Editor's Note: Chef AJ has previously written on VegSource.com about her journey to optimal weight and health. She tried various approaches over many years as a vegan, and finally succeeded by simply focusing on low calorie-dense vegetables and high-satisfaction starches -- a proven combo for longterm health and permanent weight loss, while eating all you want. Since her last article on the subject, AJ has lost another 14 pounds! I asked her about it, and am sharing her email response here, with her permission:
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How are you? I am so excited to tell you what’s been happening to my body as you are the one who first encouraged me to go public with my weight loss story 2 years ago. When you ran the story on Vegsource last November I weighed 132 pounds, and I figured I was done losing weight. My BMI was 21 and my doctor said I didn’t need to lose any more weight. And I really wasn’t trying to, but I lost another 14 pounds!!!
I am telling you this not to gloat, but because when you hear how it happened, I know you will get a kick out of it, because like me, I’m pretty sure you are sick of “healthy fats” being glorified while complex carbs, like potatoes and rice are being vilified.
As you know, I stopped eating nuts and nut butters on 1-2-12. When you saw me 5 months later at Worldfest, in May of 2012, I had already lost 20 pounds. And the about only thing I did was stop the nuts. In August of 2014 my weight was down to 135. I was still eating seeds, tahini and avocado.
I was working at True North and one day they served their famous guacamole. Dr. Goldhamer asked us if we knew what a serving size of guacamole was. Nobody answered. He said it was 2 Tablespoons! I thought per chip maybe! Sure enough, I checked a label of commercial guacamole and that’s what it said. Who the heck can eat just 2 tablespoons?
Just for fun I went on the Haas avocado website. Now these are the folks who sell the avocados so I’m pretty sure they want you eating a lot of them. And I was shocked that a serving of avocado was 1/5 of an avocado! Do you know ANYONE who cuts 1/5 of an avocado and saves the rest? My weight had been stable at 135 for almost a year now but I was curious about something.
If stopping the nuts would have such an impact, what would happen if I refrained from eating avocado?
A 3 pound weight loss in 3 months, that’s what!
So I was doing really well and maintaining my weight, but I found that I was still overeating at night. Even though I was overeating on A+ food like fruits and veggies, I didn’t like feeling stuffed and bloated, even though it wasn’t impacting my weight.
I discussed this with Dr. Doug Lisle (the psychologist at True North and The McDougall Program who co-wrote “The Pleasure Trap”), and he said it was because I wasn’t eating enough starch!
I had already proven you could eat potatoes and lose weight but I still had carbophobia and was afraid to eat grains. I had still bought into the nonsense that grains were fattening and used to fatten cattle. Anyway, Dr. Lisle, who was the one who got me to do the “nut experiment”, asked me to do another experiment the next time I would be at True North. I was scheduled to be there for 5 weeks beginning on 12-1-13 and he wanted me to eat grains with abandon. He predicted that what would happen was that either my weight would stay the same or I would gain 1 pound.
Well here is the result of the experiment:
I arrived at True North on Sunday evening December 1, 2013 and immediately started eating grains with abandon. The served oats or polenta every day for breakfast, and all kinds of rice for lunch and dinner. Brown rice, red rice, black rice, wild rice (technically a seed), buckwheat (the only grain I did not care for), and quinoa (also technically a seed).
Like all the slim staff members at True North, I loaded my plate at every meal, sometimes eating 4 cups of rice at a time. Turns out I really love the stuff. I spent my entire life avoiding it and I was fat. Then I spent 5 weeks gorging on it, and do you know what happened?
In just 27 days I lost another 5 pounds!!!
And due to severe asthma, I was not able to exercise at all during the experiment and for another month after. My dear friend Miyoko Schinner, “The Cheese Whisperer,’ who is Japanese, eats rice every day and always says, “Ever see a fat Asian”? I have known people who went to Duke and did the rice diet and they all lost a tremendous amount of weight -- eating just rice!
I came home from 5 glorious weeks at True North eating Chef Bravo’s food (including SOS-free salad dressing made from tahini or sesame seeds) weighing 127 pounds!!! So I called Dr. Lisle and told him that once again, he was right, and I asked him if I could do one final experiment. As you know, Dr. McDougall has been saying for 40 years “The Fat You Eat Is the Fat You Wear” so I wondered what would happen if I also stopped eating seeds?
On 1-2-14 I stopped all seeds and tahini less than 2 months later, on 2-27-14, the day I left to speak on the vegan cruise I weighed 124!!! 3 more pounds in less than 2 months just by cutting the fat again!!!
So, how the heck did I get down to 118? Well, the final 6 pounds were due to exercise. I finally joined a gym and hired a personal trainer and I am working out for the first time in my life. Even though I’m thin, my body composition is not ideal as my body fat is 30%.
So hopefully next time you see me, Jeff, I will be buff!!! :)
So, why am I telling you this? Because I’m so tired of people, especially woman, being afraid to eat carbs!!!
I lost almost 50 pounds eating them and was never hungry and never felt deprived. Using the principle of calorie density I can literally stuff my pie hole at every meal, as long as I eat the right foods. I truly can eat more and weigh less.
I get at least 100 e-mails a day asking me how I lost weight. I made a YouTube video with the answer (see end of article for video), but, it’s really not rocket science. Everything I did was written in Dr. McDougall’s Maximum Weight Loss book over 20 years ago.
In January I had the privilege of speaking at Rancho La Puerta for the second time. The dietitian told us that a serving of cooked rice was ½ cup. While everyone else was eating these tiny spa portions, my friend Rebecca (who you may recall has lost 160 pounds on the program) and I piled at least 4 cups of rice on our plates.
People stared at us and said, “Are you really going to eat all that?” and we said “Yes, and then I am going to get a second plate."
On my last evening there I was seated at a table with another one of the speakers who introduced himself as David. I ordered some steamed greens WITHOUT OIL and he asked me why I did not eat oil. I gave him a scientific answer and then he said that he was -- Dr. David Perlmutter, the author of” Grain Brain”.
He said that if I didn’t eat oil I was setting myself up for heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and that at 99 mg/dl my cholesterol was dangerously low. When his greens, which were sautéed in oil, arrived at the table, he asked for more oil and poured it over the top!
Most of the e-mails I get from my story that ran on Vegsource are positive. A few are from angry people insisting that they were able to lose weight eating nuts. When I really quiz them about it, it turns out that they were quite overweight and were able to lose weight when switching from the Standard American Diet to almost any diet, in spite of eating nuts, not because of them. Once the “nut police” find out I’m no longer eating avocado or seeds I’m sure the shitake mushrooms are going to hit the fan!
Already people are asking me where I’m getting my Omega 3 fatty acids”. Oh, and now, I’m being called names like “anorexic, too skinny and emaciated."
When I was fat, very few people said anything. But the minute I trimmed down, stopped eating nuts and started eating potatoes, well suddenly everyone’s a nutritionist.
I meet so many people, especially women, who have tried every diet on the planet, are still fat and considering gastric bypass surgery. They have been brought up fearing carbs, even the complex unrefined ones, and think the only way they can be thin is to exercise obsessively and eat thimble sized portions of food. They are so afraid to try this way of eating.
But you know what happens when they do? They all lose weight!
I once read that Americans spend something like 800 times more on weight loss than is spent on hunger relief worldwide. If people just ate rice and potatoes, with some fruits and veggies, like I do now, we could probably solve both world hunger and the obesity epidemic at the same time.
Thanks for all you do and hope to see you soon.
Love & Rice,
WATCH AJ EXPLAIN HOW SHE EATS: (15 minutes)