggies but includes grass fed beef from east Texas. He’s a Texan. The diet has three phases. The first phase is very strict. Second phase allows some freedom of other foods and then a maintenance phase. My results are that today I am rash free. No reactions to medicines. Bee stings are like mosquito bites. Mosquito bites are barely noticed. No athletes foot or jock itch in ages. Heat and cold don’t effect my skin and all the other irritants don’t either except some of the more poisonous plants. I rarely get stressed and when I do, no rashes. Of course Kaufmann’s diet would exclude the fermented foods you have recently advocated. He says people who go on the program generally have mild to severe discomfort because the fungi/yeasts are fighting for their lives and the bad symptoms will increase until they die off. This usually takes a few weeks or so. Ironically, he says, symptoms will temporarily dissipate if one returns to the Standard American Diet (SAD) before the cure takes place. Oh, and one need not purchase anything like Weight Watchers. I did buy his book called the ‘Fungus Link To: Allergies_ Arthritis_Digestion_Respiration_Mental Health_Woman’s Health_Pain.” But it wasn’t necessary.
I got so wrapped up with my anecdote that I forgot three more carnivore questions.
7. How do you, or do you, try to compensate for your ph factor? Meat like grains are considered acidic. Ph in the 4-5 range is considered acidic and most people in that range seem to have lots of health issues while people in the alkaline range of 6-7 seem to have less health problems.
8. Do you worry at all about renal failure? Medical News Today has an article on a 15.5 year study in China about red meat eaters succombing at an alarming rate to kidney disease.
9. How much stock should we place on anecdotal testimonials? You have yours. I have mine. Owsley Stanley and Vilhjalmur Stefansson have their stories. But what about outliers? Most of us have heard about people living long disease free lives while ingesting and doing what many consider ridiculously unhealthy things. Do we follow in their footsteps? No, we just consider them outliers who might have lived even longer and healthier with better lifestyles. What criteria do we use to eliminate as much personal bias as possible to obtain more trustworthy answers?
As I said before, I’m really impressed with the depth and breadth of your blog.
Thank you for all the great questions and anecdote of your own! These are some deeper questions that I want to do justice for each of them when answering, so I’m going to tackle them one at a time over the next couple of weeks. I have a feeling that the answers are going to be fairly lengthy, as I try to give more than just a yes or no reply 😉 So, you’ve inspired me to start some “Carnivore Q&A: (insert topic)” posts that I’ll be creating as I answer the questions you raised. Stay tuned, we’ll be diving in deeper and I promise to address each of the questions! 🙂
I’m sure your post responses will be very articulate, well researched and thought out.
Just to clarify my position. I think it’s possible your “ribeye a day” may be legitimate medicine. Almost all medicines have possible side effects that users need to know. I think you are using this medicine as a management tool for your CD symptoms. But if Doug Kaufmann and others are correct, this medicine, hopefully, just might be, my fingers are crossed hoping for the miracle, may be your cure! Personally I think it would absolutely cure those with type 2 or insulin resistant diabetes and be a great managing tool for those suffering from type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes. I am excited for you! And if it doesn’t cure you, I’m sure you will continue to investigate other remedies taking you to the solution. I wish more people who suffer from auto immune diseases would take as much personal responsibility, research and experimentation as you are doing rather than totally relying on conventional medicine where the profit is in the management of diseases by drugs rather than the cures.
Another thought: The following may or may not be true, but based on my readings and experiences seem plausible. Our body’s immune system requires a balance between the fungal (yeast, myco) germs and the bacterial germs. There are good and evil bacteria and fungi. An imbalance toward evil fungi (yeast infections) tends to create chronic illnesses (auto Immune diseases and cancers) that keep us sick but take their sweet time killing us. The SAD tends to provide fertile grounds for these yeast infections to grow. Probiotics will sometimes remedy the SAD. On the other hand bacterial infections, where the good yeasts are overwhelmed by the evil bacteria, leads to serious acute diseases that cause death rather quickly and thus we use antibiotics to kill off the evil bacteria causing the infections. Unfortunately good bacteria also succumbs to this process and the germs need re balancing. Almost all antibiotics are made from certain mycotoxins which are derivatives (Mycotoxins are the immune system of the fungi cells.) acquired by fermenting (Killing off the fungi cells and reaping the mycotoxins.) a few of the 150,000 known variety of fungi. Examples are alcohol and penicillin. And then there are ultra bad infections from the “super evil germs” which I understand result from symbiotic relationships between evil bacteria and evil yeast resulting from the overuse of antibiotics. Viral infections are different forms of evil germs that seem more aligned with evil yeast, and this explains why most antibiotics don’t kill them. Also there are such things as anti fungal medications which also work as antibiotics. Nystatin being one of the original ones. Again, I’m not a doctor or scientist so take it for what it is worth. And I’m sure none of this is news to you.
Thank you for indulging the pedantic in me. You are a saint!
Just wanted to leave a quick note to say Thank You! I am more than happy to indulge and greatly appreciate the deep and though-provoking questions 🙂 I, too, wish more people would take more responsibility in their own health and search for alternative ways to improve their own well being without being so eager to simply reach for a pill as a cure all. I think there’s a balance between modern medicine and good old fashioned nutrition that would serve everyone well. Now, stay tuned, because I do promise to answer all your questions…if I could just win the lottery and not have to have a day job, I could blog a little faster 😉