What About a Zero Carb Diet? The Response!

I rarely ever respond to other bloggers because I simply lack the time or the inclination. However, my inbox was full of messages like, “did you see this?” I have seen it and fortunately for us ZC’ers, history has also seen these arguments.

What I detest more than anything else is when people sit around and pontificate without any experience with what they are talking about. It’s one thing to read a book or a magazine about a topic. It’s quite another thing to experience it. Claiming that my diet is harmful and potentially dangerous is quite entertaining especially when I and so many others are thriving quite well on it. Now, saying that you would get bored, or that the average person can’t pull it off? Well, that is not surprising and I actually agree with that one. But don’t claim that it’s not healthy or whatever you want to say when you have no proof of that.

I have been ZC for over two years and by reducing and ultimately eliminating carbohydrate sources, I lost 73 pounds and I haven’t had any issues whatsoever related to regaining weight or any fear. I am healthy by every objective measure and would gladly put my health against any naysayer. As my running schedule makes clear, I can be quite active when I want to and for 42 years of age, I look pretty good.

I don’t have any issue with Mark Sisson. In fact, I don’t know him from Adam. In fairness, he wasn’t addressing me. He was addressing members of his forum; some of which eat a diet similar to mine. Since this news got to my own forum, I wanted to issue an official ZIOH response to the question. Hopefully this will be of help to those on his own forum who might waver after reading what he wrote.

His main contention is as follows:

I think zero carb can be a viable option for some, but highly impractical for most. If one had access to and ate different animals, all range fed and without pollutants, and if one ate all offal (and stomach contents) it’s possible to approach zero carb… but again highly impractical. If you really, really love meat and fat and offal, and get genuine enjoyment from eating nothing but meat and fat and offal, have at it. On the other hand, if you are looking for a wider variety – and gustatory enjoyment – of the foods you eat, zero carb may be unenjoyable, impractical, unnecessary, and at worst (if not done just right) downright dangerous.

First of all, I eat supermarket meat exclusively, unless I happen to dine at the occasional restaurant where they use only grass-fed meat. I don’t ask. I do this on purpose. For all the rhetoric about feedlots, antibiotics and pollutants in our toxic environment, there is simply no proof to this theory. I do indeed detest the horrible situation at feedlots; however I believe man is to be praised for finding a way to bring nutritious and inexpensive foods to the ones who need it most. I eat supermarket meat to demonstrate that by eating this way, one can experience superb health as I have.

As I have written previously, obesity is primarily found among the poor. The reason for this is because they have the most access to inexpensive processed carbohydrate foods. Despite the fruit and vegetable movements, this has done very little to curb the epidemic. Most will claim it’s because the poor do not follow the recommendations, but I believe otherwise. When faced with a small amount of money and no knowledge concerning alternatives, one will buy cheap foods. Fruits and vegetables serve as gateway drugs because they cause enough instability in blood sugar to lead one to crave more carbohydrates. The vicious cycle of hyperinsulinemia keeps the majority of the population firmly within its grasp.

I eat no organ meats, offal, nor do I take vitamins or supplements of any kind. And you should also know that I eat my meat well done in the manner described below. I started eating medium but the stomach was not quite ready for it and I have decided to cook my meat more. It’s been over 7 months of eating well done (cooked to 170 on a probe) so far and I feel just as magical as I felt prior to the change, without the occasional stomach issues, of course. I should have died from scurvy quite a long time ago, wouldn’t you say? Surely my love of the half-marathon would be my undoing on such poor nutrition, right? In fact, I’m doing it again this weekend in Phoenix at P.F. Chang’s 1/2 marathon along with another gentleman who eats the same way I do and has lost more weight that I did. He only recently took up running once he lost all the weight.

We have an individual on my discussion forum whose entire family eats pemmican only and his children were raised that way. I have seen pictures and they are all very healthy and quite attractive. Unlike many forums, I actually have met the core members of my forum and I can personally vouch for their superb health. They have shared their lipid profiles online and all of ours are strikingly similar.

This argument about consuming the entire animal has been levied against zero-carb diets since the 1920′s. Vihjalmur Stefansson addressed this after the famous Bellevue all-meat challenge in his book, The Fat of the Land: Not by Bread Alone, as follows:

Of the incorrect things said about my writings concerning how we had lived in the North, and about the Russell Sage tests, probably the most serious were those which first praised us and then went on something like this: “Stefansson has proved, by his experience and observations while living with Eskimos and by his and Andersen’s year on an exclusively carnivorous diet at Bellevue Hospital, that you can be healthy indefinitely on an exclusive meat diet, provided you eat a large part of your food raw or underdone, and provided, further, that you eat the whole animal” In fact, my observation and experience in the North, and the results, (of the Russell Sage tests, run contrary to both of these provisos.

As to the degree of cooking: It has been explained in this and previous chapters that Eskimos cook their food on the average more than we do, and it has been stated in the chapter that during the Bellevue year Andersen and I ate little food that was raw or underdone but, instead, that Andersen tended to eat his food medium done and I well done. However, my “well done” is not to be interpreted to mean cooked to pieces, like a New England boiled dinner.

With us it meant that the heart of each piece was slightly pink, about what restaurants speak of as “medium well” in relation to a sirloin. Then it is significant that the northerly forest Indians, as late as when I lived with the Dogribs, Loucheux, and other northern groups in the period 1906-1914, still had that horror of underdone or raw meat which had given the Crees reason to apply the contemptuous term Eskimos, Eaters-of-Raw-Meat, to their more northerly neighbors. Since 1914, I am told, the white man’s idea of how to cook steaks and roasts has made headway. When I was with them they spoke with abhorrence of rare meats, and cooked theirs usually to what we could call medium or medium-well.

Except for a few weeks in summer, when they were around the trading posts, these Indians were as exclusive meat eaters as is the Eskimos; they did, however, sometimes eat intestines that had a little vegetable matter in them, whereas the Eskimos usually, and in my experience always, gave these to the dogs. Yet these forest Indians, eating at an average meats that we would call medium done, were as free from scurvy is the Eskimos—completely free, except a few who worked for white men, ate their food, and then developed scurvy
like the whites.

The second proviso, that you must eat the whole beast, has, in my experience and observation, still less foundation than the first proviso, if that be possible. Both Eskimos and northern forest Indians, and whites who live with them, have a clear mental picture of each animal they butcher, dividing the carcass then or later so that certain parts go uniformly to the dog team, the rest to the family. These divisions of the carcass vary from one species of animal to another but do not vary within the species, unless slightly by season.

The way in which Eskimos divide, for instance, a caribou between men and dogs has been described with some detail; here the fact is emphasized that the organ commonly spoken
of as richest in vitamins, the liver, is nearly always given to the dogs—as are the sweetbreads and, indeed, all things from the body cavity except the heart and kidneys. The kidneys are usually given to children, somewhat as if they were candy.

So far as I know the Eskimos of northern Alaska and northwestern Canada, and the forest Indians just to the south of them, the only condition under which they ate nearly or quite the whole caribou was in time of famine. Ceasing to give the dogs the parts which normally are theirs was that stage of a famine which immediately preceded the killing and eating of the dogs themselves.

So far as present knowledge goes, there is in ordinary red meat, or in ordinary fresh fish, without the eating of anything from the body cavity, enough Vitamin C, or whatever it is
that prevents scurvy, to maintain optimum health indefinitely, with a cooking to the degree which we call medium. Certainly this is true if the meat is cooked in large chunks, as with both Eskimos and northern forest Indians, rather than in thin slices, which latter style of cooking may, for all I know, decrease the potency of the scurvy-preventing factor.

There is no intention to deny, of course, that cooking to medium will somewhat lessen the meat’s antiscorbutic value. What is to be said is only that even with medium cooking there appears to be left over, in fresh red meat or fresh fish, an abundance if not a superabundance of all the vitamins and of all the other factors necessary for keeping a man in top form indefinitely. If results contrary to this are obtained from experiments on guinea pigs, rats or chimpanzees, then it may be advisable to restrict the conclusions in each case to the animal from which these results were drawn.

Since I am a 42-year old man in top form, I can say that eating this way certainly confirms Dr. Stefansson’s observation, some 90 years after he wrote about them. It’s interesting that in the passage I quoted that he speaks of meat cooked to “medium” yet when he was at Bellevue, he ate “medium-well” and was found to be in top form. Now some will say that he ate a little liver when he was at Bellevue. If so, then that still doesn’t change my opinion. Why? Because I have already completed over two years of such a diet without organ meats and I am in top form as are the people on my forum whom I have personally met. I haven’t had liver since I was a small child and the family dog got the better of that exchange. Eating liver always initiates the powerful gag response for me.

And this “gustatory enjoyment” part really gets me. Do people not understand that this is a relatively new concept? Think about it. For centuries some populations ate the exact same foods. There was no fast-food options or anything else for that matter. They were quite content with the foods they ate and they were in superb health. Once agriculture entered the picture, all of a sudden all foods need to be seasoned to taste like something other than what they are.

And let me provide you another newsflash: Food is NOT entertainment. If you eat like a rabbit and have to graze every two hours, I can see why food is such a big issue for you. When you eat ZC like I do, your hunger becomes regulated as it’s supposed to and you can easily go long periods of time without the need to eat. I’m not talking about the craziness known as intermittent fasting. I’m not at all a fan of fasting. However, my diet allows me to go long periods without feeling hunger. Therefore, I only eat twice per day. I could skip it altogether if I got busy with something and didn’t have to time to stop to do it.

Any diet that does not regulate hunger and cravings is NOT a proper diet.

We’re always looking for ways to lead far more productive lives. However, few of us are willing to do what it takes to improve that. We would rather make excuses as to why we can’t and why others can’t either. We can’t live without the drugs we ingest every two hours because they spike our blood sugar and make us manic. Eating a proper diet is one way that you can accomplish this. I don’t need food to get through a movie, or a date, or a family gathering. Similarly, I don’t need food upon receiving disappointing news or when things don’t go my way. I can actually spend time on the company I’m with or deal with the problems at hand. We are not grazers, we are carnivores and because it takes a while to hunt, prepare and cook our food, it’s good that we’re not starving all the time.

These were the only arguments I see that Mark Sisson put forward so there is no need to delve any further into his speculation. This article of mine does not have to constitute proof for you. Indeed, I don’t intend for it do be so. However, I do challenge you to test the veracity of his claims. Eat ZC yourself for six months and have a conversation with your body. This will indicate to you rather what Dr. Stefansson and I are saying is true or not.

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Posted on January 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm by Charles · Permalink
In: Diet, Disease, Populations

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