In this Episode
- [02:39] – What, exactly, is wrong with sugar?
- [04:15] – JJ talks about the problem with all-natural sugars such as honey.
- [06:19] – We learn what happens when we eat a candy bar or drink a soda. As she answers, JJ shares her surprise that candy bars are still available for sale.
- [08:56] – JJ talks about why fructose is the worst of all.
- [12:07] – JJ takes a moment to rant about the WIC program for underprivileged children in schools, which provides apple juice.
- [13:17] – Do artificial sweeteners also increase your risk of diabetes and the other diseases that JJ has been talking about?
- [15:30] – Which are the worst, and the least-toxic, of the artificial sweeteners? JJ points out that they’re all bad, and recommends some natural options instead.
- [16:56] – Exposure equals preference, JJ points out.
- [18:16] – The first step in getting off the hamster wheel and getting off your addiction to sugar is wanting to do so, JJ explains, then offers more advice on getting off of sugar.
- [22:01] – JJ talks about eating cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, and other fruits typically considered healthy.
- [23:15] – Stephan mentions something that was helpful for him when he got off of sugar, which was going cold turkey.
- [25:46] – What’s the process for going from being a sugar burner to being a fat burner?
- [28:51] – Stephan points out how much of eating and snacking is based in habit rather than hunger.
- [30:34] – Is there such a thing as healthy snacking, and what kind of healthy snacks would JJ recommend?
- [32:52] – JJ talks about whether she recommends people take food sensitivity tests.
- [37:11] – Is there a particular gut microbiome test that JJ recommends?
- [39:39] – JJ shares her thoughts on kombucha, a supposedly healthy drink that has sugar in it.
- [41:00] – What sorts of genetics tests does JJ recommend?
- [43:19] – We learn about the problems with drinking water from plastic containers.
- [47:15] – JJ discusses what to do with the specific information on body composition that you can get from a smart scale.
- [49:05] – JJ offers some of her tips for taking care of yourself while traveling.
- [50:29] – Does JJ believe in water fasts, or detoxing by taking food completely out of the diet every so often?
I don’t know about you but I’ve had a problem with sugar. A lifelong problem, a love affair with sugar. And it wasn’t until just a couple of years ago that I was able to get off of sugar, not completely but I don’t eat dessert except on holiday like my birthday and I’m a changed man. So if that’s possible for someone who is a complete sugarholic, then it’s possible for you. Why would you do it? Well here’s some important questions you need to think about and you’re going to get the answers in this episode. Like what is sugar really doing to our health? Why is fructose worse than glucose? What’s so bad about artificial sweeteners? Or how do I know how much sugar I can eat? Or how do I find some safe sugar substitutes? What do I do if craving hits me? I’ve been a sugar addict my whole life, how do I stop these cravings? How do I get rid of my sweet tooth? Or how do I go from a sugar burner to a fat burner? If you’ve had any of these questions or if you have these questions now and you’re intrigued then this episode number 137 is for you.
I’m so excited to have our guest today, JJ Virgin. JJ is a celebrity nutrition expert and fitness hall of famer. She’s the person that people go to if they want to break through food and carb intolerances to finally lose the weight and transform their health and lives. JJ is a prominent TV and media personality whose previous features include co-host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters, health expert for Dr. Phil and appearances on PBS, Doctor Oz, Rachel Ray, Access Hollywood and the Today Show. She also speaks regularly and has shared the stage with notable including TD Jakes, Tony Robbins and Brendon Burchard. JJ is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, The Virgin Diet, The Virgin Diet Cookbook, JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet and JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet Cookbook. JJ, welcome the show.
I’m excited to be here.
Let’s talk about sugar. What exactly is wrong with sugar?
Oh, it’s all fine. Go ahead and eat it.
I have a feeling you’re being specious here.
Overrated. Everyone makes a big deal out of it. It’s no big deal. No, truthfully, I actually haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to it until I wrote The Virgin Diet because I genetically don’t have a sweet tooth. I just didn’t realize what a big deal it was. I know that might sound ridiculous. When I wrote The Virgin Diet, I had so many questions around sugar, so many questions. People were like, “Can’t I just have honey? It’s all-natural, it comes from bees, what could be bad?” Or, “I’ll just do artificial sweeteners because they’ve got no calories.” I realized this was a super confusing situation and people fell into one of two camps, and oftentimes both, and that they were either completely confused or they were completely controlled. Sugar really is our number one recreational drug out there. It is the biggest drug we have in the world. I really set out to clear up the confusion but also to create a new framework for looking at sugar because we’ve been looking at it all wrong and to help people understand what they should be eating because I think that’s probably the most confusing question that I, as a nutritionist, get asked is, “What should I eat?” To help people really understand the role it can play, how to consume it, what never to eat, etc.
What exactly is wrong with all-natural sugars like honey and Stevia and that sort of thing. Actually, I guess Stevia isn’t really sugar but…
See, there you go. You’re confused.
I corrected myself though, I wasn’t confused.
It’s really about the dose. If we were back 5000 years ago and you happen to in the summer run into some honey and feast on it for a while, that’s fine but that’s not the way it’s presented now. Now it’s in these little cute plastic bears, what could possibly wrong with that? You’re squirting it into your coffee thinking it’s okay. It’s the challenge in that we process these things and made them so readily available. That is not the way we eat sugar in nature. We don’t make something into juice, we don’t dry it out. If you look at most of the fruit out there, we’ve turned it into candy or soda. To me, juice is nothing more than a soda. The only benefit on it is that you’re getting vitamins and minerals, so they add them into the sodas now too, and dried fruit is candy.
The issue with sugar is really knowing which sugars to choose, which to lose, and how much to eat. That varies due to the nature of your genetics, your lifestyle, what type of health issues you might be dealing with, someone with diabetes or poor blood sugar control is someone different than someone with adrenal issues. Some people do well on low carb diet, some people don’t. That’s where this all gets super confusing but there are some key things that I think we have to consider and that’s why I felt compelled to kind of take on sugar was that we need to look at sugar differently and all carbohydrates except for fiber turned into sugar. It’s really a matter of whether you’re making sugar from the food you eat, you’re breaking it down slowly, or you’re mainlining it, and what we don’t wanna do is mainline it.
Mainlining it, ooh. That sends chills down my spine. Tell me more about this. What’s happening to the various biochemical cascades when we’re eating a candy bar or downing a soda?
I gotta tell you. I’m still so surprised that they sell candy bars. I’m still amazed when I see someone buy a candy bar. I don’t even realize people would eat that stuff anymore but I guess they do because there’s loads of candy bars at the grocery stores and airports, means someone is buying them.
I used to be hooked. It was about three years ago that I cut it out of my diet completely. All deserts and I was the worst sugarholic you would’ve ever seen.
Really? You would still buy candy bar and a soda?
Not sodas. I cut that out about seven or eight years ago but yeah, I used to love all that stuff. Occasionally, I’ll still miss a Rolo or something.
I know. It’s not even real food.
It’s just so interesting though but here is the problem—and this is where the problem comes in—and then we’ll talk about what exactly it’s doing to your body. The problem is that most people are not out there choosing a Rolo. They’re not out there choosing a soda because they know better but they go and get this green drink thinking that they’re doing a great thing. What they don’t realize is the green machine drink has 44 grams of sugar, actually more sugar than a Coke. That’s where, I think, we’ve gotten really confused. We bought the dark chocolate but we didn’t realize the dark chocolate we got actually had a load of sugar in it because it wasn’t a high cocoa count. We’re getting duped by misinformation all over the place. What the challenge is when you’re eating sugar especially when you’re eating sugar with more fructose in it because that has a different fake, but when you’re eating sugar your blood sugar goes up.
When your blood sugar goes up, your insulin because elevated blood sugar is problematic. In fact, if your blood sugar is just 10 point overs where it should be—90 instead of 80—on a regular basis you, have times the risk of dementia, five times, five times. Frightening, right? You eat high carbohydrates, you eat sugar because all carbs turn to sugar except for fiber. Your blood sugar goes up, your insulin goes up to bring your blood sugar back down. The problem is that insulin stays up for a long time and blood sugar reacts quickly. When that happens and the insulin is up and blood sugar is down, your body can’t really access stored fat for fuel and you’re hungry again. Then you go and grab quick energy. Everyone talks about getting a quick fix of sugar. The minute they do, they pump up blood sugar again, their insulin stays up, and now it’s created a situation where they’re inflamed, they can’t access stored fat for fuel. I kind of eluded that fructose is the worst of all because everything is gonna break down into either glucose or if it starts as fructose, it’s fructose.
The only organ that can metabolize fructose is the liver. If you eat, let’s say, you go to the health food store and you buy something sweetened with agave, that’s supposed to be this fabulous, natural sweetener, agave is almost all fructose. The only thing higher than fructose is straight fructose. It goes straight to the liver where if it can’t be converted into glucose and stored as glycogen energy which it probably can’t because there’s not a lot of space in the liver, it’s turned into fat. This is why we’ve got now fatty liver in kids, we’ve got non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as a disease, we’ve got people with insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, hypertension, we’ve got diabetic kids. I think a lot of this has to do with using apple juice concentrate as some kind of a sweetener when it’s worst for you than high-fructose corn syrup because it’s higher in fructose. There’s the challenges with it is we really have so much misinformation out there. It’s really, really confusing.
Yeah. We’re also getting duped when we start to realize how bad, say, high-fructose corn syrup is, they change the name. They’re trying to fool us with different labelling and it tends to work, actually.
Wasn’t that just ridiculous? They hide these things. They call it, “Oh it’s just rice sir, that must be fine.” They change names, they hide things, they can put on packages. This is what’s absolutely ridiculous, on the front of the package they can put, “No sugar added,” if they use fruit juice concentrate. But fruit juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, everyone was up in arms about high-fructose corn syrup which actually is the same composition of fructose and glucose as table sugar. It’s the same. It’s not different but if you look at apple juice concentrate, it is higher in fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. But they put on a label they can use that as a sweetener and say no sugar added because it’s just fruit. But fruit is sugar. That is what’s so ridiculous. But a mom going to the store trying to buy something great for her kids who sees organic, no sugar added, thinks it’s fine.
Yeah, it’s shocking. I saw a documentary called King Corn and that’s where I learned that high-fructose corn syrup is made by adding sulfuric acid to break open the cells and get the sugar out. I was just shocked.
Yeah, there is a big issue with mercury and high-fructose corn syrup that I think they’ve now resolved. But it was like, “Mmm, great.” Not only are we getting those problems, we’re also getting mercury toxicity along with it, just as an added benefit.
People who are picking up a daily Naked or Odwalla smoothie or juice thinking they’re doing their body good, they’re actually really hurting their liver and adding the likelihood of diabetes to their future, and just wreaking all sorts of havoc.
The one that gets me the most is the WIC Program for underprivileged kids where they’re giving them basically food and school. One of the things they’re giving is apple juice. Apple juice is a rotten food. There is nothing beneficial about that. It’s just bad. Eat an apple, you’re gonna get amazing fiber but no one would sit down and go through four apples. You do apple juice, you’re getting a big dump of fructose, zero fiber. Juice is okay if it’s green and real green. You didn’t add in carrots and apples and beets which is what they typically do because greens in their own are pretty sour. But even if you’re doing a straight green drink, I still have people add in some chia, some fiber, to slow down the blood sugar response. But look at a lot of these juices at the store especially you mentioned that one I’m always on a rampage about, it’s Naked juice and it’s called Green Machine because literally 44 grams of sugar in 16 ounces. That is crazy.
That’s criminal. It will be criminal someday, I believe. What about these artificial sweeteners? Does that also increase your likelihood of diabetes and all these sorts of diseases?
You look back to when those things started. I remember so well because I was a kid and there used to be a product called Tab was I think one of the first diet drinks. My mother would not buy it for me. I used to walk down to the store and buy this stuff. She was like, “That is not coming in my house.” These diet sodas were created so diabetics could have sweet food which is so [inaudible [00:12:36]. They actually do just the reverse. For ages, studies started to come out and they were trying to figure out why this was happening, that people who were drinking diet sodas actually had bigger waist circumference than people who didn’t. They were like, “Well, maybe it’s because they drink a diet soda and have a pizza or cookies.” Then they thought it was calorie dysregulation because it turns out that rats given artificial sweeteners lose their ability to regulate a degree of sweetness with the amount of calories. But the reality is—and this is just recent research—it actually changes your gut microbiome so that it becomes more glucose intolerant. That increases your risk of diabetes.
This happened, by the way, they did this research study with-gosh, I just always look at these and think, “Who the heck volunteered for this one?” I would never volunteer for that one. But in one week, people’s gut microbiome became glucose intolerant which means that you’re eating this sugar, your body’s gonna have a bigger insulin response to them, can’t handle it, and it’s gonna set you up for then becoming diabetic. Artificial sweeteners, there is nothing good about them, there is not one thing. Usually you can say, “Okay, well, alright. You drank the juice at least you got the vitamins and minerals.” There is zero positive about these artificial sweeteners. They cause neuroexcitatory effects to your brain, calorie dysregulation, impacts with your gut microbiome, and they can also do aging issues with your body where sugars do something where they [00:14:18]which is very aging. It’s like the crust on bread. Artificial sweeteners can do the same thing. They are also aging your body.
What’s the worst of the artificial sweeteners and what’s the least toxic?
They’re all horrible. Splenda’s got a couple. Probably Splenda’s the worst although aspartame’s pretty nasty. I don’t know. They’re all bad. They’re all bad. The thing is you don’t need to do those because there’s better alternatives out there like you mentioned earlier. Stevia and Monk fruit or Luo Han Guo are two fantastic options that are actually good for you. I still don’t like people to go crazy with these things because I don’t want your sweet tooth to be woken up but if you need to use sweeteners, Allulose, Monk Fruit, Stevia, Xylitol, and Erythritol are all great options. You don’t need to use artificial sweeteners and you don’t need to use regular table sugar.
Well, your taste buds will change after a time and things will taste sweeter and you won’t need the artificial sweeteners or the sugar additives or even Stevia. For example, I would make avocado shakes in the morning—with avocado, and cucumber, and a peeled lemon, and spinach, and some water, maybe a little bit of almond milk—and I would add Stevia to that. Then I stopped adding Stevia and I realized I don’t actually need the Stevia so I never make it with Stevia anymore. Also, wheatgrass juice used to taste really bad for to me. Now it tastes sweet. My taste buds have changed. Is that pretty common?
There’s a statement early on I heard from someone, this is fantastic that every parent should remember called exposure equals preference. The first time I drank green tea I’m like, “This is not delicious at all.” But I happen to be living in Japan. There weren’t a whole lot of options so by the time I left Japan I loved green tea, I loved wasabi, I loved all sorts of stuff that I didn’t like when I got there. Yeah, exposure equals preference. Now in the thinking on sweet tooth, when I wrote the Sugar Impact Diet, I did it because the big question I got asked after The Virgin Diet was, “Well, what about sugar?” What I realized was I had a group of people who were ruled by their sweet tooth. It wasn’t just the taste, it’s also the addictive nature of it. They were lighting up the chemical centers of their brain. They’ve done studies on rats and found that given the option between morphine and sugar, they’ll take sugar. They light up the same pleasure center but the sugar is even more pleasurable. I knew that I had some work to do to try to break people off this but I found that [inaudible [00:17:25] taste buds to appreciate sour, savory, spicy, salty that we got off the sugar and then when you went back to it, it tasted too sweet, just like you talked about.
How does somebody get off of this hamster wheel and stop being ruled by their sweet tooth?
The first thing is you have to want to. As ridiculously simple as that sounds, you must want to get off the hamster wheel. Once you’ve realized that this is going to age you, make you stupid because it really does, it will make your brain fog, you won’t be able to think straight, and overtime it is going to give you dementia. You eat a high-sugar diet, you have elevated blood sugar, over time your chance of developing dementia is sky-high. Once you realize all of those things and as a man, you’ll probably become impotent. I always say that to my male clients. I used to have a lot of male CEOs as client when I saw people one-on-one. I always threw that one out there if I couldn’t get them to get rid of sugar. That was the easy way to get it gone. “This will happen to you.” They’re like, “Oh, no.” That’s where I start first with building the case as to why you wanna fix this then the next thing that I do is have them really look at where it’s sneaking into your diet.
I created something the Sneaky Sugar Inventory to show where all of this is because we don’t think about it. We choose that balsamic vinegar not realizing that it’s syrup. You have the marinara sauce not realizing how much sugar they put into it. It’s sneaking into places you’d never expect. The biggest places tend to be syrups, the sauces, the dressings. But there’s other places too. That step one is figuring out where it is. And then, I created a chart and I looked at fructose and how much a food impacts your blood sugar and insulin because I wanted to bring artificial sweeteners into play here too. I contrasted that with fiber and nutrient density and I created a low, medium, and high-sugar impact chart, broken into seven different categories. The next step I had people do is to start tapering down, get rid of all their high-sugar impact foods, and trade them out for similar medium-sugar impact foods. Someone was eating a white tortilla, we’d switch them over to a rice tortilla. White tortilla would get switched over to a rice tortilla. That would be an example of high-sugar food moving into a medium-sugar food, kind of a simple thing or if someone was eating french fries, we’d switch them over to a baked sweet potato fry. We do that first.
Once they’ve done that and they’ve gotten used to eating some slow low-carbs, loads of vegetables, healthy fats, and protein at each of their meals, then I move them into two weeks where we take fructose out altogether and we drop their sugar impact down to low. That’s where you really reclaim your sweet tooth. You start focusing, you just start paying attention to flavors. It’s kind of like when someone goes to a rock concert and after they’ve been there all night everything’s loud. Then you’re home and you’re in the quiet again, and you can start to hear again, that’s what it feels like, is you can start to taste again. Fructose is super sweet that’s why we’ve used it as a sweetener because it’s super sweet. The more fructose you eat, the better your body gets at sending that fructose straight to the liver and making fat. This is nothing we wanna be good at. If you pull it out for a couple of weeks, you can get your sweet tooth back, you can taste again, you get that sweet taste again, so food starts to taste so sweet which is what we want. Your body gets bad at fructose transport which is what you also want. You don’t want to be able to make fat fast. You don’t wanna be able to transport that down. You wanna be at the point where if you overload in on a bunch of fructose you got gassy and bloated and you didn’t feel good, that’s a good thing. That’s your body telling you stop it.
Right. But what about eating cantaloupe, and watermelon, and grapefruit, and all sorts of, some of them full of fructose as well, those are usually billed as being so healthy.
Right. It’s not—for two weeks I take people off of all of that and then at the end of two weeks we’ll incorporate those things back in. If someone’s insulin sensitive, they are not diabetic, then one or two pieces of whole fruit, not dried, not concentrated, not syrup, not juice, fine. But if you’re diabetic, if you’re hypertensive, if you’ve got insulin resistance, this is not something you should be doing. If you’re trying to lose a big gut, drop the fruit, drop all the fructose, you’ll be amazed how quickly things turn around. Then you’ll start to notice that a lot of these fruits just taste super sweet. That’s kind of where we wanna go back to, using fruit as a treat rather than as this diet staple because it’s really not.
Yeah, I totally agree on that. This chart that you referenced with the sugar impact levels, is that something that folks can download?
Yeah. It’s in my sugar impact diet book. We will give you a quick start guide that’s got all that in there. How’s that?
That sounds perfect. Listeners, go check out getyourselfoptimized.com for that awesome gift from JJ. One thing that I wanted to mention as well that was helpful for me when I got off of sugar was to just go cold turkey rather than try and moderate because I think there are two types of people; abstainers and moderators. I’m definitely an abstainer. It’s either all in or all out. I can’t just have one cookie or whatever. I have to finish the box and that’s not good. I just need to cut it out completely. I’ll have a dessert on my birthday or other holidays but the rest of the year, nope. It’s a flat out no. I just can’t. It’s a slippery slope for me. Is that something that you’ve found to be the case with your clients?
When I’m getting someone off of sugar, I taper them that first week or two because what I found is if someone’s a sugar burner which—if you need to eat every two to three hours, if you can’t go longer than that without crashing and burning—then you’re a sugar burner not a fat burner. If you carry a lot of excess weight around your waist, big belly fat, you’re probably a sugar burner, not a fat burner. I find those people do better with a one to two week transition otherwise they tend to crash and then they go racing for something sweet to bring their energy back up. However, here’s a super important thing, and you brought it up, is trigger foods. We all have them.
For me, my trigger foods are crunchy, salty things. If I went to a movie and they have those unlimited buckets of popcorn, if I had a handful of popcorn at the movies, I’d probably be at the movie theater all day long refilling my bucket. I’d just stay there. There’d be no end in sight. I know that about myself. I think the critical thing is to know what your trigger foods are and avoid those things at all costs. I can have a couple of bites of a desert and be totally fine because I don’t really like sweets that much but I cannot go dig into a salty, crunchy thing and be able to handle it. I can’t. I just lose it. I think we gotta know our trigger foods. Even if they’re considered healthy, too much healthy foods’ unhealthy. Just because nuts are healthy, doesn’t mean a jar of almond butter is healthy.
Right. If I’m a sugar burner and I wanna become a fat burner, what’s the process? After I do this weaning, taking myself off of these horrible sugary foods? Then I also avoid trigger foods, throw them out, get them out of the house, etc.
There’s a lot of talk now about fasting, intermittent fasting, keto diets, etc. The interesting thing is when you really look at how we should be eating which is stop eating three to four hours before bed, give yourself a good overnight fast, 12-14 hours, guess what happens when you do that? You’re a fat burner. You’re in ketosis. That’s kind of a natural state of being. A natural state of being, we’d miss a meal here and there, we’d have caloric variability, that’s one of the key things to do. When I take someone through this, I’m trying to do it in a way that is not as unpleasant as possible. It’s pleasant as possible. That’s why I taper people down first so they don’t have a big energy dump because most of us can’t take off a couple weeks out of our life in our busy schedule to have energy crashes. We go through this no-fructose, low-sugar impact for a couple of weeks. As we’re doing that, we cut snacks out, you’re eating three meals a day, maybe two meals and a snack because we don’t necessarily need to eat three meals either. You’re getting a bigger overnight fast, drinking more water, that is all shifting you into this fat burning.
Again, you know you’re a fat burner when you can go four to six hours before you need to eat again. When you can close the kitchen down after dinner and wake-up and not have to rush to the kitchen to eat something and you can go an hour or two in the morning before you need to eat again. That’s really the telltale sign that you’re losing weight around your waist. If you’re dropping weight but you’re [inaudible [00:27:25] better and you’re a sugar burner, you’re not a fat burner. That’s really a key distinction there but so many of the things we’ve been taught over the years that we should be eating three meals and three snacks a day which is absolute ridiculousness. I think the snacking industry created that one that was just silly. When we pulled the fat out of foods, we started snacking like that, it’s just a bad plan. It’s bad to go without a meal. No, it’s not. It’s not bad to be a little bit hungry here and there. We used to be, thousands of years ago, we’re hungry. Think about the last time you were really hungry.
It’s been a while.
We’re just not taught to. I don’t think most people even know what feeling hungry really feels like because usually, they’re not hungry at all, they’re just thirsty. When you do think you’re hungry have some water and wait it out a bit and see if you really were hungry. Most likely, you weren’t. But if the first thing you could start doing is shutting the kitchen after dinner, not eating dinner late, eat dinner three to four hours before you’re gonna go to bed, and then do not eat anything else and give yourself a really good, at least 12-hour overnight fast, that can have a dramatic impact in your health and your weight. It’s such a simple thing to do. It’s not easy because so many of us, it’s like night time, all of a sudden you’re sniffing around, you’re bored, next thing you know you’re in the kitchen.
Get out of the kitchen. Kitchen should be equipped with a thing that after seven o’clock, they’re padlocked and you cannot get in them. That’s it.
Yeah, I think it’s also just part of our habits. We’ll turn on the TV or maybe we wanna watch a movie on NetFlix, and part of that habit is to go to the kitchen and get a snack, to pop some popcorn, and put a lot of artificial stuff on it like margarine or whatever, and bring it back to the couch. One thing I found really insightful and helpful is just to tease apart the habits into the trigger, the stimulus, the habit itself, and then the reward, and then I can just undo that habit simply by moving the stimulus or the trigger away. When I sit on the couch, the trigger is sitting on the couch and grabbing the remote. If I move the remote into another room then put a book that I’m really enjoying there on its place then I’ve rewired that habit without having to put a lot of willpower into it.
That’s such an important thing too because nature hates a vacuum. What I see with people where they get set-up to fail, they go, “Okay, I’m not gonna eat those cookies anymore at night.” But they don’t put anything in its place. By the way, it doesn’t mean that you need something else to eat that’s not the case but you need to have an activity, something else there. I often tell women, “Go get in the bathtub because you can’t eat.” You could but it would be super weird. Most people are not gonna go and have a snack in the bath. Just get in the bathtub, just hang there, and stay there until the feeling passes and then go to bed.
I like that, that’s a great tip. As far as healthy snacking, is there such a thing? If so, what kind of healthy snack would you recommend?
I’m so not a fan of snacking. I think you should eat breakfast an hour or two after you wake up. If you’re gonna skip a meal, you really have to see if you’re a person who’s better off skipping the morning meal or the evening meal. I don’t do well if I skip my morning meal. I do fine, I could totally skip dinner but breakfast, no way. The only time I do a snack is if you’re only having two meals, maybe breakfast, late lunch, and a snack later, or breakfast, dinner and a snack in between. But other than that, I’m not a big fan of snacking. If you do need to snack, turkey with a little bit of avocado, nuts, almond butter on some celery, hummus on some celery, simple stuff like that I always carry. I have bars that I make and manufacture and I always carry those with me just in case I get stuck somewhere especially when I travel. You can get stuck places and got nothing. I wind up with those. But again, I really think we need to rethink the whole snacking concept.You should eat breakfast an hour or two after you wake up. If you’re gonna skip a meal, you really have to see if you’re a person who’s better off skipping the morning meal or the evening meal. Click To Tweet
Yeah. You said you have some bars that you make. Are those available at grocery stores or through your website? How does that work?
Those are all on my website at jjvirgin.com. What happened was when I wrote The Virgin Diet and everything was gluten-free, dairy-free, soy protein-free, egg white protein-free, there wasn’t nothing. I started making my own, and then my friends started taking them, and then that’s where I ended up with making bars for everybody because I couldn’t keep them around for just me. I could not find bars that didn’t have something in them that I was telling people not to have because I pull everybody off of gluten, and dairy, and soy protein, and corn, and eggs, and peanuts. Although I find a lot of people can rotate eggs back in, it really depends on what’s going on with them in terms of autoimmune and leaky gut but I find most people do better without gluten and dairy.
Yeah. Do you recommend that people will take a food sensitivity test? I took the Immuno Labs test. I actually had Jeffrey Zavik from ImmunoLabs on this podcast to talk about food sensitivities. What’s your take on that? We all have different biologies, we have different genetics.
Yup. Food sensitivities is based on your immune system and it’s looking at what you’ve developed, not your genetics. For food sensitivities based on your genes it’s a different type of tests, it’s looking at lactose intolerance, and celiac disease. For food sensitivities these are based on your gut permeability and it develops over time. The thing with it is it’s something that you really should be doing at least once a year. I was doing a lot of this years ago. This is how The Virgin Diet came to be. I was doing food sensitivity testing with doctors in their office and we were having people do them because they were complaining about headaches, and gas, and bloating, and joint pain, and skin problems, they had autoimmune diseases, they couldn’t lose weight, they had food cravings. I got the opportunity to coach doctors on how to put this into their practice.
I was working with Metametrix Lab at that time and then I looked at hundreds of test results and what I realized—after looking at just a few of the test results—I started to watch and I went wow, the results are always the same. Not exactly the same but there’s some clear things that I saw. We weren’t looking at gluten because that’s a different type of test, when I looked at gluten intolerance testing, that ran about 40% but when I pulled it out of people’s diet, 90% of the people felt better. But in IgG food sensitivity testing which really says how permeable is your gut which our gut becomes more permeable than it should be due to stress, gluten, fructose, artificial sweetener, and different medications.
Even popcorn too, right?
A popcorn, yeah. It’s interesting. GMO foods, fructose, gluten, stress, more stress, stress, stress, antibiotics, pain medications, of course, I think I said artificial sweeteners, what I sure didn’t notice with dairy and eggs were the top foods that 70% of people seem to show up with. The next tier were corn, eggs, and peanuts, and soy. I started to watch because someone would come in and take the test and they’d write down all the symptoms they had then they come back, we pull the foods out that they were reacting to and then those symptoms would go away but they’d also lose weight fast. Then I thought, “Well, wow. While they were waiting for the test result to come back I think I’ll just pull the foods out.” And then, I realized I didn’t really even need to do the test because when you really looked at it, we could become intolerant to a food. We either have our genetics at play or which genetics would be how well you metabolize fructose, what’s going on with lactose intolerance, and gluten.
Then you have your immune system and is it fired up and you have problems with your gut and then that’s a different type of response. You can develop that at any time. And then you have hormonal issues. Are you insulin resistant? You have cortisol issues that could be creating problems here. We know stress against real [inaudible [00:36:50] besides looking at it if we start to really dig into somebody, “Yeah, there’s things going on with genetically-modified foods and chemicals and all that. But wouldn’t the best test really be you yourself, you, your own personal health detective pulling this food out? Then doing a diet journal and tracking your symptoms and trying back one at a time, and connecting the dots between how you feel when you eat that food. What you weigh, and your symptoms, and isn’t that then so much more powerful?
Because when you do that you go, “Wow, I’m not gonna eat gluten. My fingers swell up. I feel like crap.” You never go to yourself, “I think I’ll have a cheat day today.” Because you know, it’s just like someone’s not gonna go sit down and drink a fifth of vodka. They know what it feels like to drink a little too much. You start to know what it feels like to eat foods that don’t work for you. At that point, I pretty much bailed on all the food sensitivity testing except for, I always start people on The Virgin Diet, and then if we get through that and we’re still having issues that are symptomatic to food sensitivity then I would do food sensitivity test. But I find that we clear up a lot of it without ever having to go down that road. Maybe that we need to do some gut microbiome, we need to look at a stool test or other things but 90% of the time, that in itself figures it out and fixes it.
Do you recommend gut microbiome test? Is there one in particular that you would recommend?
Yes, I like this one from DSL Diagnostic something. I don’t what it’s called. Diagnostic Scientific Labs. Diagnostic Stool Labs. I don’t know what it stands for. That’s the one I’ve been using that I like the most. We have something in our company called a Metabolic makeover that puts a lot of these together so that we can get a full picture. It sounds like I’m anti-testing, I actually love testing but I really love with food, I also want you to take responsibility for going, “Wow, I don’t feel good when I eat this.” Because I have someone look at The Virgin Diet which pulls out; gluten, dairy, corn, soy, peanuts, sugar, and artificial sweeteners and they’ll go, “Yeah, but in your program you have me eating almonds but I can’t eat almonds.” I’m like, “Well, then don’t eat almonds. If you know you don’t feel good with them, don’t eat them even if someone tells you to put them in the diet, don’t eat this stuff.” I think we’ve really gotta get back to taking responsibility for our food, learning to know what works for us and what doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if something’s supposed to be healthy for you if you feel like crap when you eat it.
The idea here is you cut all those things out of your diet and then you get to a place of equilibrium and then you could slowly add these things one at a time back in and see if it makes you feel bad.
Probably it will. Find some sort of impact, you’ll feel bloated or tired or you’ll have some sort of negative reaction.
Exactly, and then you’ve got a decision. Do I wanna feel crappy? What I found with this is that it really changes the way that we think about food. It’s so much more empowering because again, they would read these diets, and they go, “Okay, today is a cheat day.” I go that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Because you talked about it earlier, Stephan. You said, “Gosh, if I eat this food it sets me down the slippery slope. Well, most people when they have a cheat day don’t think, “You know what? I’m just gonna gorge on salmon and brussel sprouts, that’s it.” They go for that food that is their trigger food, and the next thing you know, it fires up their taste buds again, it gets them all up again. If they do have a food intolerance to it—which most likely they do, that’s why they want it—it gets their immune system fired up again and now they’re back to square one. They’re inflamed, they’re gonna be in some resistance, their cortisol is gonna be up, they’re gonna want more and more and more. It’s just silly. You would never poison yourself and that’s what you do when you eat those types of foods.
Yeah. I’m curious about your take on Kombucha. That’s a healthy drink, supposedly, but that has sugar in it.
It really depends on how it’s made, as to having sugars in it, what’s going on with the bacteria in it. And since it’s such an unknown, I can’t know how someone’s doing it. First of all, I think it’s gross tasting. Personally, yuck, blech. I drink something called KeVita but I mix it with sparkling water because you’ll still get a couple of grams of sugar. I think we need to cut sugar every single place we possibly can. I don’t see any reason to add anything with sugar in. Get it naturally from whole foods, so much better for you. Kombucha is kind of a wild card and that’s why it is kind of keep it off to the side because you just don’t know what you’re really getting in it.
I guess you could make your own.
Control how much sugar and so forth you add to it and try and reduce it.
And how much is fermenting because that’s what you should do. I don’t know. It’s just, ick, bleah. I’m one of those supertasters genetically and I’m really picky. I just don’t like it. Bleah.
Speaking of genetics, what sort of genetics test do you recommend? Before you answer, I wanted to give you a few options. I’ve done 23andMe. I’ve done Simplified Genetics. I actually had Kurt Johnsen on the podcast talking about genetics and how to eat and workout based on your genetics which was a pretty fascinating episode. But I’m curious on your take on this.
I used to go around the country teaching doctors how to use the Pathway Genomics, Pathway Fit test in their practice. It’s a super-cool profile because it literally looks at what’s your best diet, what’s your best exercise, it sounds very similar to what you went through on your show. I just did the 23andMe and then I ran it through Prometheus. It’s pretty interesting because it’s the same stuff that Pathway Fit had found. It’s just Pathway Fit put it into a much more user-friendly interface. If you look at all the stuff and go, “Oh my gosh. What do I do?” Where Pathway Fit kind of said, “Okay, you’re a night owl. You’re an early bird. You’ve got Vitamin D issues.” I knew I had the sprinter gene. I know I do better with more of a Mediterranean style diet. Stuff that I’d come to overtime but the genetic test documented it. The big thing I think we need to look at with genetics is realize genes load the gun, we pull the trigger. That really comes to epigenetics. I think if you know if you’re at higher risk for certain things, act accordingly but we should all act as if we’re at high risk for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes and act accordingly. We won’t get it because there’s genetics root to diseases but it’s all not genes as we see with breast cancer and obesity. Look at obesity, clearly, it’s not genetic. Clearly, it’s not genetic when we have 0.5% of the population were obese at 1900 and now it’s 70% are overweight or obese.
That’s crazy. It’s hard to wrap my head around that one.
It’s insane but the biggest change has happened in the last 30 years when we dropped the fat, and increased the carbohydrates, and started processing the food like crazy, and stopped sitting down at the table. If you look at these things and go, “Wait a minute. What is this?” Because genetics don’t operate quickly as our disease states are happening.
Yeah. I think another thing too that’s been a huge shift in our society or culture is you’re thirsty and you don’t reach for a glass of water, instead you reach for a soda or juice or coffee. It’s almost never water anymore. It just blows my mind.
Well, when it is water, it’s water in a plastic container.
Yeah. What are the issues with that?
And then we have a whole bunch more problems. All the phthalates and parabens. You look at what’s going on with us and when you look at the big health problems that people aren’t really talking about, it’s the toxicity that’s everywhere, that stores in our fat and disrupt our hormone systems. People think it’s obesity that puts us at risk for diabetes but it’s actually the toxins stored in the fat that are creating the endocrine disruption that’s causing diabetes. We’ve got all toxicity issues and of course, things like EMFs, add those into there. Then we also have lighting which makes it so that we are staying up too late, not getting enough sleep. The biggest thing you can do to change your health is get sleep, pitch-black room sleep. That is so critical. The next one is to have great connections. I think socialized relation is one of the biggest diseases that we’re going to face. You look at the things that are really problems that people aren’t talking about there. They’re the toxicity, poor sleep, inactivity, lack of connection.
Yeah. I just heard about the study though, it’s fascinating. They did it with rats and they’ve put cocaine-laced water available as well as regular water for the rat to drink. It would just go to town on the cocaine-laced water until it died. But if you’ve put it into a stimulating environment with a lot of other rats, they all stayed the heck away from the poisonous water. It was fascinating for me to hear that.
I know. It blows my mind. It’s a great study.
That’s amazing. Dr. Lissa Rankin did a TED Talk on socialized isolation and cited a study that showed that socialized isolation has the same impact on your health as 15 cigarettes a day.
By the way, that doesn’t mean have friends on Facebook. I call that fake friends. Your computer with your fake friends is not having a social life.
Yeah, for sure. Let’s get back to the idea of drinking water for a moment here because I wanted to close the loop on that. How much water would you recommend somebody drink in a day and at what times?
I actually did a water schedule with all of this but if you were gonna get very scientific, you would weigh yourself everyday and check your total body water and do it multiple times throughout the day. We’re not gonna do that. It’s gonna depend on where you live, the climate you’re in, what you do for activity. Are you in a humid climate because that’s even more challenging because sweat doesn’t evaporate off you which is how we cool ourselves down? Are you sweating a lot? Are you one of those people who doesn’t sweat a lot which then puts you at a higher risk for toxicity? I still think the 8-12 glasses is a good starting place but again, it’s gonna vary depending on how big you are.
Obviously, somebody who’s 100 pounds is gonna have a different water needs than someone who’s 200 pounds. If you’re just lowering your carbohydrates, you’re gonna need more water initially because you’re gonna lose some of the water that’s bound to carbohydrate in your muscle as you lose some of your glycogen stores. But again, you can kind of test it just like they’ll do with the athletes where they’ll check their weight and they’ll check their total body water everyday and make sure you’re okay. That’s why body fat scales are so amazing because it’s not so much the body fat—that’s important too—it’s not what your weight is, it’s what’s your weight made up of. But it’s also making sure that you’ve got good body water which is what those scales do. They basically are projecting your body composition based on your total body water because more muscle mass means more body water.
Right. I have one of those smart scales. I don’t know what to do with that data though. I don’t really do anything. I just pay attention to my weight. I guess I could do a lot more with it.
Well, if you’ve got one that gives you total body water, you just watch it. If all of a sudden it drops. Ideally, you wanna be about 70% but if you see all of a sudden you dropped significantly, there’s an issue especially if you’ve gotta lose weight, you wanna make sure that you’re doing waist measurement, that your waist is going down, and that your body fat is going down as you’re holding on toward building lean muscle. But if you’re where you wanna be then it’s really making sure that you’re staying stable.
Right, right. My smart scale is a Nokia. I forgot the name before Nokia bought it. It begins with a W. Anyway, it didn’t give me a readout on body water, it gave me a percentage of body fat or BMI, one or the other. I didn’t really know what to do with that. Maybe I should get a different scale that actually gives a readout on body water.
Here’s a little secret. I’ve got a $5000 super badass Tanita segmental scale that tells me my body fat in my each arm, each leg, my trunk, and my total body water. But the bottomline is the higher your body fat, the lower your body water. The lower your body fat, the higher your body water. If you see your body fat, if it’s been stable at let’s say 12%, and all of a sudden it jumps up to say 16%, you’re dehydrated. Especially if your weight went down because if your weight goes down, your body fat goes up, you just lost some body water.
Right, okay. I’m curious, what do you do when you’re traveling and there’s just the most horrible water reserve in the airport, you’re really stuck, usually.
Yeah, you’re stuck. Here is the thing, we can get totally crazy about food and all of this. I think you just ultimately have to do the best you can in every situation. I think one of the key things that you can do to take your health beyond sleep which—you should travel with an eye mask and earplugs—is also do everything you can to detoxify on a daily basis. Epsom salt baths, dry brushing, I have sunlight far, medium, near, and infrared sauna in my garage that I use, green drinks, making sure you’re getting good clean protein, you gotta have that to detoxify, juice cleanses are just this most foolish idea. Whenever I hear someone doing a detox with juice, I don’t understand because you need protein to detoxify. It just doesn’t make any sense. That actually can make you worse by freeing up toxins in your body but not conjugating them and getting them out. Sweating a bunch. We just need to do the best we can and then we’re all getting subjected to toxins on a regular basis. If they have glass bottles, buy them, if you can travel with your own water bottle with the filter, those are out there, get one of those. Trying to find a water cooler at the airport is like trying to find a payphone but they are there, you can occasionally find one. Do the best you can.
I’m curious. Do you believe in water fast or detoxing by just taking food completely out of the diet for a week, every so often?
If you’re gonna go get supervised in a facility and do it for a week, great. But I think the most important thing that we can be doing is getting that 12-14 hour fast on the weekends. Hey, make it 16 hours, maybe take a day off of eating because what’s gonna happen is your body then will eat up the bad cells and get rid of them so I think it’s super important to do. For a week, I’ve never done it, probably never will do it, don’t think I could handle it. I’m totally willing to skip a meal, that’s about it.
Awesome. This has just been amazing. I’m so excited to make some further changes. I eat pretty healthy but there’s still a long way to go. You’ve given me some great tips, our listeners as well. I’m very excited for our listeners to actually take some of this and apply it in their lives and have a longer life because of it. Thank you again.
Yeah, will do.
Awesome. Thank you, this is your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.
Checklist of Actionable Takeaways
Cut my sugar intake as much as possible and avoid food that is high in processed sugar such as soda, fruit drinks, and candy.
Be aware of the different types of sweeteners and understand what they can really do to my body. The more I know about them, the better my health choices will be.
Get my blood sugar tested. It’s good to know my blood sugar levels so that I can be proactive about my health.
Give my kids all natural produce. A box of apple juice has too much sugar for a child to handle.
Regularly drink green juice with some chia seeds to regulate my blood sugar levels.
Use sugar alternatives such as stevia or monk fruit as sweeteners.
Always check labels. Read the ingredients on the food I buy and see how much sugar is in them.
Create a meal plan and limit my eating to only 3 times a day, snacks included.
Be disciplined enough to form a habit of eating less sugar. Get rid of all the junk and learn how to stop myself from eating outside of my schedule.
Grab a copy of JJ Virgin’s books, The Virgin Diet and The Sugar Impact Diet.
About JJ Virgin
Celebrity nutrition expert and Fitness Hall of Famer JJ Virgin teaches clients how to break through food and carb intolerances, so they can finally lose the weight to transform their health and their lives.
JJ is a prominent TV and media personality, whose previous features include co-host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters, health expert for Dr. Phil, and appearances on PBS, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, Access Hollywood, and the TODAY Show. She also speaks regularly and has shared the stage with notables including TD Jakes, Tony Robbins, and Brendon Burchard. JJ is the author of four NY Times bestsellers: The Virgin Diet, The Virgin Diet Cookbook, JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet, and JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet Cookbook.
Her latest book, Miracle Mindset, shows warrior moms how to be strong, positive leaders for their families, while exploring the inspirational lessons JJ learned as she fought for her own son’s life. JJ hosts the popular JJ Virgin Lifestyle Show podcast, with over 3.5 million downloads and counting. She also regularly writes for Huffington Post, Rodale Wellness, Mind Body Green, and other major blogs and magazines.
Disclaimer: The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments, or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Stephan Spencer, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.
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