J.J. Virgin is a celebrity nutritionist and fitness expert. She is author of NY Times bestsellers “J.J. Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet: Drop 7 Hidden Sugars, Lose Up to 10 Pounds in Just 2 Weeks”, as well as NY Times bestsellers “The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days” and “The Virgin Diet Cookbook: 150 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Lose Weight and Feel Better Fast.” Virgin specializes in weight loss resistance related to food intolerance and has helped hundreds of thousands of people finally lose the weight and feel better fast.
She speaks at major integrative medical and consumer conferences having shared the stage with Jack Canfield, Suzanne Somers, John Gray, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Brendon Burchard, and appears regularly in the media, including PBS, Rachael Ray, the TODAY Show, Dr. Phil and Access Hollywood. Virgin frequently blogs for the Huffington Post, Livestrong, Prevention, Dr. Oz’s Sharecare, and numerous other publications. She has provided nutrition and training programs for a wide variety of famous faces including CEOs, athletes and celebrities including Gene Simmons, Ben Stiller, Taj George, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Nicole Eggert, Tracie Thoms, and “Superman” Brandon Routh
Host: This is 10-Minute Tips for Maximum Health and today I’m talking with JJ Virgin. JJ is a board-certified nutrition specialist, board-certified in holistic nutrition, and a certified nutrition and fitness specialist, as well as a three-time New York Times bestselling author. You’ve probably seen her on PBS, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, The Today Show, Dr. Phil, Access Hollywood, or many of her other media appearances. She’s provided nutrition and training programs for a wide variety of famous faces, including CEOs, athletes, and celebrities like Gene Simmons, Ben Stiller, Taj George, Nicole Eggert, Tracie Thoms, and even Superman himself, Brandon Routh. With those kind of credentials I’m really please to have JJ join us today. Welcome, JJ.
JJ Virgin: Thank you. Great to be here.
Host: Very good. I have one question for you. That is what is the single best thing you’d recommend people do for maximum health benefits right now?
JJ Virgin: You know my big focus right now is on sugar, and more specifically show our impact. Having really researched this topic over the last two years I am absolutely convinced that the single biggest impact that you can have on your health, but not just your health but your life and ultimately the world in terms of health, financial gains, everything, is just to lower your sugar impact. It’s that simple.
Host: It sounds simple but it’s such an Achilles’ heel for so many people. What are some practical things people can do … and I say that so I don’t have to admit my own addiction … that people can do to kick the sugar habit?
JJ Virgin: First of all, we need to look at it differently. It’s not about eating no sugar. It’s about knowing which to choose and which to loose. As I dove into this I realized that we’ve been looking at sugar all wrong, which has really set up the problem. The framework that we look at it with is something called the glycemic index, which is taking a 50 gram dose of a specific food and looking at how much your blood sugar rises in response to it, which would make sense if you were eating a potato but not much sense if you were eating carrots, because you just wouldn’t eat that many of them. We don’t eat foods in isolation. It also doesn’t take into account the specific sugar fructose, which is the worst sugar of all because it goes straight to the liver, bypasses any satiety signals, where it starts making fat and creating inflammation.
I created a new way to look at sugar that took into account how much something would raise your blood sugar in relation to how much you actually ate of it, fructose. Then I contrasted that with fiber and nutrient density so that you could take a food that maybe you thought was great, you’d realize how much it really is impacting you, zapping your energy, causing you to store fat and aging you fast.
The next step of that is to look at foods with this framework of high, medium, or low sugar impact and then just to go through a tapering stage. Because you are not the only person who feels like they are addicted to sugar. It is clearly our number one drug of choice worldwide. Little kids are not smoking and drinking; they’re having juice and cookies. We’re starting this addiction at a very young age. Unless you actively go to break it, you’ll be trapped. You can’t break it by just going cold turkey, because it’s surrounding you. You wouldn’t take an alcoholic, say you’re going to stop drinking and set them up in a bar.
JJ Virgin: It would be [crosstalk 00:03:32]. You’ve got to taper down and start to become first aware of where all the places sugar’s sneaking into your diet and then start to make some simple swaps where you taper your sugar impact to make this transformation.
Host: Something you said is very intriguing, that there’s really three different levels of sugar impact. To know how to taper down, can you give me a couple examples of those types of foods you mentioned that people think are good for them but actually have a big impact sugar-wise?
JJ Virgin: Where we really got in trouble was about 20-30 years ago when Ancel Keys made fat the villain for heart disease, discredited John Yudkin who said it was the sugar. We started pulling all the fat out of foods. We pulled the fat out, we put the sugar in, or artificial sweeteners which are actually worse. You look at a lot of the products out there that say fat-free or no sugar added and the fat-free ones generally have sugar or artificial sweeteners. Like a fat-free dressing for example basically has a teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon of salad dressing. Here you are eating a salad trying to to do a good thing yet you’ve got this fat-free raspberry vinaigrette. You’ve got dried foot, which is candy. You’ve got glazed walnuts. Glaze is used on donuts; let’s make that connection. Then maybe a teriyaki chicken.
You put that whole thing together and you just turned the salad into a sundae. You’re having a green drink thinking it’s great, I’m getting my vegetables, but if you look at a lot of the popular green drinks out there they’ve got carrots, they’ve got beets, they’ve got apple juice. They’ve got more sugar than a soda. It’s crazy.
Then you look at something like wheat bread, because we’re told we should be eating whole wheat bread, but in reality, and this is where the impact side of it becomes so important, two pieces of whole wheat bread raise your blood sugar more than six teaspoons of sugar. That’s the real problem, is we’re being duped by misinformation. You can actually put no sugar added on a label and use apple juice concentrate, which has more fructose than high fructose corn syrup, and someone will think they’re doing a great thing but they’re actually toxifying themselves, right?
Host: Right, yeah. That’s really fascinating. I think most people tend to associate sugar and too much sugar and too much snacking primarily with weight gain, but what are some of the other health issues that can be created by taking in the amount of sugar that most of us do every day?
JJ Virgin: It’s a key factor in 70 different diseases. The big ones are heart disease and stroke and dementia and diabetes and cancer and osteoarthritis. Those develop over time. You’re not going to eat some sugar and get cancer the next day. Really we’ve got an early warning system in our body, and that’s our energy levels, our focus, our mood, gas and bloating, our waistline, our appetite, our cravings, our ability to drop fat. Those are really what we should be looking at. That’s really an indicator of how high your sugar impact is and how much you can tolerate. It’s different for everybody. That’s a key point here is people ask me all the time: How much should I eat? I go, “It really depends on your personal chemistry lab, your metabolism. You might find are you do best going low sugar impact.” That’s how I live. Some people can go low sugar impact with some medium sugar impact foods added in every day.
It really depends on what works best for you, which you find out by basically tapering from high to medium sugar impact over a week or two, depending on how you score on your sugar impact quiz, and then taking two weeks where you really reset your body. You get fructose as close to zero as possible. You go to lower sugar impact. You lose your sweet tooth during that time, which is so exciting because you gain back control over sugar.
Then you go back and test so that you can see how much you handle well. How’s your energy? How’s your focus? How is your mood? How’s your waistline? Because if you eat something and your blood sugar goes up and doesn’t come back down again, or you eat something and you get inflamed or your energy crashes, why would you want to do that?
Host: Sure. That’s brilliant because really it’s working in the reverse order that most people think of. They want to measure the sugar impact when they’re at the height of it, but your approach is to taper it off and get this solid, clean baseline and then measure from there to tell what your tolerance. That’s very counterintuitive and very brilliant. I like it a lot.
JJ Virgin: Thank you. You know what it does? It empowers you to connect the dots between what you’re eating and how you feel, which gives you entirely different information. Because all of a sudden you go, “You know what? I’m not going to have that thing.” People ask me all the time, “You must cheat. What do you have?” I go, “You know? I know how I feel when I eat the wheat bread, when I have that salad dressing, when I have that yogurt, and I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I wouldn’t go and drink two bottles of wine so I’m not going to go drink that fat-free yogurt with the fruit juice-sweetened stuff in it that’s got more sugar than ice cream. I’m just not going to do it. I don’t want to crash.”
Host: That’s interesting, too. It’s another very interesting juxtaposition. If instead of thinking of it is cheating, you think of it in terms of how bad you feel when you do something, it’s not like gee, I really wish I could cheat and have this because you’re not going to to say, “Wow, I really wish I could feel bad again.” It’s just a brilliant little twist.
This has been absolutely fantastic and I know you’ve got a ton more to share, so how do people go about finding out more about you and what you do.
JJ Virgin: You can go to jjvirgin.com and I have just created a load of great free information to get you on your way, everything from my podcast to blog posts to free giveaways. That’s the easiest place to get started on your journey.
Host: That’s great. JJ, I want to thank you. You packed a ton of information into this very short time that we have, and it’s just great. It’s really inspired me to stop putting hot fudge on my salads.