You Asked. (And asked.) Now, here are a few answers.
On January 25, 2015, upon my husband’s urging, I started writing about my low carb/zero carb journey over the past ten years. I started with when my doctor told me to lose 100 pounds and continued posting about the many changes and transitions that lead me to my current zero carb diet.
Immediately, questions and comments flooded my inbox. People who were struggling with intense cravings. People who work out for hours every day, but just can’t lose weight. People who wanted to know specific details of my diet. And (best of all) people who have already started lowering their carb intakes and are having immediate success!
I set out to answer the most frequently asked questions, not to give advice, but to simply answer as honestly as I can from my own experiences. And if this doesn’t answer what’s on your mind, please contact me. I’m a pretty open book, so fire away.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What do you eat?
I eat meat, mostly in the form of beef, bacon, or chicken. I also occasionally eat eggs and dairy (a little cheese and heavy cream). I eat only from the animal kingdom and never anything with a sweet taste at all. For more details, See post #7. (link to post number 7).
What do you drink?
I mostly drink seltzer water, because I love the fizz, but don’t want anything sweetened at all. I also drink coffee with heavy cream and no sweeteners.
Do you exercise?
I do not do any formal exercise, but that’s not to say that I’m never “active.” I move when moving sounds fun. As in, if a bike ride with the kids sounds fun, then we ride bikes. If the kids want to take a walk, we’ll walk around the block. But no, I never go to the gym or do anything that may actually make me sweaty. (Here’s a link that discusses how exercise is not the answer for every person trying to lose weight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6-lhJUFiA4#t=112)
I tend to eat more when I force myself to be very active. I actually lose weight more quickly when I follow my body’s lead and just move when I feel inclined to do so. When I have down time (read: after my children are asleep and the housework is done), I would far prefer to watch “Say Yes To The Dress” than to huff and puff on a treadmill.
How many calories per day do you eat every day?
Whatever it takes to not be hungry. (I HATE being hungry.) For my first few years on a zero-carb diet, I required about 2300 calories per day. Now that my weight is much lower and I no longer workout, I only need about 1700 to stay satisfied. Without carbs, I have found that the number of calories matters far less in regards to losing weight. I’ve eaten a low/no carb diet while consuming around 3,000 calories per day, but that’s what it truly took to keep me full. I wasn’t overeating, and thus, I didn’t gain weight. But it doesn’t normally take that much to keep me full. And thank goodness! Who can afford all that bacon?!
Do you eat ANY vegetables?
I don’t. (And haven’t in about five years.) I must be very insulin resistant, because even the smallest amount of carbs (even the carbs found in vegetables) cause carb/sugar cravings and weight gain for me. Also, I had far more stomach pains (IBS-like symptoms) when I ate vegetables. Those symptoms, along with carb cravings and trouble with weight gain all disappeared when I eliminated vegetables. Do I think some people can handle them just fine? Apparently. But I know that I feel better and look better without them. And honestly, I’d far rather have the bacon and burgers anyway.
Do you eat any fiber?
No. Meat, eggs, and dairy have no fiber.
How do you poop without FIBER?
Believe it or not, our bodies can make poop perfectly well without the use of fiber. Once carbs are removed from our diets, I (and many others around the world) have found that bowel movements actually improve. Many zero-carbers find that they may “go” less often, but only because meat and fat are more efficiently digested, leaving behind less waste. Having bowel movements less often does not necessarily mean constipation, though, as it does when your intestines are crammed full of fibrous materials, which leave people feeling uncomfortable or even pained.
I never feel “backed up” or “bloated”, and I never have difficulty using the bathroom. My children have never experienced constipation and are both extremely regular and “easy” poopers. We have never taken stool-softeners or laxatives, because we’ve never had a need for them.
I was given the following advice when I first joined a Zero-Carb community: The key to solving constipation problems is to decrease carbs and to increase fat intake. In other words, if you need to poop, have some butter or a really fatty steak. Or just add some extra bacon grease to your burger. Adding fat is the quickest way to solve constipation problems.
I was also told that if I ever have upset stomach on a low carb or zero-carb diet, I am likely ingesting too much fat and need to back off a little. I was advised to have some leaner meat and that it would balance right out. Over the last several years, I have found all of this advice to be quite sound, and it has served my children and I well.
If you’d like some further reading about the myths about fiber, try reading this book: “The Fiber Menace” (http://www.amazon.com/Fiber-Menace-Constipation-Hemorrhoids-Ulcerative/dp/0970679645 )
Now, moving on to a less crappy topic.
How is your cholesterol?
Well, believe it or not, my cholesterol and triglyceride levels have actually improved since removing carbs from my diet. I never had a “high” total cholesterol, but it was certainly approaching 200, even when I was in my 20’s. My total cholesterol is now between 150-170. My good cholesterol levels stay happily at the top of the range, and my triglycerides are quite low. My doctor is very pleased with all of my bloodwork.
This isn’t unusual at all, though. It’s actually quite normal for people to see their bloodwork numbers improve when beginning a low/no carb diet, despite eating the dreaded fat that we’ve all been warned about.
And if you’re looking for a number to worry about (in regards to heart disease), new research shows a much stronger correlation between heart disease and blood sugar instabilities than it does between elevated total cholesterol numbers. The science community is starting to recognize the dangers of sugars and the benefits of eating fats.
The Book, “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” (by Phnney and Voleek) has some great information about why adding fat and lowering carbs can actually improve your blood-work. There is also this fantastic article about cholesterol on a low/no carb diet: http://chriskresser.com/the-most-important-thing-you-probably-dont-know-about-cholesterol
Do you take supplements?
I have taken some prenatal vitamins over the past few years of having babies, but in general, no, I don’t. If I felt deficient in any area, I would consider them, though.
Don’t you think you’re missing some important vitamins and minerals?
Red meat is an incredibly nutrient dense food. My hair, skin, nails, eyes, and general health indicate that I am getting whatever nutrients I need. I have tons of energy and feel amazing. I have regular monthly cycles and was able to carry and birth two healthy babies. I have barely even had a head cold in the past five years. If any negative effects begin to show up, I will re-evaluate, but it’s not broken. And I’m not “fixing” it.
Is LOW carb enough for some people?
I think so. Someone less insulin resistant than I am can likely handle a few carbs from vegetables without having blood sugar spikes/dips, carb cravings, moodiness, weight gain, etc. However, even the small amount of carbohydrates in vegetables were enough to keep me quite addicted. I’m happy for anyone that is able to reduce their carb and sugar intake in ANY way, even if they aren’t eating a zero-carb diet! If you are able to feel amazing while eating some vegetables, then that’s great! I had great success eating a low-carb diet, but found that it became even easier and more effective when I reduced my carbs even further.
Do you ever get bored with eating burgers and bacon all the time?
No. In fact, I get excited about every single meal. If I’m truly hungry, a juicy burger with some bacon WILL sound good. If I’m not very interested in it, then I know I’m not really hungry. But on days when variety sounds good, I certainly have that option! The world is full of delicious meats, and I can eat as much of them as I want. Chicken wings, beef roasts, pork chops, omelets, rib-eyes with butter, scrambled eggs with bacon, etc. I get to stay full, eat good food, avoid the gym, feel great, and wear smaller jeans. I’m not bored. I’m THRILLED.
What do you eat when you’re on the go?
If I know I’m going to be out and won’t have access to any zero-carb options, I’ll just eat until I’m good and full before leaving the house. Eating this way allows me to easily stay full for 4-5 hours.
However, I’ve certainly gone through many drive-through windows when I need food on the road. Most any burger joint will gladly give you burger patties in a “tub” with a side of bacon. (And most won’t even look at you funny!) Or you can get some bacon and a side of eggs. But since I always prefer the taste of my husband’s burgers, I usually just put one in a little container and take it with me. Quick and easy food for the road!
Do you eat grass-fed or grain-fed beef?
I eat whatever I find at my local grocery store (Bi-Lo). I usually buy 80/20 angus ground beef for my hamburgers. Nothing special, just ground beef. I’m not picky about my cows.
Do you buy special bacon?
No. Well, it’s pretty special to ME, but only because it’s delicious. I just get Gwaltney’s thick sliced bacon from Wal-Mart.
Do you ever cheat?
By eating carbs or sweets? No, never. Not even on my birthday or at a first-cousin’s wedding. NEVER. Eating even a small amount of carbs would likely trigger the same withdrawal symptoms that I suffered the first time around. It just isn’t worth it to me. Plus, I’ve lost all desire for sweets and carbs. I would probably gag if I tasted something sweet. That’s’ hard to believe, I know! I spent my whole life with a horribly strong sweet tooth, but now, I have no desire for that stuff at all.
Have your children ever tasted candy?
No. And they’ve also never tried bread, crackers, or grains of any kind. They’ve never tasted anything sweeter than natural, fresh, unsweetened fruit. And even then, it’s been very limited. Because of their limited exposure to anything sweet, they have NO sweet tooth at all. They can’t even stand the smell of baked goods. Read more here.
Do you worry about heart-disease?
No. And when I die from something (ANYTHING), I am aware that some people will blame my diet, even if it’s obviously unrelated. I figure I could get run over by a bread truck and people would still claim that eating meat somehow got me killed. Oh, well.
What do you say to people that think you’re insane?
Um, nothing really. I’m not offended or bothered by what other people eat. And I definitely don’t need anyone else to agree with what I eat. Live and let live, right? I’m only sharing my story, not trying to convert the world. Eat whatever you want. I’m just sharing what works for me. There will always be people who disagree, and that’s fine. But to them I say, “Let them eat cake!”
Do you have a copy of the original low-carb pamphlet from your doctor?
No. I stopped eating most of the foods on that list when I switched from low-carb to no-carb, which made my list a LOT shorter and far less necessary. I don’t need a pamphlet to show me what qualifies as “meat, eggs, and dairy.” But since I have had MANY requests for a copy of it, I called my doctor to see if they still had that pamphlet. The receptionist wasn’t even sure what I was talking about. Pity.
However, if you’re looking for a list of “what are carbs?” then you could check out a site like this one: http://startlowcarb.com/printable-atkins-induction-food-list/ or this one: http://eatingatkins.ie/food-list/ (but stay on the “Phase one” list).
Again, I don’t need a list anymore. If it’s meat or eggs, I eat as much as I want. If it’s dairy, I will have some if I really want it. (I do limit my dairy intake, because I look and feel better without it.) Everything else is on my “NO” list.
Are there other zero-carbers?
Yes, tons. There are people all over the world who have been following a zero-carb far longer than I have. Many of them are already on the “Zeroing In On Health” facebook page, in case you’re looking for a zero-carb community to join.
Do you plan to ever go back to eating a “Standard American Diet?”
No. I’m no longer trying to lose any weight, but actually really enjoy eating the way that I eat. I have no desire to ever go back.
Does your husband eat carbs?
Yes. But I love him anyway. 🙂
When are you going to post the zero-carb cake recipe?
SOON! I promise.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I get asked often enough, I’ll add it to the list.