Podcast Episode #76: JJ Virgin talks about “The Virgin Diet”

Diane Sanfilippo Podcast Episodes 8 Comments

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Episode #76: JJ Virgin talks about “The Virgin Diet”

TVD-Bestseller3D-345wIn this episode we had chat with The Virgin Diet author JJ Virgin about her new book and so much more! Liz and I immediately exclaimed to one another how much we loved JJ after this call – you don't want to miss it!

We covered some great topics including:

  1. All about JJ and her book the Virgin Diet [5:37]
  2. Allergy food testing  [11:43]
  3. Leaky Gut and the moderation myth [14:35]
  4. The 21 day sweet spot [24:15]
  5. Making food quality and healing foods easy [30:53]
  6. Using fat for fuel [36:40]
  7. Calories in Calories out myth [40:08]
  8. Tips to manage stress in extreme circumstances [44:32]
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LIZ WOLFE: Hey everyone, I'm Liz Wolfe. I’m a nutritional therapy practitioner and author of the upcoming book, Modern Cave Girl. That's available for pre-order on Amazon. And I'm here with Diane Sanfilippo, who is a certified holistic nutrition consultant and the woman behind Balanced Bites and the New York Times Bestselling book, Practical Paleo. Remember our disclaimer: the materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Welcome to episode 76 of the Balanced Bites podcast.
I've missed you, Diane. I wasn't here last week.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: [laughs] It's been a couple of weeks. Yeah.

LIZ WOLFE: So I felt an emptiness walking around. So…

DIANE SANFILIPPO: [laughs] Well, I had a good time without you last week, but we did miss you.

LIZ WOLFE: Oh, of course you did. Well, today we have a special guest with us. We're so excited. She's also a New York Times Bestselling author. She's appeared all over television in the last few weeks talking about the concepts she teaches in her new book, The Virgin Diet. We'll just do a few points of housekeeping and then get right to it. Diane, what do you have that you want to talk about?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Well, I wanted to just remind folks about our upcoming event next weekend, that's March 9th, on Saturday in Washington D.C. We’re teaching the Balanced Bites nutrition workshop, and it's nearly sold out, so if you've been wanting to register and you've been kind of waiting or holding off for some reason. Even if you're within like 2 or 3 hours of the area, and have just been wanting to come to an event taught by both of us, this is really going to be it because Liz and I don't have more events coming up in the foreseeable future, just logistical reasons. Nobody needs to worry that we're like not friends anymore or any of that.

LIZ WOLFE: We're fighting. We're so mad at each other.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Everything's great. But just logistical reasons, so, you know, I just wanted people to know that's it, and neither of us really have anything else planned in terms of bigger scale speaking engagements because we're both kind of hunkering down on projects. That's really the only other thing I want to update people on, which we will talk about more next week because I don't want to cut into too much time that we're going to talk to our guest today, but there are announcements on the Balanced Bites blog as well as on the 21 Day Sugar Detox blog and Facebook pages that the 21 Day Sugar Detox will be published as a printed book in October of this year and I'm really excited about that. And not to rest on my laurels too long, the 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook will come out a couple of months later. So October and December of this year you'll be seeing 2 of those books coming out. Next week I'll talk on how the printed version of the book differs from the e-book program, you know, just really briefly so people can kind of get an idea on that. But head over to the Balanced Bites blog if you want to read about the book, how it differs from the e-book program a little bit, and just kind of get information there.
What about you? What's going on?

LIZ WOLFE: Well, we're getting ready for our big move. I’m actually sitting a stack of boxes right now. Hopefully, they're not going to collapse underneath me, but we are doing the big military move cross-country, so like you said, you know, we are still best buds, and as hard as it is to call it on our workshops together for now, and we'll talk to our guest about this as well, it's important we talk about thievery real facts that sometimes when you have a passion for something and you have, you know, the amazing opportunity to teach and do what you've, Diane, done for years, what JJ has done for years and what I came on board to do with you, Diane, and you know, the other projects pile on, and life happens, and unless you're willing to move some puzzle pieces around and even take a few off the table, it does become difficult to maintain the level of health and self-care that we encourage other people to seek. So as bittersweet as it is, there's still a ton of awesome projects in the pike, like you said, with the 21 Day Sugar Detox print book and lots of good stuff, I am personally working on getting Michelle Obama to our Washington D.C. workshop, tweeted her a couple times, nothing.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: What? [laughs]

LIZ WOLFE: Totally kidding. All right, so I think that's all I wanted to say. Diane, why don't you go ahead and intro our awesome guest?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: We've got JJ Virgin with us on the show today.

LIZ WOLFE: Woo hoo!

DIANE SANFILIPPO: She's been-hey! She's been in the health and fitness industry for 25 years working in holistic nutrition and functional medicine for the past 10. She's the author of the New York Times Bestselling book, The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds in Just 7 Days. She also wrote 6 Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. She co-starred on the TLC reality series, Freaky Eaters, and has done all kinds of television, radio, and in person appearances helping folks get healthier and feel better. She's called herself a chronic student, which isn't that what life is all about? She's done post-graduate work in Biomechanics, Sports Medicine, Exercise Physiology, and Nutrition and Aging. She's a certified nutrition specialist, a certified health and fitness instructor, and she holds advanced certifications in nutrition, personal training, and aging. She's also board certified in holistic nutrition. Welcome JJ!


DIANE SANFILIPPO: Hey, how are you?


DIANE SANFILIPPO: Where are you today?

JJ VIRGIN: I am actually…I'm actually home. It's funny. I got interviewed this morning on this radio show I do once a month and we got completely off on the whole idea of Yahoo and you can't work at home anymore, and I thought, oh my gosh, like I work all over the place. You know? Like where's your office? Wherever the heck you happen to be, right? [laughs]


JJ VIRGIN: What a weird concept: you have to go somewhere, you know?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: That is funny. Yeah, that's my life, too, for sure. So, you know, JJ, a lot of our listeners have likely seen you on national TV appearances or even read your book, Virgin Diet, or maybe 6 Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, but many of them don't know you yet, and so can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, your journey with nutrition, and maybe how you came to write The Virgin Diet.

JJ VIRGIN: All righty, I have always been into nutrition and health. I grew up in Berkeley, so I think it sort of like, when you're in Berkeley, that's sort of how you roll. You know? And I was always an athlete and always into nutrition, and so that never has been…it wasn't like when did that start? When did she have this turning point? There was never a turning point. That was always what was going on. And I'm a mom. I've got two teenage boys, so I feel like I kind of live in this fraternity house. You know, the only other girl in the house is my little doggy. So who I, you know, dress in little dress because I have to, you know. [laughs] It's like my one chance, you know. But about early on in my career, I was actually paying my way through graduate school as a personal trainer, and there were two personal trainers back then. It was so funny. It was me and Jake, Body by Jake.

LIZ WOLFE: [laughs]


JJ VIRGIN: I know, and it made me realize early on that marketing trumps education every single step of the way, and you better not only have really great education and science and have great experience, but if you cannot market it, and you know, explain to people in a way that they can get it and grab ahold of it, it doesn't matter how cool your info is. So that was a good experience way back when. So I was like, this dude is like killing me out there and he doesn't have any of the education I have. And again, I was like obsessed to learn it all, but what I was seeing was what I was learning in school, and I'm sure you can relate. What I was learning in school was not working. So I was being taught that you need to have people do long slow distance, lots and lots and lots of cardio, and then eat less, less, less, less, and back then it was even worse because it was all about really, really, really low fat. I was actually working out of the Pritikin Center in LA, so it was like, nearly vegan. I think they let you have 6 ounces of fish a week.


JJ VIRGIN: And ten percent calories from fat. It was like, well, what the heck is less to eat? Of course carbs and loads of them, right?


JJ VIRGIN: So, you know, this is what I was doing to my poor clients. Anyone listening who was a client back then, I am so sorry.

LIZ WOLFE: {laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: You know, and lo and behold, it's not working, you know? Like I'm killing these people and going, gosh, some people lost weight, but for the most part, what they were doing is it really was a calories in, calories out bank account model, they should have seen very specific results. You'd know exactly how much weight they should lose, what should be happening. I mean, these people are looking like wrecked and haggard, you know? [laughs] So I thought, well, what if these are the wrong set of rules? You know, and I'm sort of known for the phrase, If your body's not a bank account, it's a chemistry lab. And way back then, I went all right. I'm not going to be insane here. And I started actually arguing with my professors because honestly, I was paying for school. It was out of my own budget, and when you're paying for it, you expect to learn things. You want them to work, and if it wasn't working, how was I going to charge clients? You know, hey, you're getting…you're aging faster, you're inflamed, and you're gaining weight. So I'm going to bump up my rates. You know? [laughs] It's not going to work.
So I started looking for really what could cause people because my whole platform is weight loss resistance. What could get in the way of people being able to lose weight? What could cause people to gain weight? And I was fortunate to…I started teaching this to doctors. I went around the country teaching these seminars on overcoming weight loss resistance, and I also started putting testing into doctor's offices. Simple food sensitivity testing. We were really using it at the time to help people stay compliant on their diet and we were using symptoms that we saw classically with food intolerance, like gas and bloating, and fatigue, and joint pain and skin problems, headaches and brain fog. But it was interesting because people would walk in with those complaints. We'd do the test, and two things happened. And they always happened. The same foods showed up, and when we pulled those foods out, those symptoms would go away, but the other cool thing is, they lost weight. And I would love to say I was like this smart gal who after a couple months of doing this went wow, we should just use this as the foundation of a weight loss program, but literally, I kept thinking I needed to test to prove it, and you know, I thought…it didn't dawn on me until years later actually when a gal tweeted it to me, and said, hey, I'll write recipes if you do the program, basically. You know, that I didn't really have to test people because it was always the same foods, and that if you really look at the key needle movers for what people tend to become the most intolerant to, you know, 90% of the time, it's these foods. Sure there will be outliers out there, but for the most part, you can massively impact someone's health quickly, and you know, as we know, fast is important both in weight loss and health changes and lifestyle changes with pulling these foods out and seeing how they feel with pulling them out, and the best way to test is to use your own body because I don't believe we even have and won't for years all the knowledge of all the different ways we can become intolerant to food. So we don't even know all the tests out there yet.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: So it's funny what you say about cutting out these certain foods and that you used to test people all the time, and the same foods would come up. And we've heard a lot of people who've had great success with food allergy testing. We've actually heard even more people who's had kind of iffy success with it…

JJ VIRGIN: Mm-hmm.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: because of this issue of leaky gut, right? Where someone gets a test back


DIANE SANFILIPPO: And they're “allergic” to all of these foods…

JJ VIRGIN: Right. Right.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: But the reality is, you know, they may just have a lot of digestive distress, which in the end, you know, the resulting protocol is pretty much the same, right? We have them remove those foods, so it's kind of the same approach that we end up taking sort of with a Paleo approach is that it's an elimination diet, right? Any nutritionist knows what an elimination diet is, so I think it's great that you've come up with a way to kind of narrow it down for folks and give them something, you know, pretty basic and targeted to go for. So, Liz, I think, did you have a couple of questions there?

LIZ WOLFE: Yeah, I wanted to ask…well, the Virgin Diet book, we start out with a rundown of what you call “hi-FI” foods, and you talk about how those foods, like you just saying, can lead to a lot of the health frustrations that people deal with every day, and I was wondering if you would just give us a little window, maybe one or two of those foods that are what you call “hi-FI” and how you realized they were problematic. Maybe individually for yourself or you know…you have a lot of testimonials in your book, which are really cool to read those practical experiences of how people implemented your advice and made it work.

JJ VIRGIN: Okay, so I'm going to address something else that came up, too, in that…”hi-FI” by the way, “Hi-FI” is High Food Intolerance.


JJ VIRGIN: Hi-FI. My agent came up with that. [laughs] Let's call them Hi-FI, okay?

LIZ WOLFE: I was going to ask if, you know, I missed a day in school.

JJ VIRGIN: Yeah, it was like I never heard of hi-FI. I was like, all right. But you know, it's interesting you mentioned something about doing the food testing, and I actually…there's only one food sensitivity test. And there's a difference between an allergy, which is an IgE response, and a food sensitivity, which is an IgG response. And so if you have an IgE response, you don't really need the test. You know if you eat peanuts, your throat closes up. I eat raspberries. I get hives. This is like, you know it. But the delayed foods sensitivity, that is due to leaky gut that you alluded to, is different, and there's actually a couple different ways we look at it. One's an ALCAT test. I don't use that test. I found that people show up with all sorts of sensitivities and they're not relevant whatsoever. Like we pull them out and they felt no different. So I kind of dismiss that as not clinically relevant. And then there's an IgG1 and an IgG4, and actually you want to take/do, if you were going to test, it's the IgG4 because 1's still more immediate and 4 shows that this has been lurking around for a long time. And so you will get those people that you test them, and they show up with everything, and they're what we call pan-allergic. And those are people that generally tend to be really have poor detoxification systems, and you got to go back. You still will do the exact same thing, like you alluded to. You would still do the same elimination diet, but then you have to really get into some advanced gut healing and detox strategies with them. And what's so funny here is, you know, and I've learned not to go on Amazon reviews, not to, you know, [laughs] I still look at Google reviews, but you know, I saw a Virgin Diet, Fad Diet, and I’m like…


JJ VIRGIN: It's a medical elimination diet. They've been using them for decades.


JJ VIRGIN: Um, hello? I just called it something sexy and I really looked at what are the big needle movers because there's a couple other things they'll put in a medical elimination diet, but in working with people in trying to really narrow it down, I didn't see them as issues. For myself, and it's interesting. We got to address leaky gut, and leaky gut, you know, we have these tight junctions in our small intestine that are meant to let some things out, but keep most stuff in. That's the simple, non-scientific way to explain it. As we get under stress or fructose can do this, so agave can do this. Gluten can do this. Pain meds can do this. The tight junctions will loosen. Stress is one of the key things that makes your gut more permeable. Now the other thing stress and aging are going to do is then lower your hydrochloric acid, so you eat things. Protein's supposed to be broken apart by the hydrochloric acid and start getting digested. It's not done well because you're probably rushing your food. You've got low stomach acid. You're doing too much fluid when you eat. It gets into your small intestine. These…your small intestine now, the tight junctions have loosened up, it's more permeable than it should be, and stuff's going out into circulation where it has no business being, and your body goes what the heck. And it launches an immune attack by pumping out antibodies to grab ahold of these antigens and they make immune complexes, and it would be totally fine if we're just eating little bits of these things every once in a while. And that would be an example of an IgG1. But if you're eating the same thing every day, and by the way, even just a little bit, that's where moderation's a myth. It could be just a little foamy milk on an americano, and I'll tell my story in a second, that little bit, your body builds up these immune complexes it needs: specific macrophages to get these gone, and if you've overwhelmed that system, they're going to build up, and that's where you get the gas and bloating. The food cravings that you start to crave the very foods that are hurting you. The headaches, the fatigue, the joint pain.
So I…there's 7 foods, and 6 of them really relate to the IgG food sensitivities. There's also, of course, soy and gluten and corn in here, and that's where I really look at also the GMO immune system issue because when you look at how we get food intolerant, there's both the immune issues from delayed food sensitivities, from genetic modification, and there's the hormonal issues, that's where I have sugar and artificial sweeteners, but also things like corn. You know, we feed cows and pigs corn to fatten them up and yet we're doing skinny pops of diet foods, just bizarre and stupid. And then there's the genetics like lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance. So there's different ways that we can react to food, but the most classic is through this delayed food sensitivity, and the challenge is we do not connect the dots because we eat something and the next day our fingers are swollen or 4 hours later we're tired, and so we don't say, oh, it must have been the Greek yogurt I had at lunch.
For me, I was doing a little foamy milk on my americano each day. That was it. And I would eat eggs a couple times a week, and I just, you know, used mayonnaise. I didn't pay any attention to where eggs are, and for me, this was a challenge because I think eggs are one of nature's perfect food. But unfortunately we have our vaccines, you know, and most of us and our parents didn't know better way back when, so we were vaccinated and there's egg protein in most of the vaccines, and then what they do to our chickens, so a lot of things we're getting with eggs in them, you are what you eat/ate. And eggs are ubiquitous and for a lot of us, they're cheap, fast easy protein. So I did food sensitivity testing and I discovered I was a plus 5, that means highest reaction you can have to eggs and dairy. And again, I was eating a little bit of these things. Why moderation's…a little bit can be very problematic. And when I pulled them out, dropped the gas and bloating, dropped a couple clothing sizes. My skin that had been a problem…I had acne my entire life, 30 plus years, gone to every doctor, done all sorts of horrible toxic things including Accutane, my skin cleared up, basically in a matter of days. So, you know, it was incredible, but again, the top things I always saw for people in food sensitivity testing were dairy and eggs. Gluten's a different type of test. I believe that if you do testing you see about, you know, I know with testing I saw 30 to 40% of people reacting to gluten, whether it was genetic or a food intolerance of some sort. But I will tell you that 90% of people I pull off gluten feel better, and I think the other 10% didn't really get the gluten out. [laughs] Gluten to me, it's just…I can't say anything positive about gluten and I got tweeted at. I had a bunch of RDs who were causing this Twitter war with me because they said I was causing nutrient deficiencies pulling gluten out of people’s diets.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: They have no idea. [laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: What are you getting deficient in? What?


JJ VIRGIN: Name it. Name, name, name it for me, you know, what if I pull gluten out or soy out or corn out, what the heck are you going to be deficient in? You know? Seriously. Makes me insane.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: We're with you there.

JJ VIRGIN: I know you are. [laughs]

DIANE SANFILIPPO: [laughs] I actually love that you said moderation is a myth because I can't stand that word either. I just think it's really funny. I think there are absolutely people who can handle moderation of certain things, but I think when it comes to something you're sensitive to or allergic to, there's no such thing. It's just not even…it's not even…it's like rubbing your arm in poison ivy once a week instead of every day, you know? It'll still cause that.

JJ VIRGIN: Yeah, it doesn't make any sense It's always like well, you know, this fish is high in mercury, so just have it once a month. I'm like, what?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: [laughs] That's crazy. Liz, if you want to add something there, too. I think you have some…

LIZ WOLFE: Yeah, you probably knew I totally got ants in my pants when she talked about suffering with acne for years. And you know, what we're talking about here, and what the Virgin Diet book talks about, it's not just what you're eating, but it's also what the digestive terrain looks like. What our personal history is, and even like you said, JJ, what our food ate. I remember listening to Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, talk…talking about how corn fed cows have meat that's deficient in tryptophan. So I know you go into, you know, amino acid balance and stuff like that in the Virgin Diet, but I just have to say, this is a huge reason why I wrote my skin care guide, the Skintervention Guide, because like you alluded to, JJ, we suffer with things for years, like acne or fatigue or bloat or whatever, and we don't connect those dots.

JJ VIRGIN: Right, it breaks…honestly, it breaks my heart.

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: Because you see people trying so hard and the information out there is insane. You know, we should be eating all throughout the day, we should have snack packs, you know. Milk does a body good. Whole grain goodness. I just did an event at Whole Foods last week, and this woman came up to me. She goes, I've been losing half a pound a day since I started your program. I started at 392 pounds 6 weeks ago.


JJ VIRGIN: And I said, well, what's really…to me, the weight loss is great. I want to know what's really changing for you. I go, so what's really changed? She goes, well, I would be in a wheelchair talking to you if I hadn't started the diet. My husband had to dress me, bathe me, everyone had to do everything for me. I'm like, wow, we just gave you your life back. You're walking, you're doing stuff for yourself because that pain went away, you know? And it's just so huge and it's why we've got to look past because if she just gone on some kind of starvation diet, first of all, she probably wouldn't have lost any weight because she was so weight loss resistant. It wouldn't have changed the inflammatory response that was just shutting her down, and it wouldn't have started to improve her bio-terrain, which is such a biggie. It's like, I'm trying to think of how do we simplify this whole idea of what's going on in your gut, you know? [laughs]

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: You have things in your gut, you know? ‘Cause that is such a major one and honestly you start to hear about those kids giving all the antibiotics before the age of 1, and that they have just changed their bio-terrain forever.

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: It's going to be the biggest situation we've got going on. That and all the high fructose corn syrup and GMOs. You know, now we're going to go on a rant, but yes. [laughs]

LIZ WOLFE: [laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: Yes. But it does…it does make me crazy 'cause you start to look at the extent of this problem and you're like, oh my gosh, kind of go, oh my gosh, we have no hope. But the good news is, you know, the Internet's been the great leveler. Whole Foods is awesome because we can go out and get GMO free food. I just got an extra freezer in my…I went and got an extra freezer so I could start just stocking it full of stuff, so I never ever have to worry about the type of meats or chickens. I found a chicken…I can't find chickens yet that don't have…that aren't fed corn and soy, but I did find some that were not fed GMO corn and soy, which is interesting. This guy who does these chickens, Pittman Farms, he said it's been really hard to find non-GMO soy because Japan outbids us for all the US grown soy that's non-GMO. And so we ship it there.


JJ VIRGIN: Yeah, isn't that sick? I mean, come on.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, I mean I don't actually eat a lot of chicken for that same reason, and I've got a drop freezer that's filled with, you know, local grass-fed beef and lamb because it's just…it is really hard to find chicken. [laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: I know. It's like you get to a point, and it was funny when I was writing the book, I got…you start going out, you go, oh my gosh, what am I going to tell people to eat?


JJ VIRGIN: You know, it's like when you start to go, you are what you eat ate, and I'm going what? And then you're like, what the heck do chickens eat anyway? Well, the answer is chickens eat everything. [laughs]

LIZ WOLFE: Yes, they do. Even each other.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Chickens and pigs eat everything.

JJ VIRGIN: Right, so I was kind of going, are we going to have to get chickens? Put chickens in the yard? I don’t think I'm allowed to here, you know? [laughs] You know, pet chickens and then your kids will get traumatized, so anyway. I agree with you. It’s grass-fed beef and wild fish and lamb because you can't count on those darn chickens anymore.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: That's a tough one. This is Diane, JJ. You and I share a common belief that, you know, if people kind of change what they're doing, change their diet, and it doesn't have to be that they go, you know, on a strict Paleo diet or anything that's got some kind of name, and you know, we both have, I guess, like a marketing thing around whatever it is that we're promoting because it makes it easy for somebody to know what it is, right? The Virgin Diet? 7 Foods. I've got a 21 Day Sugar Detox. It's 3 weeks and even the first level of that program is not a Paleo diet, right? Because like this woman who came up to you in Whole Foods, same thing happens to me every time I teach or every time I speak, people come up to us. We've never met them before, and they’re telling us how their lives have changed, in a week, in two weeks, in 3 weeks. So you often talk about how you can do anything for21 days, and you know, given that we both kind of have that as our little background of our sentiment on what people do to form habits, what do you think is the reason why you've identified that as a little bit of the sweet spot?

JJ VIRGIN: You know, it’s…here's why. And it's so funny. So I had people pull these 7 foods, and the book is Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds in Just 7 Days, and I remember when we were writing that, I go, Really, I can say that? Isn't the FTC going to come kick my butt? You know? [laughs] And I'm still determined to do a study because actually the average person is losing 7 pounds in 7 days. It's crazy. But they don't lose it every 7 because someone's like, I lost 8 pounds the first week and 3 the next, I'm upset. I'm like, oh my gosh. Really? Seriously?


JJ VIRGIN: You know? But the reason we did 21 days is you really need at least 21 days for your immune system to cool off. So what I'm doing is getting the antibodies to kind of calm down, breaking up the immune complexes because at that point, if you rechallenge a food because that's what we have you do, you have basically taken away your warrior force, and your body's going to go, whoa! That didn't work for me, and have an immediate reaction if it doesn't work for you. The other reason we do the 3 weeks is you can do anything for 3 weeks. Emotionally, you know the first thing we do that's really easy is we give you simple swaps. So we said, hey, take out your milk or soy milk, trade it for coconut milk or almond milk. I mean, come on, it's easy, and people like it better. But I find with so many of these swaps is that actually people do like them better. So at the end of the 3 weeks, they feel so much better, they don't actually want to try the foods again. And that's the best part of all. I still have them do the challenge back of gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs. Not that I want people really doing gluten, dairy, or soy. Eggs I do if it works for them. But because I want to make sure that they really connect the dots between these foods and how they feel, and so by isolating one at a time and trying them, they'll go wow, I eat gluten and my fingers are swollen the next day. I eat dairy and I get a zit two days later. I eat eggs, I get horrible stomach cramps. So they'll know what the issues are because then you've totally changed the conversation. You know, it used to be, you go on a diet, and in 3 weeks you're going off the diet because you fixed the end result. That's not what this program is. This program says hey, we're going to pull these 7 foods out because food intolerances is a real cause of weight gain. We're going to see…we're going to let your immune system cool off, get your hormones back in balance again, get you feeling better, get the cravings to go away. We're going to have you take a symptoms quiz to connect the dots between how you feel and what you weigh and what you're eating, and then in 3 weeks, we're going to see which of these foods really work for you for the long haul and which ones don't, and all of a sudden, you've empowered someone, and they're going, you know what? I don't want to eat that because I know what I feel like now when I do that. See I believe people have no clue what it feels like to feel good. They're so used to the drug like effects of gluten and dairy that they're snowed half the time, craving it, and they don't know what it feels like to have real steady sustained energy because your body can access stored fat for fuel, to not have headaches, to not have to live on Advil and espresso. You know?

LIZ WOLFE: [laughs] Been there.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: That wired life.

JJ VIRGIN: Yeah, I mean we all have, you know.


JJ VIRGIN: It's like I was…I remember back before I knew all this stuff when it was all calories in, calories out, and I was doing the Pritikin Diet, so here's a great way to do the Pritikin Diet. You can eat, you know, bran muffins, sourdough bread, and frozen yogurt, and diet soda, and you were totally following the Pritikin Diet, right?



JJ VIRGIN: You know? And I was like a frozen yogurt fanatic. I mean, I still remember my whole day being based around like when it was…and I'd have to drive to this one frozen yogurt store that was like way the heck out of the way, just to get this silly frozen yogurt every single day. You know? I mean, how insane? And I remember, I'd come home training all day long. I'd get up at 4:30-5 in the morning, train all day long, eat carbs all day long, like I would drive to the bread stores and get espressos and sourdough bread, and then top it off with froyo. And buy that fat free cheese, remember that disgusting stuff?

LIZ WOLFE: Oh yeah.

JJ VIRGIN: And then I'd get like a 2 liter thing of Diet Coke on the way home and have that at night. I mean…


JJ VIRGIN: Isn't it?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: It's totally crazy. It's funny because when you say that, it reminds me also of kind of in our little arena, a lot of folks have kind of come into Paleo nutrition has also tried the Zone diet, and that's another one that doesn't, you know, at its, you know, introductory level, doesn't really talk as much about food quality as it does around, you know, fats, carbs, and protein. Right? And I think that’s kind of a big shift in the nutrition and diet book landscape that we're seeing right now is that a lot of us are really getting into this, let's talk about food sensitivities, let's talk about food quality, what kind of nutrition is actually going into your body, not just this macronutrition.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: But sort of the micronutrition, right? The vitamins and minerals, what are you absorbing? And that is all based on what's happening in your gut, whether or not you're digesting and absorbing the food. So I think that it's really…it's really fantastic that you can bring this book. You know, I keep kind of saying to the masses because I joke that you know, my book is called Practical Paleo, and it's selling really well, and it's reaching a ton of people, but that word Paleo, a lot of people are searching for it, and a lot of people are sort of confused by it or put off by it. So I love that we have kind of all these different ways to reach people with at the core, you know, the same information.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: I mean, we're really kind of talking about the same thing. So you and I, we both, in my book, I talk about it too, and I know you talk about this stuff, too, about healing foods and emphasizing those. Can you tell us a little about why you think healing foods are so important and what your maybe number one healing food would really be?

JJ VIRGIN: Yeah, and I love that you brought it back to the quality of food. And again, I did. I went after…okay, I don't need to take people who are already totally into this and make them even more totally into it.

LIZ WOLFE: [laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: Like that does not bode well.


JJ VIRGIN: You know?


JJ VIRGIN: What changes the world is someone who has given up hope, who is sitting there hooked on diet soda, and eating their Skinny Pop and doing their, you know, non-fat frozen yogurt and telling them, waking them up, and that's what I wanted to do. So I went massive commercial with everything. And I knew I'd get attacked for doing it, but you know what? Let's go for it. And I could back every single thing up that I say, too, with science. It's like, so…and that's why I did a PBS special, too: Drop 7 Foods, Feel Better Fast. It was like, I am going to go out there with this massively, and go for it, because it is critical for people to do, and then once they start to see these fast results, they'll listen to you.


JJ VIRGIN: And I'll go, hey, because you know what? We all know hey, you should eat more kale and broccoli. Like, what are my favorites? Do we not know this? You know? But are we doing it? So that's the thing. What do I want people to do? I don't think there's one food out there that I would say, hey, this is the food to eat. In each category, like I want people doing. You know, I love chia seeds. I love walnuts. I love raw, you know, wild salmon and grass-fed beef and coconut. Coconut is just massively amazing and avocado and kale and broccoli. But, you know, if you start your book, okay, eat these things, people are like, oh, shut up already. You know?

LIZ WOLFE: [laughs]


JJ VIRGIN: They've heard it already. They're like, ultimately, they want to know, what are the like the villains I should pull out and what are the things I should put in? And make them really simple and tasty and not scary, right?


JJ VIRGIN: You know, and how could you do that, like, how do you make these things easy for them to do because a lot of these books I see, it's like, okay, now you're going to make your own coconut milk kefir and get a coconut, and I'm like, are you serious? Like seriously.


LIZ WOLFE: {laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: You know? I mean, I got the coconut kefir starter kit, and I've had it in the closet forever. I got a coconut, sat on the counter, and I'm thinking, well, by the time I make this thing, I'm leaving again. So how do you do things that, and I think part of what happens too with a lot of the health care professionals is they forget where people started. They forget where they started from. I remember so well my days of fat free cream cheese on fat free bagels with non-fat frozen yogurt and Diet Coke. And skinny lattes. I remember those. I remember my mindset. I remember how I felt imprisoned. I remember thinking I was doing everything right, you know? Because it's really easy now to go okay, I never do any of that stuff anymore. I eat all-I eat 10 servings of vegetables. I do all organic. People won't relate to you. And you've got to meet people where they're at, and you've got to make this easy to do, and sure, you know, it's not as good to get, you know, chicken vs. organic chicken vs. having your own chicken in the yard, but it's a heck of a lot better than eating a McDonald's chicken fried sandwich. And so, you know? It's like, I really try to move them into all of this and make it really easy and not scary and approachable for them to do, so it's not like something very strange, right?

LIZ WOLFE: And you absolutely 100% do that with your book. I love, I mean, you make the point that there is an aspect of marketing to this in being able to reach people, but that…the way that you have geared, you know, your information and what you've written and the way you talk about these things, there's no…there's nothing absent. You're not hiding anything. You're not, you know, doing anything gimmicky or anything like that, but you really are just pulling what is so beautifully simple about living this type of lifestyle and making it accessible for people, which is why I like it so much.

JJ VIRGIN: And simple, and I think that's so critical. Like I had one guy who's now my COO-it's so funny-listen to me talk, you know, 'cause he was doing all my video. Went on the program, he was on the road, 15 cities in 30 days, after he heard me talk about all this, and lost 22 pounds.


JJ VIRGIN: And I hear that from so many people, and that's how it has to be. You have to be able to go out to eat and do this. You have to be able to cook for your family and do this. You have to be able to travel and do this. It has to be that simple to understand, right? And you don't want to feel like, you know, it's not something you have to do for the long haul. However, I do like people to start with the whole thought of hey, you can do any, any, anything for 3 weeks, and you see how you feel after that. If you didn't feel remarkably better, then go back to what you were doing. But I have yet to see someone who hasn't felt remarkably better. You know?

LIZ WOLFE: Okay, so I want to ask you just really quickly about one of the biggest sticking points for people, I think, in the modern, you know, this transition from the modern diet, the dietary dogma that we've been taught for so long, to what you and what Diane and what I advocate, and this idea of giving people the courage to eat fat.

JJ VIRGIN: [inhales sharply]

LIZ WOLFE: Yes. So I love this because a while back I listened to you on Sean Croxton's Underground Wellness show, and I believe what you said…you mentioned…you explained it so beautifully and it was so simple. And it stuck with me. You mentioned that, I think, when you overeat, you know, carbohydrates. These nutrient poor carbohydrates, you teach your body to burn carbs and not fat. And when you eat good healthy fat, you're also teaching your body to burn that. So does that sound familiar? Did I phrase that correctly?

JJ VIRGIN: It's actually…it's even more interesting than that is when you do long slow distance exercise, where the primary fuel source for that exercise is going to be fat, even though you're not burning that many calories, you actually get better at storing fat back.

LIZ WOLFE: That was it.

JJ VIRGIN: When you do exercise that's high intensity, where you burn sugar, your body then wants to take what you eat, the carbs you eat, because we're always going to eat carbs. We're going to eat some vegetables, a little bit of low glycemic fruit, it will shove that back into your muscle and preferentially burn fat. So when you really look at what you're doing, and this is where again, our body's a chemistry lab, and let's look at how you eat, and how you exercise, and how you sleep, and how you manage stress, and make sure that the messages you're telling your body are to burn off stored fat for fuel, to keep your energy level, right?

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: Because hey, you could be eating perfectly, where you're, you know, not having a big blood sugar response where you're keeping insulin, you know, comes up then comes back down to a nice low fasting level. You could be doing all that, and then undersleeping and becoming insulin resistant. You could be eating correctly and then be doing loads and loads of cardio, raising cortisol, raising, you know, raising fasting blood sugar because you're raising cortisol, burning up muscle, slowing down your metabolism. I remember early on when I was a trainer, this study came out about women that were chronic joggers actually having, you know, lowered metabolisms, and back then we go, we don't know why. [laughs]


LIZ WOLFE: [laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: You know? it's like, I bet I know why!

LIZ WOLFE: Paradoxical. Hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: Duh! You know, it's like I was watching The Biggest Loser. I remember Jillian yelling at someone saying, “You’ve hit a plateau!” Because they actually had lost no weight that week or they'd even gained it. I'm like, yeah, it's called stress hormone response, chick. You know, study it. You know?


JJ VIRGIN: It's like you've got to look at all these things. We've got to get off this model of not even just as just calories. But of course where they come from is you know you can do a macronutrient shift, keep calories the same and lose weight. You can do a food timing shift, keep calories the same, and lose weight. So you know, clearly there's so much more at play here than just how many calories you're eating. It's when you're eating them. It's, you know, how you feel when you're eating them, and honestly, I always tell people it's like I eat a load of fat.

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: I eat a load of fat, and fat is very satiating. You know? I remember one of my kids, he ate a bunch of, I don't-we don't have candy in the house, so at Halloween, like just go for it, because I knew if they do it once, they'd feel sick. And they don't want, which is what happens. They could care less about their Halloween candy. And so one of my sons ate it. He goes, wow, this is amazing. I feel really hungry, really sick, you know? You know, he didn't know why he was saying that, but it's like, how carbs make you feel. You know? Because they’re crashing and burning you, and making you store more fat and you're going to be hungrier. So yeah, exercise is a huge one. Not for immediate weight loss, but for long term shifting that equation, so you can use more fat for fuel and you won’t be one of those TOFI, thin outside fat inside people.

LIZ WOLFE: I love that. That's exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for that podcast, and I'm so glad that you just reiterated that here because that was one of my favorite parts of the Underground Wellness podcast.

JJ VIRGIN: Oh, thank you.

LIZ WOLFE: I want to ask you something, and you got to tell me. Be so honest. To this whole point of these celebrity trainers like Jillian Michaels, and I have in my head from awhile back when I used to watch the Biggest Loser, her absolutely yelling at somebody and saying “It's calories in, calories out!”

JJ VIRGIN: Yes, I watched that. I was like, I watched that episode, but I think she must have always yelled that.

LIZ WOLFE: She must have.

JJ VIRGIN: And I only watched the thing once, and I went, I got to shut this off. I'm going to kill her.

LIZ WOLFE: It's painful. But tell me, how do people look like that if they believe that? Are they genetic freaks? Are they actually practicing what they preach? What's going on there? Jillian looks great.

JJ VIRGIN: Well, you know you're always going to have…She looks awesome, but you know what upsets me so much? I actually got hired by that company to do the Teen Biggest Loser, and I turned it down. But the challenge isn't her because she's someone who doesn't have a weight problem, so she's insulin sensitive.

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: So those are people…like, let's say, you know, there's different things that get in the way of being able to lose weight. Hormones are a big one. Thyroid, insulin, leptin, sex hormones, toxicity, of course, another huge one. Genetics, a huge one. I genetically…I have like great non-obesity genes. Okay, so I could do a calories in, calories out diet. It wouldn't be as effective as other things, and have a response. Right?

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: So, you know, it’s still going to work if you're insulin sensitive, if you've got good hormone response. If you don't have the other things at play and you've got good genetics. And, you know, exercise at that point, when you're consistent, exercise can cover up a lot of stuff, too. But if you're one of those people that's got the fat genes, or eating- god, there's so much stuff with genetics, it's fascinating stuff. Then you're really going to have to dial it in. Or let's say you're toxic. But let's say she has none of that stuff going on. You know?

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: And what we also don't know is she might be spouting, calories in, calories out, and eating a more Paleo style diet.

LIZ WOLFE: Right, right.

JJ VIRGIN: Who knows what she's doing? You know, I know they spout all this stuff about like, you know, they use aspartame and all sorts of crap on that show. The other thing I saw, and oh my gosh. And I just had a meeting with the doctor who runs that show, and I swear, I thought we were going to kill each other in the office. He says, people are fat because they don't exercise enough and they eat too much. And I go, that's really great. I mean, you really, honestly, and this guy's never had a weight problem in his life. He exercises 2 hours a day. He goes, people need to exercise 2 hours a day.

LIZ WOLFE: Oh my goodness.


JJ VIRGIN: I know! I was like, you know, yeah.

LIZ WOLFE: And that's that huge difference between, you know, like you talk about the way you're marketing these, you know, beautifully simple, nutrient-dense digestive healing type of concepts, and there's a big difference between doing that and being beholden to your advertisers.

JJ VIRGIN: Exactly. And that's…I'll tell you. I had a primetime show with ABC that I was on, and it was a real problem because I was sitting in there saying…it's funny. We got better results than Biggest Loser did, but it was called, You Are What You Eat, and I'm kind of going which advertising firms are going to pick this up because I've just bashed everybody.

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: And they actually had a censor following me around with a headset because I picked up an Oreo cookie and I said, See this cookie? This is a drug, and it's your drug of choice. And she goes, you cannot say that. When I just taped a Rachel Ray show, I said something about dairy and I had to come back and throw something else in. They had me say another line so the milk advisory board wouldn't kick their butt. So, you know, the reason I did a PBS show is purely because I could actually say the truth because they aren't advertiser driven. That's our biggest challenge, you know? If you look at the advertisers on regular shows, it's dairy for strong bones.

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: Which is so amazing because this Nurses' Health Study shows it to be the opposite.


JJ VIRGIN: It's, you know, it's grains, it's diet sodas, it's all this stuff that we know the studies are showing just the opposite, yet, you know, it's out there. So it's really crazy and that's why, honestly, support PBS because PBS is amazing in what they can bring out there in their health shows because you can say what you want.

LIZ WOLFE: And at the very least, support Downton Abbey. [laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: [laughs] You know, it is incredible, though. Like you look at what they're doing on those shows, and I did have one farmer call in during one of my pledge drives, and she just went off on all of us about GMOs. [laughs]


JJ VIRGIN: I know, but for the most part, you know, it's like you can say all this stuff, but you cannot say on the TV, and that's why I love the Internet. Look at what we can do.

LIZ WOLFE: Agreed.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: So JJ, we'd love to talk to you a little bit about stress. You alluded to it before when we were talking about leaky gut and kind of you know, keeping our system working well to digest our food properly. And we have one reader who would love to know also how you manage stress during your son's accident and recovery. It's something you talked about a lot on Facebook, so we'd like to hear from you what you do to maintain your health and wellness under a stressful situation.

JJ VIRGIN: So what that situation did, and for the people who don't know, my son on September 10th at 7:30 at night went out for a walk. He was mad at me, actually. He stormed out. This is the funny part. I can say funny now. It wasn't funny for awhile. But he stormed out of the house. He said to me, Mom, I'm not as strong as you think I am. And walked out. He didn't even have shoes on. He went out for a walk over to a friend's house. And the second joke is we live in Palm Desert, California where I specifically moved to because it's a nice, safe place to raise kids. [laughs] And so my son walks out. He gets hit in a 40 mile an hour zone by a driver who leaves him in the street and drives off. And fortunately another person came up right behind him, blocked him to save him, but he had a torn aorta, brain bleeds, and 11 fractures, and when they air-lifted him to the first hospital, they couldn't do anything because in order to fix the torn aorta, they had to use a blood thinner and he would have bled out from his brain. So they told us there really was nothing they could do, and they didn't advise moving him because they said he'd never survive another airlift, and if he even did survive an airlift, he probably wouldn't survive the surgery. And if he did survive the surgery, doubtfully he'd ever wake up. If he did wake up, probably be a total vegetable, and you know, he'd probably be paralyzed from the surgery anyway. So…

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Just a little bit of stress. Just a little

JJ VIRGIN: Just all that like, what's the worst thing a parent can hear? Your son's, you know, your child's dead. Then your child's paralyzed. Then your child's in a coma. My son was in a coma. He was in a Glasgow 3 coma, the worst you can have. So we sat there, and it was my other son, who I think talked him back over from the other side, and my ex-husband and I, and we all looked and we go, but he's going to die here. And they go, yes. And we're like, you know, my son goes, it sounds like he has .25 percent chance of living. They go, yes. We go, we'll take it. I go, why are we standing here? And fortunately we had really good connections, like the head of the health care system at UCLA and stuff like that. So we were like, starting to just name names. We got him on another helicopter. We drove down there because I was too much of a chicken to get in the helicopter. I was afraid I would have a heart attack, anxiety attack, etc. But we had to make a decision that night that was a lifesaving decision, and those decisions continued for the next 5 months because, you know, even though we were in the number 2 trauma center in the country, and then the top, one of the top 5 children's rehab centers in the country after that, there was stuff going on that you hear about, and these are the best places and they're still happening where he would have died.
And so what happened was we got there. He survived the surgery, he had the most amazing surgeon. And then he was in the ICU and I made a decision. I made a couple decisions. Number one decision I made that I think is really important when you look at how to handle stress better is I decided that I was going to ask for help, which is a really courageous act when you think about it. And so what I did is I put out to my entire email list, my Facebook list, my Twitter list, and I explained what had happened, and that I really…I did not need sympathy, I needed strength and support and any ideas that they had. Now also all my friends are integrated docs and some of the most amazing ones in the world. And they actually started showing up that night. I had like Ali Hunter Younger's healer in the room. He was bringing down the guy's-my son's blood pressure naturally. I had Stephen Sinatra's healer doing remote energetic healings, all sorts of wild stuff. I was like this hospital knew what the heck we were doing, you know?

LIZ WOLFE: [laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: I had a gal who's a brain trauma doc from Cedar Sinai, she brought over all these essential oils. We were doing that. We were doing all sorts of stuff. And one of my girlfriends is Dr. Hyla Cass, who is all…an amazing brain doc, and she brought me all this stuff to help lower my cortisol that night because I was like oh my-I could feel it. I knew exactly what was going on. And so, everyone started bringing me great food. I mean, I had so much kale, I finally was like on Facebook going no more kale, please, like…I can't take it. But all my friends started showing up with food, and I made a decision, and I said, you know what? I'm going to be on the Virgin Diet because I knew what would happen to my gut. I'm going to go 100%. I usually live 90-95%. 100% on. I was making sure I got enough sleep. I found the closest Whole Foods. The closest gym was a half mile away. If I couldn't do that, I'd do stairs in the hospital. They were all laughing because I was always like up and down all these stairs. I worked out every day. I got 7 to 9 hours of sleep, which was incredible because I was getting there at 5 to 5:30 in the morning to do grand rounds. I set, you know, they got me on their Wi-Fi so I could work out of the ICU. I got an office in there to do interviews because I was launching my book at the same time.


JJ VIRGIN: I was like, are you kidding?


JJ VIRGIN: You know? I just reached out for help, and people showed up and I let them help me, and I let them help Grant, and I found the person who did the brain research on brain trauma in men and women and why women didn't seem to have the same effects of bad accidents that men did because the progesterone and we started progesterone into him. I got his information. I talked directly to him, and I started progesterone as soon as…I didn't tell the hospital I was doing this. So as soon as we were in a peace part of the ICU where I could sneak, I started sneaking that in, and then I started working with the people that were behind the whole fish oil and the coal miner's study and all that, and UCLA wouldn't go along with it. They would only let me do 2 grams, so I actually started doing that behind their back, too. I couldn't get past 7 grams because I could only sneak so much stuff. Once we were in our own room, I had the blender going. I had these special amino acids called Dakseed from Italy. I was bringing Whole Foods. In fact, Whole Foods caught wind of it. They sent me gift baskets, and when we got to the new hospital, we got him into 20 grams of fish oil, he started speaking in sentences. It was pretty trippy, but the whole time. This was 5 months. And if I wasn't at the hospital, and I was generally at the hospital 12 hours a day except when I'd run out to Whole Foods or run to the gym, I was on my PBS tour, on my book tour. That's all I did. And in fact, it's been now 5 and a half months, and I think I've gone out to one, like, dinner. You know, I've done nothing but work and be with my kids, and I went home for 10 days during this whole 5 months, and I didn't get sick. I got sick 2 days. I got this horrendous stomach flu that everyone at the hospital got.

LIZ WOLFE: [xxx]

JJ VIRGIN: I went all right, well, I kind of was like, I was like, damn, I was trying not to get sick, but we all-Grant had it, we all had it. But besides that, I mean, never got sick, kept going during the whole time, was taping TV shows. You know, I had to do the PBS thing where you go from city to city to city to city, and I credit that all, and had to make really serious life and death decisions all the way through. And battle the doctors who were like, no, we're not going to do that. I'm like, you know, you haven't even looked d at the research, and I, you know, in their face about these things, and you know, Grant hadn't pooped for a week. I mean, things like this, and I'm like, I can't believe this is happening. You know? But I…the only reason I was able to do this was because of the fact that I was on my program 100%, I was doing everything I needed to do for stress relief. I got massages at the airports. I was taking all sorts of stuff to help lower cortisol. I was getting tons of support from friends. That's what was really helping. Eating perfectly, exercising, sleeping well, and I think for most of us, you know,, you look at going on something because you want to lose a little weight. You know? Or you want to clear up your skin, but you don't realize that you don't know when this is going to happen. The day before this happened, I literally told some people, I go, my life is so perfect I can't believe it. Like everything is perfect, you know?


JJ VIRGIN: But I look at it now and go my life is so perfect. I saved my son's life. Dr. Eamon and I were out to dinner the other night. He goes, you saved your son's life. And I go, I know, I saved my son's life repeatedly. He had an aneurysm. He almost died again. You know? But I was able to because of the way I took care of myself. And so what I say to everybody out there because for a lot of women, we tend to put ourselves last on the list if we show up at all, and we don’t take care of our health. First of all, you are your ultimate role model for your family. That means that how you take care of yourself is going to impact not just your kids, but generations to come. You need that focus, that clarity. I had to make decisions at midnight, at 5:30 in the morning, at 8 in the morning with no sleep, that ultimately were the decision whether my child was going to be alive or not, whether my child now who's fully functioning was going to be fully functioning or not. And I couldn't have done that had I not had, you know, had been taking incredible care of myself. You don't know when these things are going to happen, whether it's something as extreme as what I went through, which I wish on no one. People say, I can't imagine. I go, I don't want you to imagine. But I do want you to live in that space where whether it's an incredible opportunity that you want to be able to show up for, or just being the most amazing role model for your friends, for your family. You know, I don't have to talk to my friends and family about how to eat well and to exercise because that's what I do, you know?

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: They're never going to see me out eating a donut or having a frozen yogurt, you know. It's just…I had my publishers, when I went to their sales meeting, they all kind of…a group of them kind of ganged up on me and got me in a corner. They go, okay, what do you do to cheat? And I go, I don't cheat. I don't cheat. I'm sorry. You know? It's just like, I just don't do that because you just like…I like how I eat and feel and everything else, okay? What do I cheat? Maybe I'll have an extra glass of cabernet, woo! You know? But it's just not what I do. So it really allowed me to make…to save my son, and honestly, that will be the most important thing that's ever happened in my entire life ever, ever. In his life, and if I can pass that message on, that when you look at these things, it's so much bigger than you could ever realize, that you might start a program because you want to get a little healthier or you want to lose weight, but it's not just what that means to you. I mean, how's that going to impact the people around you? Because it always does. You know? This woman that I told you about that walked up to me at Whole Foods at 392 pounds to start with and losing a half pound a day, and crying to me, I said, I will help you from here on out. I will support you. I gave her my personal email address. I go, because I want you to be an ambassador because you show people what's possible. You're giving people back hope. You're inspiring me. I want you to go out and inspire thousands and thousands of people out there, who just gave up because they tried all those things that you hear that you should be doing like the stupid snack packs and hours of cardio, and you know, that Shred diet that's out right now that's making me insane! Insane because he's telling people that they can have a diet soda and chocolate covered pretzels every day. I want to reach out…I swear to God I want to slap him to sleep, you know?

LIZ WOLFE: [laughs]


JJ VIRGIN: I'm like, stop it! Stop it. You know, why are diets like this working? It's all calorie counting, eating 6 meals, and he tells you to have a snack before bed.


JJ VIRGIN: I'm like, I'm banging my head against the wall. You know? Sigh.

LIZ WOLFE: You know what I think is amazing about everything you just said is you're not just talking about, you know, managing what you can, you know. You have this really incredibly difficult situation, this, you know, absolutely turning your life upside down, and you're, yes, you're eating really well and you're exercising at the hospital and all that, so managing what you know is within your control, but you also took control of the stuff that you could have easily accepted was out of your control, and the same thing with that woman at Whole Foods. Like you can see that woman who very well could say, well, this is out of my control because I have this genetically or I have this problem and I can't do this. It's choosing that control and being aggressive about it when you need to. I think that's really, really cool.

JJ VIRGIN: Well, it also lowers your, like what helped me, I noticed the only times I got stress was when I felt like I was disempowered.

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: And so I kind of went, why am I listening to these people who are not, you know…it's like they're just giving me an opinion, and anyone who came in like these, you know, these guys, the orthopedic team came into the room, and they go, you know, my poor son had crushed his calcaneus on his left heel, and he had these pins sticking out of his heel, like out, physically out. These big pins, and so they're trying to…and he's got these huge calves, so now he's trying to move, but he can't move because he's got all these…I mean, it was so…and we couldn't explain to him because he didn't understand. He was just waking up. It was a mess. Right? And they're trying to like suspend this thing, and they go, listen, we're just trying to be able to get him to walk again. I go, you know what? If Kobe Bryant were in this bed, what would you be doing for him? Do that for my son. I go, if your whole goal is just to get my son to be able to walk again, you're fired.

LIZ WOLFE: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.


JJ VIRGIN: I go, this is an athlete. That's not going to happen here, and I got to believe you wouldn't be saying this if it was Kobe. So go get the guy that can help him because I'm not accepting that.


JJ VIRGIN: And I told people. I go, if your whole thing is, you know, maybe he'll get back to 70%, I go, you're not on the team because my son's going to be 110%. That's it. And you know, not once has my son said, why did that person have to hit me? He's never said it. You know what he says? He goes, I'm so lucky. I got hit by a car and yeah, I've got these scars and stuff, but oh well. It's fine. And the only thing we can really see is that he can't hear out of his right ear, but he will. You know, we're working on that. That's like one of the easiest things to fix nowadays. But it's like amazing. He doesn't go, wow, this happened to me. No victim at all. He's like, I'm so lucky. And from the time he was in a coma and he says to me, Mom, you know when you were sitting by me in the bed when I was asleep? And I go, I knew you could hear me. And I just kept telling him, you're a warrior. You're so strong. You're going to heal 110%. This is the best thing that ever happened to you.


JJ VIRGIN: So you know, but that tells you like with whatever these things are, they can be so much bigger than you realize, and it all starts with taking the power back. You know, making those decisions, not letting some food craving rule your life or some silly advertising message that's driven by dollars to try to get you hooked on these snack packs so you'll eat them every day, you know?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: I love how much you dislike snack packs because…

JJ VIRGIN: I know, can't you tell?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Those things drive me crazy. I, you know, I just want to wrap up a little bit here by saying, you know, I remember reading your tweets and the Facebook updates about the situation and probably commented a few times or just kind of liked the post and just was really watching what was happening, and I actually learned about you back in Bauman College when I was learning about nutrition from my instructors, and I just remembered your name had kind of circulated around a few times when we'd be talking about weight loss resistance and all of that. So you know, I've known about you for a long, long time and of course, I always tend to bring a little bit of the spiritual side into things in the podcast here and there. But I just can't help but think how much this experience that you've had with your son will inevitably change the course of your work forever. You know, of course you're going to be a health and nutrition expert because that's your background, but you know, this has obviously changed his life and it will inevitably change yours, and I'm really excited to see how much more you're even able to help people from this experience moving forward because you know, maybe it opens up this little door for them. They realize you've been through really hard things, too, and you know, you've actually been an advocate for yourself and you've done, not just what you preach when it comes to health and nutrition, but you know, standing up for yourself, standing up for your son, maintaining focus around, you know, that health and nutrition aspect, you know, in the eye of the storm, and so, you know, I'm just really excited to see what else comes from this and what more, you know, we have to expect from you and your work. So is there anything else?

JJ VIRGIN: Well, it will be a next book, but it's going to be my son's book.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Oh, I probably had goosebumps 4 times…

JJ VIRGIN: [laughs] And you know what's so amazing is Sanjay Gupta. I ran into him. I was doing Access Hollywood, and there he is, and I go, oh my gosh! You can't-you know, and I'm telling him this whole thing, and by the way, I'm wearing these huge huge stilettos because I specifically wore them because Billy Bush always puts his head on my shoulder, so I always try to get the highest shoes I can wear when I go there. But, so I'm wearing these huge things and Sanjay Gupta's tiny, so I'm like, looking down at him, going dalalalalala. He's like, oh, we have to have your son on the show. And so we're actually trying to find a time to get Grant on the show, and Grant now has a purpose and a mission. He now knows what he wants to do with his life. It's amazing. So honestly, what if…what if this thing that you saw as this great tragedy or big crisis was actually the biggest opportunity, the most amazing thing ever that you could have because I kept praying before this happened. Going, God, you know, I feel so disconnected from my kids, you know?

LIZ WOLFE: Mm-hmm.

JJ VIRGIN: It was like, don't feel disconnected anymore.


JJ VIRGIN: Be really careful what you ask.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: What you wish for, right? [laughs]

JJ VIRGIN: But there is one funny thing and I'll leave you guys with this because I loved this. I loved it! It happened on my Facebook page. This woman, you know, I posted this thing about needing to get 7 to 9hours of sleep, and this woman reamed me. Can you imagine someone being mean on Facebook? And so this woman attacked me. She goes, you know, how dare you ask me, a working mom, to get 7 to 9hours of sleep a night, and it's funny because I have some people on my team who also watch my Facebook to see if like there's anything we need to pull or whatever. And they're like, uh oh. You know? And I go, mine, it's mine. You know? Because I'm thinking, seriously? Like where have you been, lady?


JJ VIRGIN: You know, have you not been watching anything going on? Do you not get the whole philosophy that it becomes even more important when you're a working mom? Everything…I'm the breadwinner of my family, you know? It's like, it all revolves around me. There is no margin for error here, and we all need to operate that way, you know? And you need to realize that you're the ultimate role model for so many people. You have no idea who's watching you and what an impact you can make, and how cool is that? You know?


LIZ WOLFE: Everybody, every single person listening.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, for sure.


LIZ WOLFE: Well, this has been so awesome, JJ. Thank you so much for being here with us.

JJ VIRGIN: Oh, thank you. I so appreciate it. Now I'm going to go take my son to the gym.

LIZ WOLFE: Most definitely. Well, again, so many thanks to JJ for being here and sharing her experiences and all this great information. Be sure to pick up her book, The Virgin Diet, and you can also find her at www.jjvirgin.com. We will be back next week with more of your questions. And until then, you can find Diane at www.balancedbites.com and you can find me, Liz, at www.cavegirleats.com. Thanks for listening. We'll be back next week.

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Diane & Liz

Comments 8

  1. I definitely enjoyed this podcast…interesting perspective. Obviously it’s not perfectly compliant with paleo I’m sure. One thing..I know it’s trivial, but I didn’t necessarily aggree with her comment about not eating “snacking” before bed. What are people’s thoughts on this? I’ve been listening to Nate Miyaki who does some very awesome presentations on his youtube channel about paleo and carbs etc…very similar to Robb Wolf’s philosophy on that sort of thing. I have sort of stopped freaking out about eating too late. Some days it just doesn’t work out that way. We go climbing at the gym in town and end up eating around 9 and going to bed shortly after. Obviously we don’t STUFF ourselves, but we eat a fairly large meal. Anyone have any input about eating/lite snacking (on good food of course) before bed?

    1. I think the vast majority of folks who eat anything after dinner/late at night are doing so for emotional reasons or because of cravings due to nutrient deficiencies. That doesn’t mean my general readership/listenership has these same issues. I often find that folks don’t eat enough food at a meal and are still hungry before bed or that they didn’t eat enough to refuel after a workout and awaken in the night hungry…

      There are metabolic disadvantages to eating late at night in that your metabolism and heart rate do slow down a bit while you sleep versus while you’re up and about all day long. There are some digestive and cellular clean-ups that happen overnight as well… but my take is that if you are going to skip nutrition by not eating, it’s not ideal. I want your body to get the fuel it needs, so if eating late is going to help you get that fuel in, then go ahead. That said, I don’t think it’s a great scenario and wouldn’t recommend it regularly if you can avoid it. I eat after 8 or 8:30 maybe once a week or so and I’m usually asleep by 10-11pm most nights, just as a reference point.

      1. Thanks so much for your reply, Diane. I’m typically along your schedule. We usually eat around 6 or 7 and are in bed by 9 or 10. I think it’s easy to get caught up in all these smaller issues which generally don’t affect too much if you’re good in all the other areas. Earlier in my paleo journey, I would kinda freak out over eating too late thinking I wouldn’t digest well and everyone says you are apt to gain more weight eating before bed. However, I’m an athlete type, so I’ve become a lot more comfortable/confident with giving my body what I feel it needs. I’m also finding that my sleep is much better when I’m not hungry and when I eat a starchier carb at dinner. I typically keep it pretty low carb breakfast and lunch and use dinner to fuel up which works for me. Thank you so much for all your hard work. You are so loved and appreciated! It is so sincere that you take the time to respond to readers’ comments with so many other things on your plate. You’re amazing 🙂

  2. Huge fan of your blog and podcasts! This one especially was great! I love JJ’s perspective on health and how all of you combined have such great insight on getting away from nutrition dogma- there needs to be more health professionals out there shifting towards this point of view. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Loved this podcast! I had completely judged “The Virgin Diet” book by its cover and previously wrote it off as a gimmick. JJ is fabulous. I love her perspective on life and health.

  4. Just listened to this podcast! I am totally blown away by JJs story about her son’s injury and how she took care of herself AND her son during his recovery. She is truly truly amazing and all three of you are so inspiring. I am in tears. I let the smallest things stand in the way of my healthy eating and taking care of myself. How can we care for others if we don’t take care of ourselves?

  5. Had to leave a comment on this one! Absolutely loved this podcast. And as a side note, we raise soy/corn free laying hens and will be doing broilers this year 🙂 Just for ourselves because we haven’t found a market for them! So when I heard her make a comment about that I thought it was amazing!

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