Monday, August 3, 2009

A little history and my thoughts on zero-carb

Zero-carb is clearly where I'm headed. My body has been calling me in this direction for quite a while now, though it's taken years for me to piece together all the clues. Eating a fruit or vegetable has become a game of Russian roulette, in terms of whether or not it will provoke symptoms in me and, if so, how severe those symptoms will be.

This is an inconvenient conclusion at which to arrive, for me. I have always had a soft heart toward animals and this tendency has become even stronger since becoming a mother. I don't like to think of anything dying, much less being killed for the purpose of being put in my mouth and belly. The notion that normal, sane people in my life go out hunting on the weekend is difficult for me to reconcile each time I think on it. I try to put myself in their shoes and find myself feeling very squeamish. I have to look away when Bear Grylls finds a bite to eat.

Two years ago when my obsession was autism, I read with morbid fascination about Temple Grandin's insight into the minds of cattle and how she used her gift in order to make the animals' last moments more dignified and less frightening. Grandin has my respect, so when I read her words in Thinking in Pictures on why she believes it is acceptable to slaughter animals for meat, I wanted to be inspired and find my horror lifted from me. That didn't quite happen, but I suppose a seed of resignation was planted, at least.

At any rate, it would be more comfortable for me to assume a vegan lifestyle. It's trendy, it's (at least on the surface) more "green" and humane, and no cuddly creatures had to suffer or die to make those foods. But I'm just not that selfless. I want to eat the foods that my species evolved eating. I want to feel good and live a long life free from fainting spells and uncomfortable cardiac arrythmias. I want to use my brain to its full capacity, not sit around fumbling for words, be unable to remember yesterday's events, or have trouble performing simple equations. I want to take my sons to the park without a second thought, not stay home in fear of another fainting spell or sudden bout of exhaustion.

Eating paleo/primal is something I've been doing on and off for about two years, alternating with periods of SAD and plain low-carb or South Beach. I began around the time celiac disease was prominently featured in the news. My firstborn had also suffered a profound developmental delay resembling autism. This was shortly after he was weaned. (Incidentally, this was also directly after receiving his MMR... but that's outside the scope of this blog. Suffice it to say I am neither in the "vaccines cause autism" camp nor in the "vaccines ROXXORS!!!1 get them or die a scary death of measles" camp.) I noticed that removing dairy and gluten from my son's diet caused his behavior to change dramatically for the better. I tried it myself and found that I felt better, too. With the aid of the new diet and occupational therapy, my son regained his lost skills and after six months he was functioning at an accelerated level rather than developmentally delayed.

However, carbs are addictive and I went back to my old way of eating more often than not. By the end of 2007 my health issues had worsened to the point that I was doing (let's be blunt) a real half-assed job at work. I had no strength, I constantly felt ill, I wondered if I was just lazy or depressed, but no matter what I did it seemed I could not regain enough vitality to be the kind of worker I once was. When I returned to college the following year, I could barely walk from one building to another. By the end of 2008, I had to drop out of an important course because my mind was too blurry to concentrate on the materials. I lost my vision and became faint dozens of times a day. My lungs seemed to tighten up on the least bit of exertion. I sometimes felt convinced I was dying of something but no doctor I saw could figure out anything wrong with me.

Bit by bit, with a lot of research and reading, I began to piece it together myself. When I ate rice, my heart raced and my breathing became labored. I felt fine while fasting, worse after eating. Wheat was no good. Candy was no good. All grains were bad.

My partner and I began eating primal toward the end of April. I saw instant, huge improvements in my health, but it wasn't (and still isn't) as good as I'd hoped. Clearing my body of processed foods heightened my awareness of what gives me trouble though. I had a hard time admitting that fruit and all sweeteners are on the black list, but they are. I haven't yet given them all up entirely, but I know when I eat them I am likely to feel poorly.

What makes me feel great? Meat. Meat, meat, unlimited meat. Chicken, beef, pork, animal fats, butter. Bacon, sausage, and cheese, too, so long as the quantity is not ridiculous.

I've read Good Calories, Bad Calories, the Bear's (NOT Grylls) infamous thread on 47 years of being a total carnivore, Banting's On Corpulence, I'm beginning Not By Bread Alone. I know that our closest known relatives on the hominid family tree the Neanderthals were essentially carnivorous. I know that the available evidence strongly suggests that paleolithic humans obtained most of their protein from animal sources. Most importantly, I have empirical evidence: the response of my own body to what I ingest. VLC is imminent for me and zero-carb is not that far off.

Sorry, fuzzy creatures. You are food.


  1. I am glad you commented on my blog. You seem to be in a similar spot to me with respect to carbs. I am trying to find my path as well.

    Anyway, check out this link on "the vegetarian myth"

    I found Dr. Eades post to be fascinating and I plan to read the book soon

  2. That review was a great read. I keep referencing it in conversation today. Totally sold me on the book.