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© 2018, Ian M. Cramer, MS, ATC.

Let's Get Healthier, and Stay Healthier, Together. 

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ICP 58: Chef AJ

Nature or Nurture? Defying poor genetics with diet, lifestyle and environment.

Welcome to The Ian Cramer Podcast, and Happy 2019. The conversations on this podcast focus on doctors, scholars and experts within diet, lifestyle and plant-based nutrition. 

In this conversations, I speak with Chef AJ, a rockstar within this movement who has an amazing story of perseverance and never giving up on the north star called health. We do our best to summarize her life in about an hour. It's a story of growing up an overweight food addict, being surrounded in an environment where many people around her were overweight, surrounded by poor food choices and a poor environment for supporting health. But it end with eventual success. Chef AJ was able to find the right pieces to the puzzle and find a way to become healthy, for good. 

Chef AJ has the right attitude; not blaming others, not blaming her genetics, but taking her health into her own hands and taking control of he own health destiny. Despite the genetics predispositions she may have inherited from her parents, she has not let those genetics dictate her day to day decisions on trying to live as healthful as possible. 

Chef AJ is a ball of fire, she supportive, frank and inspiration and I think you'll really enjoy her in this episode, but I encourage all of you to check out her work on Facebook where she empowers people to take control of their health. 

Please enjoy this conversation on Episode 58, with Chef AJ. 

Ian Cramer:                  00:00:03          Thank you for listening to the podcast that's dedicated to making you healthier by interviewing medical doctors and scholars of lifestyle medicine and plant based nutrition. This is episode number 58 and the first episode of 2019 on the Ian Cramer podcast. Greetings everyone. It's 2019. I hope this year is going to be better than last year. I hope you're going to focus on self improvement and making yourself a better person. It doesn't need to be health related, but just better in some way. The podcast is now two years old. Super excited about that. I'm also excited that I just made my list of speakers for 2019. It's a good one. If you're new to this podcast, if this is the first episode you're listening to, terrific. This podcast focuses just on experts, mds, medical doctors, Phd's, registered dieticians, people who have gone through some formal training, who know what they're talking about, who base their philosophies on the literature. That's what interests me. That's what lights my pants on fire and if that's what interests you. Terrific. Welcome. I recently had a conversation with chef AJ and in about an hour we make our best attempt to summarize her story, a story of growing up and overweight food addict and being surrounded in an environment where many people around her were overweight, surrounded by poor food choices and a poor food environment and attempts and struggles to become healthier and as you'll hear eventual success. It really is an amazing and inspirational story of both nurture and nature, chef ha has or the attitude of not blaming those around her. She is in control of her own destiny and I know that a lot of people can learn from her story and despite the genetic predispositions that she may have inherited from her family, she has not let those genetics dictate her day to day decisions on trying to live as helpful as possible. She's taken responsibility for her own health and refuses to let her genetics be her destiny. Chef AJ is a ball of fire and I have sort of a likened her and compared her to Jane Esselstyn. She Chef AJa is supportive, frank and inspirational and I think you'll really enjoy her in this episode, but I also encourage you to check out all the work that she's doing on her facebook page and on Youtube where she empowers people to take control of their health. So let's get right into it. Please enjoy this conversation on episode number 58 with chef AJ. yeah.

Chef Aj:                        00:03:33          I loved your interview with Dr. Goldhammer and I loved the little meme you created. He's my hero.

Ian Cramer:                  00:03:38          Yeah, I heard, I've, I've been trying to consume as much content with you in it in the past couple of weeks as possible and I know that he and Dr Doug Lyle are huge. A huge hero. You know, you, you guys collectively and you learned a lot from them. Yeah. Thank you Charles. Right? We're good now. I should be really great. Yeah, it does sound good.

Chef Aj:                        00:03:59          Okay. Okay. Since you're not caring about the visual light, doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. No. No, and again, like I said, I think this is good for us just for visual acuity, you mean because when you try to interview. When I used to interview people without seeing them, my sister said, you always interrupting and I'm like, I don't know. I can't help it, you know, you got it. And so, um, just a couple other things. Uh, I have a few. I'm going to basically get done with my interview, uh, hoping for roughly an hour. I have a few patron questions too that my patrons of my podcast as like, Hey, can you ask chef had this, so maybe we can do those quickly at the end. Okay, great. Well, so Charles, you got it. Could you please unplug the instant pot? Sorry, I'm cooking squash and I don't want it to turn into mush.

Chef Aj:                        00:04:51          Just unplug it. It'll be fine. Is that a beeping in the background and know it's done. It's done now, but I plugged the instant pot. You don't have to do anything else. Thanks. We're huge fans of the instapot huge fans. All right. All right, so chef AJ. it's, you are such a rock star. Thank you for carving out a little bit of time for little old Ian Cramer on his podcast. Welcome.

Chef Aj:                        00:05:14          Are you kidding? It's my pleasure. I first was introduced to your podcast because you interviewed one of my mentors, Dr Goldhammer and I contacted you right away. I said, anybody that interviews Goldhammer is somebody I want to be interviewed.

Ian Cramer:                  00:05:25          Excellent. Excellent. Well, I'm glad that I'm sort of getting around slowly in, in these social circles. I see myself as a little Ole anchovy anchovy in a big old ocean where it's, uh, it's tough to gain traction, but hey, I'm in this for the long haul as you are too, so I'm glad that we're on the same team and I'm glad that you enjoyed that podcast and yeah, so this is what I enjoy is interviewing doctors and scholars like chef AJ on helping people get healthier and also a funny thing that we were talking about a little bit before I started recording this was that, you know, not only that I get an email, a cold email eight weeks ago from chef AJ saying, hey, you know, about this podcast, but also that you, uh, you chimed in on this morning's live session too.

Chef Aj:                        00:06:12          Well, thank you for that. What are the chances that the first thing when I turned on my phone this morning, I saw that only you doing a facebook live, but my friend Bj who was in my program commenting and like, wow, this is like meant to be, you know, but I agree with you, Ian is. I think it's more fun interviewing people than it is being interviewed.

Chef Aj:                        00:06:29          Yeah. Yeah, I agree. Well, yeah, and because I am naturally curious and I want to learn more and so I'm really looking forward to this. So imagine if we are hiking a mountainChef and we're looking at the map. I guess what I want to do in this interview is kind of split things up into three tiers in the first third, I kind of want to talk about growing up childhood and again I'm, I'm familiar with some aspects of your story about, you know, overeating and food addictions and that. And then kind of the middle section. We're looking at the map, climbing up the mountain, the middle section. I want to talk about you approaching your transition point or, or you're perhaps for lack of a better term, your rock bottom. And then the third section maybe we can spend the most time on is really what you're doing now. What have you learned? How do you connect with people? How do you help people get healthier? Sound good. So again, so I guess start us off with um, you know, growing up, uh, your relationship with your family, your relationship with your food, your relationship with yourself and how you felt and how that shaped who you are today.

Chef Aj:                        00:07:43          Okay. Thank you. So, you know, when everybody around you is a certain way, you don't even realize that it's not normal. You know what I mean? Like the eating. And so my Mom was morbidly obese. I don't know what she weighed because her license said 200, but there is no way because I at one point in my life weighed 200 and my mom was definitely twice as big as Nissan guess somewhere between three and 400. So this was, I was born in 1960. And tell him what a lot of fat people around back then. You know, it's funny because sometimes I watched her classic movies and I was watching breakfast at tiffany's the other day and then guys and dolls and what I noticed is of course the movie stars were slender. But if you looked at all the people in the background, the extras, they're comprised a lot of these movies. It wasn't any overweight people, you know, in the forties and fifties. And if they were, they were character actors, you know, like stubby Kaye. They were. And so in my family everybody was fat and sick. And so I just thought that's what the way this. My father was not overweight. He was normal weight. But when I looked at my aunts and my uncles and my grandparents, so everybody was obese. And so you just grow up thinking, well that's normal. And you grew up thinking that the food you're eating is normal. And it wasn't until I wrote my book, when I thought about the lunches that my mom would give me when not lunches, you give a first grader. Everybody else had a classic one where they call them classic lunchboxes now. Back then everybody had a lunchbox, like it would be like the partridge family or flipper. They were these very small, cute lunchboxes and my mom would send me to school with the kind of lunchbox that a construction worker uses. Literally. It's like this really large gray clunky. It's like a briefcase and it had this big thermos in it that was filled with cool later. If it wasn't Koolaid, I had a soda and thinking like, you know, that's now I'm thinking that's child abuse, but it wasn't doing that on purpose. And then there was always some kind of an entree but they were so many treats in it. Like there would be like, like a susie q, two of them and there would be some kind of a chocolate bar and there would be like potato chips. And so that's crazy, you know. But that's what I grew up eating and so I look back now and it's like I wouldn't feed a kid any of those things that were in my lunchbox today and yet everyday I was getting just not just the wrong kind of food but so much of it. And so is it any wonder that by the age of 11 I ended up 160 pounds, which today might be considered normal, but when you're 11 and not even five feet tall that is obese. And so, you know, I wasn't picked on too much because of my weight because I was really smart and that really helped so that I always, always teacher's pet because it was really smart and I was able to make friends because I was really funny. But I know a lot of kids did suffer more because of their weight. And when you look back to the sixties, there was maybe one fat kid in every grade of maybe 40 kids. And when I look back to my photos, which I have, I was the fat kid and I didn't. I didn't think about it so much then. But when I look back now, it's like, yeah, I was the only fat kid now today at least one out of every three kids under the age of 18 is overweight or obese. It's the fastest growing populations of people becoming fat or kids now. And it's sad because it's becoming normal.

Ian Cramer:                  00:11:06          Yeah. Yeah. I was going to ask as a followup, so your mom is packing your lunches for, for your, for, for school, for elementary and middle school. If you do you happen to know about your mother's upbringing? Where I'm imagining on the one hand it could have just been, you know, your mom was succumbing to the same things that we're seeing today is we see the commercials and we see these things on the grocery grocery store shelves and we're thinking like, hey, it's food and we eat food, therefore I'm going to serve it to my child. Was it more of 'em have an ignorance thing or was it more perhaps of a. your mother was, you know, trying to compensate for some things that maybe she lacking when she was a child and she wanted to provide you with these treats to make you feel good. What do you think?

Chef Aj:                        00:12:00          That's a great question and if I had known I was going to be doing this as a profession, one day I would have sat down and talked to my mom, you know, and, and, and I didn't know, but I do know that when I looked at her wedding picture, she was not a thin person, but she was beautiful. She was maybe like a, you know, like maybe a size 12 or 14. She wasn't obese. She was, she was a full figured girl, but she was gorgeous. I do know that my dad was an abusive husband and father and it wasn't his fault. By that I mean I'm not giving him like free range to say what he did was right. My Dad was kicked in the head by a horse before I was born and he had this huge Gash in his skull and we know today that he would have had brain damage basically, which made him violent and I'm not absolving him of his behavior, but that's the reason if it happened today, he'd be going to neurologists and psychiatrists and maybe getting treatment, but he was a very abusive husband and I think she ate too because that's, that was her coping mechanism and she ate. It was funny because I never saw my mom eat. This is the funny thing. I mean I saw her eat, like she made healthy dinners. There was a vegetable, there was a salad. It's not like she was just serving us dessert and Koolaid, but I actually never saw her eat and it's like when she died, you know, we, we found the evidence, all these McDonald's wrappers and m and m's, but like in public, she never ate. Most food addicts don't, you know, it's, it's, it's a disease that exists in isolation and private. But I never saw her eat anything more than. And she was always. That's the other thing, she was always on a diet. She was always either at weight watchers or tops or getting the shots of pregnant women's urine. So women's Europe, urine, the urine of pregnant women. There's this hcg diet, so she, it's not like she didn't try, so yeah, it was really hard and just, you know, genetically if, if one of your parents as obese you have, I think it's something like it's a very high percentage chance that you will be if two are obese. It's really the writing is on the wall. So I guess I'm a little bit lucky that one of my parents wasn't obese, but again, I'm not blaming my parents for that. Genetics loads. The gun is Dr Campbell says it's the Diet and lifestyle pulls the trigger and you know, Jewish people, we love to eat the Italian people too. I mean it's just. But it's a thing, you know, you, I just interviewed this would be a great interview for you by the way. He is amazing. Dr Frank Scatino in Florida and he was talking about how he grew up Italian and they basically, you know, baptized him with olive oil and it's like you eat because you're hungry or sad or lonely and, and, and like you eat for hours, like you go to somebody's house and you don't just eat one meal. It's like you're just eating and eating and eating. And the, my favorite thing is to tell people when my relatives, almost all of them are dead, but when I do go to AJewish funeral it, it's ridiculous. The food they serve after the funeral and I think this is why he's dead, you know, it's corn, beef and lox and cream cheese and white bagels and Rugelach and, and, and no fruits and vegetables. So yeah, the writing was on the wall.

Ian Cramer:                  00:14:51          Yeah. A couple things from that is number one, um, genetics is often blamed and it's sort of, it's, it's a convenient scapegoat because again, you can't do anything about it, like you're born with these genes. But I think a great example is someone like you who I think you would agree that you mentioned that your mom was obese. Everyone on her side was large, but you can still overcome your genetics, whether, whether you have the genes for obesity or the genes for some other chronic disease, most likely you can overcome your propensity to get that or two to have those genes express themselves. Am I correct?

Chef Aj:                        00:15:32          Absolutely. It's like people that are born with a gene for alcoholism. I have a friend, both of her parents were alcoholics and she said to me, well, what choice did I have to become an alcoholic? Both my parents are alcoholics and I have the gene. And I said, well you had the choice to not take that first drink.

Ian Cramer:                  00:15:48          Yeah. Yeah.

Chef Aj:                        00:15:49          And then the alcoholism wouldn't have expressed. Right. And you know, it's like with food it's harder though, Ian, because we just can't not eat. We can eat health promoting food. But man, we live like we live in a seven slash 11. I mean not my, not my apartment, but like can you go anywhere where there's not junk food? And now it's like, you know, people are like so excited because you know the impossible burger and beyond meat and they achieved and people are so excited because it's so easy to be Vegan now, meaning it's easy to be fat and sick and Vegan now because now there's an analog for every crap food that you ate as a carnivore.

Ian Cramer:                  00:16:26          Yeah. I don't know about you, but I certainly, if people in their transition say, hey, I'm eating more. Like I'm, I'm off 90 percent of the meat that I'm eating in favor of these meat analogs. I say that's a great step in the right direction. Keep going. I may point out that listen, you know, these meat analogs, although they certainly, and the suffering of these centi and beings probably it's not the healthiest you can be eating. So let's keep stepping in that right direction about those. Um, and, and the other thing I wanted to mention before was you said, you know, you go to these Jewish funerals sometimes and these foods that they're serving at these funerals is what height. The way I frame it is a strong argument could be made that these are the foods that led to this premature death of this person that we loved and this brings me to kind of a blog article that I wrote a while ago. Is that do you feel that we need to have a more frank conversation with people with loved ones about just the connection between our food and the reason why we see 600,000 people dying every year. I say the population of Wyoming every year succumbs to a disease that I believe it's about 91 percent is like I have a in my heart that I wish that I had at birth or I have some form of heart disease that I can't do anything about, so that leaves 99 percent of the deaths of heart disease is largely preventable and I just feel like we're kind of glazing over that every time we see a headline of some celebrity or some sports star died at 55 or 60 have a heart attack. We're not really. It's tough to come forward with, you know, I guess being sensitive and saying this. It's tragic. Anyway, I cut the cake. It's tragic, but how do we. After the dust settles and after everyone grieves say, hey, we, you know, this was most likely due to food is, is there a way to have that conversation

Chef Aj:                        00:18:34          I think you have the conversation before because I think when once it happens you're considered insensitive if you mentioned that something I might get away with because I'm known for that, but if you have more of an agreeable personality and it also you don't definitely don't want to say it to the grieving widow. That moment. I think it's difficult because I don't think people even make the connection that there is any connection between food and health. I know that I'm. I'm a fairly intelligent person. I went to an Ivy League college but I wasn't able to make the connection until I was 43 years old and what happened when I was 43 and it was almost 200 pounds. Even as a Vegan of 26 years is I started bleeding from precancerous polyps and it wasn't until I actually had a health scare that I looked into this and found out, wow, food really makes a difference. It has a profound effect on our health, on how we feel and how we look and even on what diseases we get and what diseases we can reverse and here I am considered a fairly intelligent person. Both my brothers were physicians, my uncle was his is a physician. My grandfather was a physician so they don't learn this in medical school and if the people that are are the guardians or where we should be the guardians of our health, but if the people that we look to for healthcare advice know nothing about this, how are we lay people expected to know and that's why you don't think of yourself as an anchovy because Angela started assaulting anyway too salty. Don't be an answer now, but I'm kidding. But the point is is that people don't know this unless they hear a podcast like yours, unless they see a movie like forks over knives. What the healthy eating you alive cowspiracy earthlings, people just don't know and you know, they can't change what they don't acknowledge now. Some people do know and don't want and wish they didn't know and, and choose to stick their heads in the sand and ignore it. But you know, it's like Dr Kim Williams says there's only two kinds of cardiologists, Vegan or ones that read the data. And, and so I guess we just need to educate people better about this. And, and the thing is, is even if they don't believe what I say is just take three weeks, try it for yourself. You don't have to agree with me or think I'm right, but let's put you on a whole food, whole food, not meat, analog food, because I want to get back to that and make one comment that I didn't make about why I think they may not be favorable for some people even in the transition, but let's put you on a whole food plant based Diet for three weeks. A month would be better. Three months even better, but three weeks. And let's see how you feel. You can always go back on day 22, but let's just do an experiment and the truth is, is after working with probably now over 3000 people, I've never met one person that didn't ultimately feel better. Now that doesn't mean that the first few days they feel great because if they're really addicted to animal products and cheese and sugar and fat and salt, they might be a period of discomfort, withdrawal, detoxification. But in the longterm I've never met anybody that got their blood pressure down or got off their diabetes medication or lost weight if they needed to. They didn't say, Gosh, I feel so much better. And that's what I wanted to make a brief statement about the meat analogs and again, you know, people sometimes get upset with me because they book me to speak at the Vegan bench fests and then I would think they know who I am and then they get upset because they. I say the truth about junk food, the worst place to find vegetarian Vegan food. Is it a Veggie fest? Because there's no fruits and vegetables. I just came back from Portland. There's cupcake vendors and ice cream vendors and they're not, and I understand you want to get people in to show them that it's and that's fine for some people, but if you are a food addict like I am and was, I'm in recovery now. Sugar, fat and salt is addictive and it doesn't matter if it comes from macaroni and cheese made by kraft in the blue and orange box or amy's and whatever color that box is. And so the problem with these meat analogs in cheese analogs is yes, it's true. It's so much better for the animals, so if for no other reason to do that, but if your goal is health and weight loss, it's still the same amount of sugar, fat and salt, they're still as addictive and so that's the problem I have with them for people that are saying they want to lose weight. If you don't want to lose weight then then please eat those instead. You know, there's still packaging. No, you know, I, I think about the environment to those meat analogs and she's analogs require a factory. They were acquired boxes, you know, fruits and vegetables. Don't,

Ian Cramer:                  00:23:01          yeah, yeah, they're, I mean, this is a topic of contention among people like us and, and, and kind of other more, I mean, I guess I would consider myself still moderate, but other people within this community who, I mean, look at it. I guess my bottom line is, is a step in the right direction. If, if nothing else, like you said, for you know, let's not kill a billions and billions of sentience animals every year for a largely inefficient process, but um, but the big, but here is I completely 100 percent agree with you. We are on the same page where there is a lot of Vegan junk food. And I know this is one of your main topics is you, you stress health and whole foods plant based that happens to also your diet happens to also be Vegan at the same time. So not only. So again, this is, it's the best of all worlds. Um, and, and so it's the best of all worlds. You're going to make yourself as healthy as the blue zones. You're going to not kill animals and you're going to help the environment. So why not do it now or or, or transition in that direction?

Chef Aj:                        00:24:11          So one of the reasons I stress health is because I was not well and it maybe if I could have gotten away with it, who knows, maybe I'd be the spokesperson for some of these Vegan junk food or even create it, but because I was fat, meaning if I put six, almost 200 pounds as a Vegan and because I was bleeding internally from what the doctor said was precancer I had been vegan 26 years, 26 years and yet I was still able to get the precursor to cancer on a Vegan Diet. And so I stress health because I have had lots of Vegan friends now that have died. So it Vegan, you know, Dr Goldhammer who is how I found you through his interview. He always says, you know, being Vegan is we'll guarantee you get into heaven. It's just no guarantee on how quickly you'll get there. Because the truth is is if people are Vegan for ethical reasons, which a lot of people are. And I know initially that's how I became Vegan. I'm not saying it's about being thin or being skinny, but I think people do judge us in this world unfortunately, and how we look and it's not about being thin, but if you don't look healthy, which some vegans don't and you're trying to enroll other people into this way of eating, they're going to say, well, I don't want to look like, you know. Um, I, you know, like a lot of the Vegan junk food leads to acne because of the oil. If you don't, people say, well, I don't want to look like you are if you're, if you're, again not about being thin, not judging people, but if you're really, really heavy and trying to promote veganism other. I'm just telling you what I've heard other people say. So again, I don't want people to say, oh, she's, she's fat shaming. I'm not because I was fat and most of the people I work with are overweight. But when I'm saying, is it about, it's about looking and feeling your best. Because when you look and feel your best, then you are much better in a position to enroll other people because you look healthy and you feel better and I don't think that. I think it's fine if you want to have these things as treats if you're not a food addict, but there are people that literally just eat Vegan junk food and that's all they eat and they're not eating fruits and vegetables and that is a recipe for disaster for health because that's what I did for 26 years and ended up 200 pounds and with my colon riddled with what they call precancerous polyps. So you can only get away with unhealthy eating for so long.

Ian Cramer:                  00:26:27          Yeah. Well I just want to add to that too is not only do we want it, hey, you know, this person is a stressing or encouraging people to go vegan and they look like really overweight and really unhealthy because they're eating quite a bit. Copious amounts of Vegan junk food. That's way of looking at it and I completely agree with that, but I think the other thing that is just rampant in this vegan movement also is more of a, again, this is not like you just said, this is not everyone but is militant vegans who are, you know, they're really passionate, but I feel like the term Vegan also has a negative connotation because of angry vegans, militant vegans and something that I stress out at the end of most social media posts as well as the end of these facebook live sessions that you caught me on was remain responsible and compassionate ambassadors to this movement and and you can give people the facts and be supportive and that will for more more likely than not lead people to plant based nutrition and slash or veganism rather than being in people's faces. Something that I like. Now that's, that's you see more and more on social media are these cubes of truth where like they're wearing the Guy Fox, Fox masks and there they have the monitors and they're just basically like showing people here's what's happening inside of a slaughterhouse and, and, and they're not really, you're shouting and getting in their faces. I kinda liked that. It's passive. It gives people the opportunity to kind of look at this stuff and make up their own minds. But um, but you know, yeah. Again, you know, I don't want to be, I don't want to be Vegan because this person, this Vegan is getting in my face or calling me names on social media. Do you get that same vibe?

Chef Aj:                        00:28:18          Yeah, I, I hope that I'm not that kind of Vegan. I know that I'm outspoken and passionate about health, but I think I am an imperfect Vegan. I'm not an abolitionist by the way. So in other words at my dog eats meat, you know, and a lot of vegans Shay me and shun me for that. I, my dog, every dog I have by the way is adopted as an adult. And so it's, when you get the dog four years old from the shelter, it's a lot more. I'm not saying that it's not possible, but I have not had success in making any of my dogs Vegan. I do feed them v Dog, which is a Vegan kibble, but they get a very, very smallest amount possible of little bit of animal products to eat their meat. And so a lot of vegans think that I'm not, that's not right. You know that I do that. So I'm not an abolitionist. I'm not all or nothing. I do think though, for the people I worked with with food addiction that certain foods need to be all or nothing. So there's a big difference. And again, my husband eats these Vegan junk foods and I love him and I'm married and he doesn't eat them every day obviously because he knows enough about health, but I travel a lot and I come home and I see the cream cheese and I, you know, but, but again, he's not, he's never been overweight. He's not a food addict and he doesn't have any health problems like high blood pressure. But he also eats lots of fruits and vegetables too, so again, it's about finding a balance because transition foods can be useful in the transition, but, but eventually we hope that people will transition. But I, I hope that I'm not a militant Vegan. I try not to be that way. I really, you know, I look at people at the grocery store and I can look in their cart and I can guess their weight before I look up. Don't say anything to them. I pretty much only speak when spoken to. I mean I often will have a fun tee shirt on that says something about veganism. Um, you know, like eat your vegetables or whatever, or a necklace. And I try to work veganism into conversations. Like for instance, if somebody, if somebody says something to me and this happens a lot, like, well you can see me, your audience camp, but I'm not wearing any makeup. And sometimes people will say, wow, your skin is really so beautiful. What's your secret? I'll say, well, you know, it's vegetables I've been beat. No, but I don't think I'm A. I mean, I hope I'm not, I'm not saying that, you know, but, but I don't want to be because I don't like those people. I met a lot of those people in my twenties when I work in animal rights a lot and they, and if that's it just I don't like that feeling, you know? Um, but if anything, if I'm militant, militant with the people that I work with that are food addicts about sugar and flour and alcohol because they can't eat those foods if they want to recover. But as far as veganism, no, I think, I think anytime you don't eat animals, it's a good thing. And I remember once there was an ethical, a well known ethical Vegan that said to me, and she was very upset because I was, we were speaking at the same place and she was upset because I was promoting an oil free diet and things like that. And she goes, well, you know, you're, you're, you're, you're just making it too hard for people to become Vegan. And if you're not Vegan for the animals then you shouldn't even be Vegan. And I said, you know, really, because I just spoke at farm sanctuary in the last time I checked the pigs and the cows, they didn't seem to care why people weren't eating them, you know, so whether you're being good for your health, for the environment, for the animals to out of the three, all three, I don't think there's ever a bad reason to be vegan.

Ian Cramer:                  00:31:36          That statement kind of upsets me a little bit as well because I feel like what needs to happen is we just need to have conversations. We need to have thoughtful and civil conversations and I'd be more than happy to do this in front of a crowd of vegans and say, look, we're on. Someone just said this. Someone just said this in a podcast episode. We're on the same team. You know, does it really matter if your, you know, someone's glass, someone says isn't truly Vegan, but they're glass is 95 percent full of fruits and vegetables and maybe they just haven't weaned off of. They have a serving of meat a week. They have a serving of dairy a week they haven't weaned off of yet. Isn't that better than the alternative of standard American where they're going through tons of dairy, tons of junk food, tons of meat. Isn't that better? And this, this gets into something that I want to get into later. Is your. You brought up perfection. I feel like we need to distance ourselves a little bit from perfection. Strive for progress. But anyway, I think we're. Let me, I don't want to get too far into the weeds. Let's get back to your story though. With, with age, I think you said 46. You had these precancerous polyps. 40th three. January first 2003. I was almost 43. Okay. So 43. And you, you've been vegan now for several decades for, you know, for ethical reasons. And so take us from there as to how did you finally realize and slash or find a whole foods plant based nutrition?

Chef Aj:                        00:33:09          That's a great question, Ian, because again, I didn't do it overnight. You know, when people find me, they see the result of over 50 years of failure. So that's, that's one thing I want to point out and I'd seen like, oh, she's so successful. She, you know, yeah, I'm successful. I became successful at 52 after failing for over 50 years, first of all, because if I had known, like I said, that this was going to be my career, I would have done like the bloggers and I would have documented everything and taking photos. I didn't know I was supposed to be something else, you know, I was supposed to be a veterinarian. It just didn't happen. I didn't know but that. But the point is, is so after what really changed my life, it was a couple of things. There's so many things, but the first thing was, is at the age of 43 when I got this diagnosis of precancerous polyps and they could not remove them during the procedure, the outpatient procedure, because my colon was in a state of just such bad shape that they would have risked infection. So the doctor said I was going to have to come back and take lots of medication, which I'm afraid of. I'm a very, very difficult patient with medications because I have so many allergies, too many medications and they said we're going to have to do surgery and that is what freaked me out because at the age of 19 I went to a hospital for what was supposed to be a same day, very minor procedure I was getting like, I think it was a cyst removed from the back of my head. No big deal, but I was allergic to the anesthetic because I've been a lifelong asthmatic and I remember waking up. I actually at the time I was a respiratory therapist and the in the recovery room with the, with the team to resuscitate me and that was like the scariest thing because if I didn't get resuscitated I would have been intubated, which is like the scariest thing to be on a ventilator. And ever since then I have been deathly afraid. It's like ptsd of anesthesia. Even even you can ask my dentist, I, I'm the worst patient because of that experience and maybe there's some treatment for it. I don't know. So, so what happened was is I went to this place called the optimum health institute in San Diego, actually lemon grove and there's one in Austin that I had since been to and I really was going there more of AJust to rest for a week to figure out what am I going to do. I had no idea what I was getting into. I chose it ironically because I had this magazine of spa vacations and I chose it because it was literally the cheapest place to go. If I had heard about true north, I would have gone there, but it was like something like $875 a week and I'm like, oh I can afford this. I took a week off work and boy, that place changed my life because there were doctors and nurses were telling people that what we eat matters and it's like nobody ever said food made any difference. And I mean there were lectures all day from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM and there were people there giving testimonials about how eating this way and it optimum health. It was raw. I don't think your diet has to be wrong, but it was whole food plant based. There was no sticker. There was no oil or salt or flower alcohol or caffeine or chocolate was fruits and vegetables. They didn't have starch there, which I think is a big missing, which I don't think is sustainable, but the idea is compared to what I was eating, which was coke slurpees and Dr Peppers and all kinds of Vegan dessert. It was way better and people would come in and give their testimonials of recovering from things that we're told are incurable, like lymes disease and Lupus and even things like aids and brain tumors and I'm like, well Gosh. I don't even have something that serious. This should be a piece of Kale. And so I stayed on the program for six months and I went back to my gi doctor and had a repeat sigmoidoscopy because they didn't do a colonoscopy on me. Back then. For whatever reason, which we know now was not good because you can miss a lot of things on the sigmoidoscopy. But the thing was is it was the same doctor and my colon was completely clear. It was pink, it was. He said it was vascular, like a newborn baby. And he said, where did you have the surgery? And I'm like, well, I didn't have the surgery. He goes, well, I have photos of every polyp and they're gone. I said, well, you know, I really just changed my diet. And he said, well that's impossible. And he storms out of the room. And the assisting doctor who I think was from India said, I believe you. And right then I'm like, okay, there's something to this. And I really started immersing myself in the health aspect of veganism and it was, you know, and it, it didn't happen overnight. I mean, my gosh, I was still fat for almost another 10 years, but I was sure getting healthier on the inside by stopping all these foods that were so deleterious to my health. And now I know to my endothelial as well. I didn't know about oil. I mean, I kind of knew because I'll be honest, I hadDr. McDougall's Book is early as 1987 and I know he said the fat you eat is the fat you wear, but I didn't really quite understand that or how it applied to me because the truth is, is a food addict. If you take away my fat then how am I going to have candy and cake and cookies? I mean then I'm having. I'm going to have twizzlers. No, I mean I want, I didn't just want sugar. I realized I was fat and sugar. I wanted, you know, that kind of stuff. But I'll tell you what happened is in that, and again Dr Esselstyn, he probably doesn't even know this, but it was a video I saw of his that was done at a health conference that takes place in Los Angeles called vege source and we're not sure when he did the video, but I watched the video on August first 2008. And I remember because that's the day I went, Sos free and he was so likable and he was. So like you say, he wasn't really like in your face like you must do this. He was just, he was so handsome and charming and he used expressions like, you know, we're all just tall puppies in the grass and I just loved this guy and he really somehow got through to me that sugar, oil, salt, healthy foods, especially if you were trying to prevent heart disease. And here I had lost almost everybody in my family from what we know now is a foodborne illness which is preventable, which is heart disease. And it wasn't even doing this for weight loss than I thought, well, you know, what, why wouldn't I want to eat in a manner that is going to make me, as he says, bulletproof against heart disease. So I adopted a sugar free oil free salt free diet and because of this video of Dr Esselstyn's I saw. And um, and so that's what propelled me to the next phase. And then of course going to true north in 2011 to the next phase. And, and I agree with you Ian, that it's not about perfection. It's about progress. And when people, it drives me crazy when people say, oh, chef AJ's perfect. She has so much willpower. This brings me to what you said in your facebook live today. I'm not perfect, but there are two areas in my life that I'm going to say I'm pretty close to perfect. One I know in perfect and one is my environment. My environment is perfect. You don't have to be perfect to have a perfect environment. And by that I me not having junk food in my house. And so once I realized the food addiction was real and that I was a food addict on January second, 2012, the day I started my ultimate health journey and ultimate weight loss journey, all the crap food was out of the house and it never came back in and nobody's allowed to bring it in. So am I perfect? No. Have I had slips and relapses? Yes. Not In my house because there's nothing in my house to slip up on. The other area that I'm somewhat perfect in is my preparation. In other words, I don't expect healthy food to magically appear everywhere I go. And it's so funny because people will join my ultimate weight loss program and they'll say, well, I went to the restaurant and there was no sugar, oil, salt, free food. I'm like, Whoa, what planet do you live on? I mean, I could probably think of two restaurants in the United States that maybe offer that. Right? So I'm perfect in my preparation. And the reason is, is because preparation trumps motivation and the truth is, is it doesn't take any willpower to not eat something that isn't there and it doesn't take any willpower to eat something that's already made. And so I learned early on that if I want healthy food always available, that I either have to do it and I do with batch cooking or I have to be willing to pay somebody to do it. And that has to be a non negotiable. And so many people grew up on fast food or have parents that didn't really feed, you know, teach them how to cook. These are skills that can be learned, but it doesn't have to be difficult. And if you live anywhere near a Wendy's, then go to Wendy's and get a baked potato, but you always have to be prepared. And I think being raised kosher kind of help set the stage for the fact that the world was never going to be set up to meet my needs. And so when you're kosher and a little kid, you know that if you go to friend's house for a birthday party, you know, you take your food and they understand the parents have had the conversation, just like if you have food allergies for example, nobody's going to force you to have something. And so I never felt weird or different because, you know, I had my own food because there wasn't kosher food at these things. And then when I became vegan at 17, I had to do the same thing because in 1977 there was no vegan food. So I brought my food and I never felt weird or different. Um, so, so it's the same thing now if you have your food with you all the time, which I guess could be inconvenient for some people if they're not used to it, but preparation and environment to me are the two main things and these are areas that you want to work on more than you want to work on other areas in, in, once you get those two in place, it's not as hard as you think.

Ian Cramer:                  00:42:07          Yeah. Yeah. I completely agree. And I wrote down because I wanted to mention it in our interview, you said in the live session quote, the environment isn't just key, it's the number one predictor of your success and I couldn't agree more if it's available and something else. A couple other people. I think Bj was one of them, a couple other people in the live session brought up. Like chef AJa also says something like, if it's in your house, it's in your mouth.

Chef Aj:                        00:42:33          Yeah, that's true. You know, and by the way, I, you know, I just finished interviewing 20 medical doctors for the real truth about weight loss summit. That is key. It's free. It's coming up soon and they all said the same thing even if I didn't ask them, so how could 20 medical doctors, Harvard educated doctors, Cleveland Clinic doctors, how could what they're saying be wrong if it's in your house? It is in your mouth and it's not a question of if you will eat. It just went and lot of people say, well, it doesn't call to me. Well, it may not call to you right now at the beginning of you starting this program while your willpower is high, but trust me, the minute you have a bad day, your husband yells at you, your boss yells at you. Your dog is sick or in the hospital, you're going to eat it. And I've worked with 3000 people. Now there is no exceptions to if it's in your house, it's in your mouth. And the thing is is if you know from the pleasure trap or interviewing Dr Goldhammer or listening to Dr Lisle were genetically hardwired to prefer the most concentrated source of calories in our environment for survival. That's how it was for eons, for millions of years. And the thing is, is whatever the most concentrated source of calories is in your environment, you're gonna want to eat it, even if it's not your favorite flavor, it's just the way it is and this is what causes cravings because you can get cravings, just buy cues in your environment and it doesn't even have to be visual cues. I had one client that until her husband stopped eating crunchy cereal at night, she just couldn't lose weight because just hearing that, you know, she didn't look at the cereal, she didn't smell it. Cereal doesn't have an aroma like other foods, but just the sound of the crunching or the sound of the crunching of the pretzels and another one of my client's case. It drove them crazy and it drove them to eat because there's this thing known as the cramp circuitry, which you can find on some of Dr Lyle's lectures where we are always going to be driven to eat the most concentrated source of calories. And if it's there, you're going to eat it. You know Dr. Kerri Saunders is famous for saying that if you hang around a barbershop, it's just a matter of time until you get a haircut. And I learned this from them. Dr. Lal has always said that we have to work on our environment than we do ourselves. And until people get this, I think they're going to always struggle to some degree.

Ian Cramer:                  00:44:38          Yeah. Something, you know, I've got the sense that um, you know, certainly learning about you and, and your, your food addictions to this, the salty, oily fatty foods and sugary foods is, um, I want to ask you a little bit about your level of being strict and, and kind of how many, you know, how many people are out there that are at the level that you were at and, and have your food addiction and other words. I guess if someone wants to get healthier, do they have to do go as strict as you did? Can you kind of parse that out a little bit?

Chef Aj:                        00:45:18          So that's a great question. And I think that the most important thing is that each individual knows where they are on the continuum. So you know, I don't look at food addiction like I do high blood pressure where if you go to the doctor and your blood pressure is greater than, I think it's 1:20 over 80, you're hypertensive. So your blood pressure could be 1:30 over 90 but it could also be, you know, 200 over 1:50. So they're even with even with things that have exact numbers, there's going to be gradients. So with food addiction, I don't believe there is a definitive test. They're certainly not a blood test. It's mostly self report it and not only does it exist on a continuum with some people being more vulnerable and some people being less vulnerable because it's also got an emotional component. It's going to change over time. So if you're, if you're the worst food addict in the world, but you're in a safe environment for true north for like three weeks and maybe getting some, some therapy with Dr Lyle and feeling pretty good at doing self care, like Yoga and meditation, you might be less vulnerable when the ice cream truck drives by. Then if you're working 80 hours a week at AJob you hate and not exercising, things like that, so so it can change right now depending on who you talk to because it's not yet in the DSM and it's not really a diagnosis. We don't really know what percentage of people are food addicts especially because there seems to be so much shame around this disease that even people that suffer with it aren't willing to admit it. Now, several years ago I interviewed Dr Pam Peak, the author of the hunger fixed. She said about one in every seven people are seriously addicted to food and just last week I interviewed the chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic Doctor Michael Roizen. He said about 17 percent, which is more like one out of five, which means it could be increasing. So again, if you just have to know where you fall in that continuum. And so I would argue that why not be as strict as you can just to see that instead of like eating, it's sorta like if we look at this, like we look at alcohol for example, and I think you do have to look at addiction that way, at least at the beginning. If you're an alcoholic, you don't bargain with your Aa sponsor and listen, you're going to quit the vodka. I'm going to switch to wine and beer, or I'm going to drink light beer. You need to abstain for alcohol, I think, and you need to do it long enough to see how vulnerable you are. Can some people go back to drinking safely? I don't know. So what I would say is stop all those foods because the truth is the oil, the salt, the sugar, the flour. These are not high, not really health promoting their of a high caloric density. They're not going to help you lose weight, not the salt. The salt does trigger passive overconsumption of eating 11 percent of more of your calories, particularly from fat. Why not get on a really, really clean eating plan? And see how it feels and then if you feel you can add some of this, these things back, do it. But, but you know, the truth is, is that that is extreme as it sounds. The Diet that I recommend, it's not any more extreme than the Diet that the guests that brought me to you, Dr Alan Goldhammer recommends just for health for health. It's what are, it's really what our ancestors called Food Ian, you know, and now it's like I'm this extreme extremists when I'm eating what our ancestors ate throughout most of human history, our ancestors didn't eat sugar or flour, alcohol. They didn't have salt in any concentrated form or in a salt shaker that our ancestors did eat some animal products, but not to the degree we're eating them and they didn't eat the type of animal products that were, you know, factory farm and cage raised and given massive doses of hormones or antibiotics. So I wanna I wanna have people maybe understand that maybe I'm not the one that's extreme, but that the standard American diet, which also the acronym sad, which I would call the substance abuse side. That maybe that in fact is extreme, but because it's so popular, pervasive, insidious now that nobody even recognizes how extreme it is to assault your taste buds in your endothelial all day with these foods. So I would say when in doubt, leave it out because you know, you can always add things back in, but you're never gonna know for sure unless you do a clean diet just to see where you land. Because you know what I think what salt, especially some people probably can have a little. Especially even food addicts, that seems to not be the biggest trigger. But for food addicts, sugar, flour, alcohol, most of them do not do well with it in any amount.

 

Ian Cramer:                  00:49:45          It's the new normal. I feel like it's, it's just we are surrounded by so many, as I say in my presentations, hyper concentrated forms of calories that are really salty, sugary, and fatty and, and again, at the same thing that you brought up at the beginning of this interview was you said that we are now seeing rates of, you know, the number of Americans who are overweight or obese is now 60 or 70 percent is we're seeing, you know, there's a lot of people, if, if let's say I'm, I'm carrying a little bit too much extra weight. Oh, there's a lot of people who look like me so I don't feel so. Um, so, you know, for lack of a better term, ashamed or I don't feel so guilty about eating the food that I'm eating. And you're totally, it's sort of like, it's now what's the status quo of just everyone needs fast food. So I feel better about my habits when we need to. We need to at least take a step back. And like you just brought up, have that conversation of is what chef has saying really that extreme or is that kind of the way things used to be? I mean even back as far as as um, cave men, but like, you know, 18, hundreds, early 19 hundreds when people were eating more whole foods, they weren't eating as many or if any processed foods. I think that's super important. So let's, I'm really, I want to hear about your relationship with Dr Goldhammer and Doug Lisle and, and the work that you're doing now and all these live sessions and all these youtube movies that you're doing, what are some ways that you are and public speaking, I mean, what can you tell us about the ways that you are trying to get the word out there?

Chef Aj:                        00:51:23          Absolutely. But can I say one thing, because you said something so beautifully about is it extreme or is it just the norm? What, what? Some people don't know unless they maybe are subscribed to my email list at eat, unprocessed that come. Is it. A lot of my work is with people that are not even Vegan, so I teach and a lot of spas, highend, spas, they are not Vegan cruise ships places where it's not Vegan and I never even have to say The v Word and I certainly never mentioned that. I'm and I teach a culinary schools, real culinary schools, hands on classes and I never say that I'm nothing. I've never say, but I don't get these jobs by saying I'm Vegan or whole food plant based or that I don't use sugar. Oil Salt. I'd let the food stand for itself speak for itself and so when I make this food, like at Rancho La, Puerta, Mexico. I remember the first time I got there, which was in February of 2012. The chef, the executive chef that hired me was a little bit nervous because she didn't understand how food could ever taste good without these things. And then whenever there's leftovers, the staff eats it like the drivers and the helpers and they were loving it. She was like, wow. It blew her away. That regular people, meaning people that don't eat Vegan at all, let alone sos rate could like the food and so. So that's the thing I want people to understand is that it sounds weird because you've never done it and maybe you've never tasted good sos free food, but it does exist. So. Okay, so to the next question, so what am I doing? A W I, I could interview Dr Goldhammer, Dr. Lal Everyday 24 hours a day if they would let me, but as it stands right now, Dr Lyle is about once a month and he does a regular appearance on my. I do it on facebook. Chef has a facebook page and then I put it on Youtube. I do it live so people can ask questions and I'd like to interview. Got Dribbled. Hammer is often as I can because you know the truth is, is everything I teach is really what I learned from Dr Lisle, Dr Goldhammer and Dr McDougall specifically in his book, the McDougall program for maximum weight loss. That's what I'm about. That's what I eat. That's what I teach. And the funny thing is, is the Diet style that I recommend is what Dr Goldhammer has been teaching for 32 years at true north just for health. You know, I mean, some people have to lose weight to true north. It just so happens. And this is the other thing I would want to articulate is extreme as my diet, which isn't my diet. I believe it's nature or God's Diet. If you believe in God, it's just, it's, it's actually what I'm eating and recommending is food. Because as you said, Americans eat 92, percent of their calories from animal products and process food. It just so happens that the dietary style that our ancestors ate, that works so beautifully for weight loss, it w, W, if you don't need to lose weight, you won't. I mean you can add some of the richer foods like the nuts, seeds and Avocados, but it's the same diet that's going to restore your endothelial function, that if you have heart disease or diabetes, bds or autoimmune disease, it's going to help those two. It's, it's just a diet for us, more health. It is the human diet and really what I'm t I get criticized for teaching the human diet. That's really, it's funny when you think about it that way and so I try to get the message out when I'm really excited about is I was, there was a gentleman in, in Singapore who produced a, uh, an online summit called the plant fit summit and I was a guest and he said, I'm doing one on weight loss, would you like to be involved? And I said, yeah, I figured he was going to interview me. He goes, no, I need you to host it. And so I get to interview like you, like the top experts in this field of food addiction in weight loss. And I, it's been the most gratifying experience in my life. And, and what I'm learning is that yes, they could vary on a few things, but they've, they don't vary on the key things about being prepared, having support, having a clean environment. They all agree on the basic whole food plant based is the way to go. How how hole you want to go is up to, you know, if you want to sprinkle sugar and salt, I don't care as long as it's working for you. That's the other thing. Is it working for you? Don't follow a guru unless it's working for you. So in other words, don't say, well I have to do such and such because Dr such and such says if it's working for Dr such and such, great, but if it's not working for you, there is no one magical food you have to eat in any amount you need to eat. A variety of whole plant foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. If you can afford it, calorically and it's not a trigger. Some high fat plant foods like nuts and seeds and that's all you really have to do. It's simple. It's just not easy.

Ian Cramer:                  00:55:45          Yeah. I think that's really important to point out because there's a bunch of. We, I call them gurus, but I mean they are medical doctors or in Dr Goldhammer his case, you know, a chiropractor of 32 years or more and is, has the clinical background and the experience to be treating these things. He also works with other medical doctors on staff, but there is um, you know, again there's the Esselstyn Mcdougal, but then there's little nuances that are a little bit different between these doctors from and Fuhrman is another one where you're right. Like if, if something is just not clicking with you, you know, make little, little adjustments I think is okay. But I think that the broad, if you look at zoom out a little bit and look at the diets of McDougall and Esselstyn and Fuhrman rman and chef AJ, what they all have in common is the vast mAJority of your calories, if they're coming from nourishing sources, whole plant foods, that's the bottom line. And then little nuances. If you want to try the nuances of, of chef AAJ, salt oil, sugar free, great. Go for it. If you want to try the nuances of, I know in particular John McDougall says, you know, if it's gonna, make it eat more mashed potatoes, sprinkle a little salt on top, it's probably not going to give you a heart disease. And he also says, I think if it's gonna, if it's gonna, make you eat more oatmeal in the morning. If you want to sprinkle some refined sugar on their okay with it, with a little bit of, with a caveat of hopefully longterm you can wean yourself off of that as your palate adjust. So I like that. That don't get too wedded and don't get too micro into a particular guru, is understand the fundamentals and see what works for you. I really liked that.

Chef Aj:                        00:57:31          Yeah, and again, my take home message for people that really know me and really come to my classes is eat plants and especially eat more fruits and vegetables. It's not so hard to get people to eat sweet potato fries, but getting people to eat those vegetables. Boy, that's an uphill battle.

Ian Cramer:                  00:57:46          Yeah. Yeah. I ha ve a few questions here, um, from a couple of patrons of my podcast that I think are really good questions. The first one is from Eric. He says he, Eric is a whole foods plant based chef as well, and he was wondering if there are any courses, classes or workshops for whole foods, plant based shafts to increase their knowledge to add to their resume and to more effectively use food as medicine.

Chef Aj:                        00:58:13          Oh God, that's such a great question. Erica, and I wish there was a way we could instill a course in every culinary school across America in this because it would ultimately help any chef that's becoming a chef, especially if they were a chef at a hotel, a spa or a restaurant to know how to do this. I mean, it would only add to their cache. In other words, I don't think there's anything right now that I know of. I mean, I know that there's online cooking courses and I don't get the online cooking courses because I'm telling you somebody that went to culinary school. The thing that was so cool about culinary school is you got to taste the food and so if you were making something, the teacher would taste it and tell you what was wrong with it or what was right with it or you would taste their version and I don't know how you can learn to cook. I mean because to me cooking is like a kinesthetic art. It's hands on tactile, olfactory, gustatory and, and I think computers are great for learning. Lots of things like especially learning, you know, computer stuff that you. Computer is a great way to learn how to do computers. But for cooking to me it is hands on and, and so there just doesn't seem to be any are plant based culinary school. So what living. I don't know if living light is still around. That's where I went. That was a rock culinary school. And uh, I really, I know that there's the one in New York that is primarily plant based, but see, I think what Eric is suggesting to have, have something like what it could be just a really healthy module where it's every like, it's like even if it was just an elective, because I'll tell ya, I'm even, if you can get a chef somewhere to do Vegan, it's really hard to get them to do no oil and it's even harder to get them to nuno assault. And I know this because I produce a conference every year called the ultimate weight loss conference in the last two years. Up until two years ago, we did the conference ourself, which means we did. We went at a venue that would let us bring the food in the conference got too big. And so now we're doing it in Las Vegas and we had to train the chefs and they're very trainable by the way. And in a lot of them, well you don't want to work with a chef. That was one of the hotels was like, well I think I don't like Vegan foods. So we went to a different hotel where they were actually curious and, and the thing is, is these, this team of chefs at the Tuscany in Las Vegas, once I educated them, I gave them my books. I gave them a little bit of my lecture on Calorie density because the hardest thing wasn't for them to make the food taste good. But to understand that when people don't eat oil that they need more food. They just didn't believe how much we needed in terms of volume. But we've done two conferences with them now and we always bring them on stage the last day and they get a standing ovation and I don't think they get that at the other conferences that they're doing because they. And I think it, I think they like it because as a chef, you know, you generally do the same thing kind of all the time. And here they, they had an opportunity to be creative and, and they were taking my recipes and making them visually more beautiful and changing things up a bit. And, and the food was delicious. And the people that come to the conference or like I can't believe how good this food is and in some of the people our guests are like, they don't believe that it doesn't have sugar, oil and salt as well. So I think it would be. I would be willing to for free to train. Well I mean when I say that the one that did go out there and then have 50 people call me, but according to my schedule I'd be willing to work with some of these hotels or restaurants because that's what I've done in La to get some of these items on the menu. Like for example, follow your heart, which is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in California, one of the two owners, but was a patient of Esselstyn's and the food that they were serving was junk food, Vegan and, and they took my class and now they have an SOS free menu at this restaurant. So it would again, if we could just call. I wish it didn't even have to have labels because to me the way I eat is food. The way everybody else eats is the weird and abnormal way, but if it's delicious, why can't it be on the menu? I mean if you took a roasted sweet potato and stuffed it with black beans and a little bit of chopped Kale and maybe some porn and Pico de Gallo and some guacamole either made out of avocado or peas and Jalapeno and Cilantro. This is a beautiful, colorful, delicious dish. Why do we have to think of it as SOS free. It's good. If it was on the menu, it's just that we put these labels on it. That was like, oh, expectations. While it's. It's Vegan, a campy good. It's oil free. It can't be good. Not True at all. There's a restaurant I worked with in Los Angeles called Hugo's and the owners took my class and the manager took my class and the chef took my class and they now make their soups without oil. They're Vegan soups and some of their sauces and salad dressings and they were smart enough not to even mention it on the menu and nobody even noticed when they.

Ian Cramer:                  01:02:48          Right. I think that's huge. Well, so you're. I mean, this is the future and I think you are, you are such a crusader and you are educating people and showing people the way and showing people the light and one thing I tell people in my presentations is let's say there's a get together and someone wants to bring over a dish. You don't announce to everyone that, oh hey, this dish happens to be vegan because that's probably going to turn people off if you don't. If you don't alert people, red alert. This is Vegan. If you don't make it a big deal, it'll. It'll eventually over time just become normal and then maybe a week later you can. You can say, oh, by the way, Hey, you know that digital is really good. Oh, that it was Vegan you maybe a week later or something like that, which will be funny.

Chef Aj:                        01:03:31          Absolutely. Like a year later because a week later they had a stomach ache, but it's true. Never, never just say, and that's why I had such good luck as a pastry chef because I worked at a regular restaurant and I got the job just based on my desserts that I brought in and nobody even. I mean, we told people they were Vegan, but we didn't advertise them as Vegan. We certainly didn't advertise them as oil free. We just didn't tell people and they were delicious.

Ian Cramer:                  01:03:54          This needs to be the new normal. This needs to be the new normal. I'm Elizabeth says she's a she. So Elizabeth, Elizabeth, I guess met you. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and cooking with you. You are a bundle of energy and a true pleasure to be around. This is kind of a multitiered question. How do you maintain a positive attitude and high energy in challenging times and she says personal diet.

Chef Aj:                        01:04:19          Otherwise, yeah. Well that's. That's harder than the Diet. I actually, you know, a self care that you know what? Well, first of all the food helps because I really do believe that you are. What you eat affects your brain. Whether you drink coffee or alcohol and this food just gives you what I call a calm, stable brain to face the day. So the food is foremost, but it's not enough. At least it's not enough for me. There's other things I gotta do like move my body whether I want to or not. I was like, you're the cyclist. I was the like avoid exercise at all cost person until I met John Pierre and I was 52 and you know, just like with eating vegetables with exercise with me, I don't have to like it. I just have to do it. So I don't know if you can see, but there's a spin bike right there. 600 bucks. That was my anniversary president this year from my husband, Kaiser Spin Bike. And if I want to watch a new show coming out on Netflix that I really want to see, guess what the rule has always been. The only way I get to watch TV is if I'm on this bike. And I guess what I ended up spinning, because the shows are actually sometimes they're longer than 30 minutes and sometimes I'll go 90 minutes just because I'm watching television. So, so, so exercising is, it's, it really does boost those. All those wonderful brain chemicals, the help help my mood and, and you know, it's really the most underutilized antidepressants and antianxiety medicine. So for me it's got to be a nonnegotiable. So the third thing, Elizabeth, is the thing that's most difficult for me and that's like I called the mindfulness piece, which for some people it's just actual mindfulness meditation, but I think it can be anything like it could even be crafts or doing a puzzle where you're taking just some time and, and just being mindful is to what you're doing. Because most of us are eating in the car, we're checking email. I always make sure that I do. And this isn't enough for, at least for me because I love Yoga. But every night before I go to bed, non negotiable 20 minutes and then also kind of tells my brain I'm winding that I do yoga. So it's very relaxing. But it is, it is hard, especially in Los Angeles and especially right now we have fires and we have shootings and it really is hard sometimes to be sane and positive in a world that is kind of crazy and negative. And, and another thing I do, and I'm not afraid to admit it as I talked to Dr Doug Lisle every single week, you can get an appointment with him for $75 for 30 minutes on his website esteem dynamics and that, that always puts me in a good mood and gives me perspective. So, so I, you know, I do a lot of things and I haven't, I have a pet. The other thing is, oh my gosh, you know, pets are just so. They're so healing. There's so nurturing and it's just, they do bring us into the moment because you know why they only live in the moment. And so I think having Bailey at it just really enhances my life and a volunteer work is the other thing that I do because I volunteer at a cancer hospital and a lot of times I'm stressed and it's like I don't have time. This is [inaudible]. Take five hours a week between the end and I'll tell you, that boosts my whatever positive brain chemicals happen when you do good stuff like that. I mean it's on fire for days because you know when you help somebody get as bad as things are for some of you, and I know that they probably are, I got a promise you that there's going to be people that are even less fortunate and when you you lift, when you reach out your hand to help somebody rise up, you rise yourself up at the same time. And so I would recommend that over whether you're Vegan or not. Then if everybody could just find three hours a week to do some volunteer work, I mean the world would change instantly at my height and my college graduation from cal state northridge. Our keynote speaker was the deaf actress Marlee Matlin and she gave us that challenge and I've never wavered that she said, now it is your responsibility to not go out and get jobs, but to go out and do volunteer work. And I'm like, something just clicked with me. And the truth is, is everybody can find an hour a week. There's a website called volunteer match.org, and you can find what volunteer jobs suits your schedule, your vicinity and your personality and his little as an hour a week you could be answering phones for the suicide hotline. So I think a bit, um, that that's probably the thing that helps your mood the most is helping others and you're helping it with your podcast. So there's many ways to help people. Maybe you don't want to do a podcast or volunteer at a cancer center. Maybe you'd like to go to a dog shelter and cuddle a puppy for an hour that's in a cage. So I think that that's going to be my number one answer for how to boost your own mood and how to help yourself in the world is to, is to do some kind of mentoring or volunteer work,

Ian Cramer:                  01:08:46          but I couldn't help but think as you were mentioning these things that helped you with so many of these, of these things align with the teachings of the blue zones. Is, is, is eat a healthy diet. Surround yourself with people who challenge you and who inspire you. Who, who, you know, you said you use doug lisle a lot. Um, live with a purpose and, and volunteer your time I think is huge. This is, that's a, that's a great message. This last question comes, I think from a all the way from Sweden actually from Bill Berry Elf. She asks, um, I love the notion of whole food plant exclusive that you came up with during the last plant fits summit. Do you have any special inspirations for that? And it's a multipart question as well. Any, any special inspirations for that?

Chef Aj:                        01:09:39          I'm not sure what she means by any specialists for years. I can tell you how it fulfill the planet exclusive came about though. I was. I was actually, this was in, I believe it was 2012. I was in New York at a restaurant called pure food and wine, having a dinner with Victoria Moran and she, she wrote, she writes wonderful articles about veganism and how like, you know, there's some people that say Vegan and some people say whole food plant based and I don't have a problem with the word Vegan. I'm not ashamed to be Vegan. I've been Vegan for 41 years and I was just inducted into the Vegan Hall of fame. However, there are certain jobs that if that was the first thing out of my mouth, I might not be hired. So I would rather get into these places to reach people and then later it comes up kind of accidentally. Not that I'm ashamed at all of it. So the problem that I have with whole food plant based is it, it's a diet based in plants, which means there's something else possibly in there that isn't plants, which means it could be animals and I don't want to say that I'm on a plant based Diet because I'm not, I'm on a plant exclusive diet and I, I love the idea of being exclusive, don't you? I just feel like, you know, it's just, there's something about, oh, the exclusive. So, so that's how it came about. Uh, and I think, I think that, I think the word sometimes just confused people, you know, and especially at the SOS free and now I have the sofas free. So, um, I, I don't know what the answer is that it, but just, you know,

Ian Cramer:                  01:11:03          I think that makes a lot of sense. And it's funny you mentioned Victoria Moran, I think, and don't quote me on this, but I believe your episode is going to be published right after hers. I just had her, I just invite here a couple of weeks ago. She's great. She's a fellow aries compadre. I'm actually going to be on her show this week too. It's quite a week from podcasts. Excellent. And this person also says a. also wanted to ask, as someone who has suffered from eating disorders, if you have any tips for overcoming those and if you have any tips for people who might have become very underweight due to one and how to gain weight healthfully and

Chef Aj:                        01:11:43          so, so if you watch my youtube on my chef, a page from fat Meegan to skinny bitch that I gave at the mcdouble conference, you'll know that I was both anorexic for I believe, seven years in. Blame it for five years. So I've been at both ends of the spectrum and neither are healthy and any eating disorder is. It's an emotional disease, a psychological disease, so you need some kind of professional help. The problem is is the way it's treated in the world today, I'm not sure I know when I was suffering from it in the eighties, it was you either eat or we put a tube down and feed you and I'm sure that it's gotten better since then, but the problem is most people that treat eating disorders do not understand the plant based diet and they would say to somebody that's wanting to follow a plant based site that they're orthorexic and that's why I would recommend working with somebody like Dr Lyle because you can work with him on skype or on phone remotely and get some good help from there. As a matter of fact, he does a weekly podcast called beat your genes in just two or three weeks ago. He talked about this, about if you have to have an eating disorders person that's like not me or somebody plant based, what to look for. One of the things I will say that really helps a person with eating disorders, especially if the eating disorder is bingeing, is to not be afraid of starch because everybody that that binges is because they've restricted and they've either restricted calories or if they've restricted starch, and so, uh, so many people even on the plant based diet are still afraid to eat potatoes or sweet potatoes or rice and beans, and that's what's gonna keep you from bingeing is going in, so don't be a Dr. Lal explains this much better than I and I'll try to find which episode he said this in, but it's always the restriction that leads to the bingeing. Eventually, in specifically the restriction of the starch and starch is not going to make you fat. It's going to make you fit. Now, if you really need to gain weight, then do the opposite of everything I say. In other words, not the opposite of everything. Don't go be eating animal products and processed food, but increase the caloric density of what you're eating. You get. Guess what? You get to eat some of the richer whole healthy plant foods like avocado, Tahini, nut butters, those kinds of things, or you can eat way more starch or in the ultimate weight loss program when people are having trouble losing weight, we recommend sequencing their meals, eating lower calorically, dilute foods like fruits and vegetables before starch. If you're trying to gain weight. I'm not telling you not to eat fruits and vegetables, but minimize those relative to the amount of starchy or eating or rice and beans, that kind of thing. So, but I really think that if you have an eating disorder, it's important to not just change the food, but you have to change your mindset and working with somebody like Doug Lisle. There's also another wonderful plant based psychologist Dr Kerri Saunders. I mean if you're plant based, I feel it, at least for me, it's important to work with plant based professionals if they exist in the field. I mean my veterinarians not plant based, but for the most part I try to seek out plant based professionals because they'll at least get the dietary style. But working with Dr Lisle, he's helped so many people recover from eating disorders, his website, his esteem dynamics that com and you can book a session and I think that could be very helpful sometimes being in a group is helpful. I run a group called the ultimate weight loss program and I would say at least half the people there either are currently suffering or have suffered from eating disorders like anorexia or bulemia. But if you're underweight, you know that's something you really want to work with a medical doctor on and getting. And also, you know, exercising too, you know, you can gain weight exercising by building muscle and it doesn't just have to be from, from the food. And it also really depends how underweight you are because if you're so underweight that you don't have a period and that your hair's falling out and that you know, your fingernails are falling out, you need medical attention immediately. But if you're, you know, bmi of 18, you know, maybe we don't have to worry about, you know, seeking medical help. But I do think that having support these are through a group or through a, like a Dr Doug Lisle is really, really helpful for eating disorders and uh, and, and they're, they're, they're horrible, you know, they, they, uh, they, they affect your self esteem, they affect your health and, and in, and this is something I do believe you can recover from. I did lots of people did, does take some diligence and some work and not to be, not to fear the whole plant foods, you know.

Ian Cramer:                  01:15:57          Yeah. But you're, I mean, but listen to anyone to anyone listening is your life. Your life is absolutely worth it. And I think as an allied health care professional, I would also, I would second that and say, you know, do an evaluation. If you are in the midst of you, you know, you know, this is not healthy, this is an eating disorder of some kind is seek help. And I think Dr Doug Lisle or, or any plant based or any psychologist who deals with eating disorders is a really good idea to get you going in the right direction. That is, yeah, 100 percent. I agree with that.

Chef Aj:                        01:16:35          There's a saying of hunger isn't the problem, food isn't the solution.

Ian Cramer:                  01:16:39          Yeah. Yeah. That's a good way of putting it. Yeah. So you mentioned a couple of things throughout, but I want to emphasize here at the end, eat unprocessed.com is the way that you can learn more about chef aga. Correct?

Chef Aj:                        01:16:50          Yeah. They can sign up to be on my mailing list and mostly we, I mean we, we don't have a lot to sell so I was running Amazon but we talk about stuff where I'm going to be and you know they send out videos like ones with Dr Lyle or recipes like actually I'm going to be sending out one with Thanksgiving recipes, things like that.

Ian Cramer:                  01:17:08          Yeah. And then your books or unprocessed as well as secrets to ultimate weight loss can both be found on Amazon. Recommend those. And if you were to pick a social media profile, a platform that you are most active on facebook.

Chef Aj:                        01:17:21          I would say facebook because I really don't understand twitter or instagram. I do use youtube quite a bit but not live. So everything I do on facebook is going to be on youtube within 24 hours. So if you can't catch me live doing facebook lives, a lot of what I do is just prerecorded anyway, just check me out on youtube because, gosh, hundreds of videos now. Excellent. Great Resource.

Ian Cramer:                  01:17:43          We'll chef AJay, I appreciate your time. It's been great to meet you. I was thinking as I was gathering information on you, I go, you know, chef age reminds me of Jane Esselstyn's. She's just a ball of fire, so energetic, but um, this will make for a great episode and I know rather than, it's only a matter of time before our paths cross and maybe at that point we'll, uh, we'll get a part two when.

Ian Cramer:                  01:18:06          Terrific. Thanks so much and it's been a pleasure talking to you. I'll let you know when this is published and uh, and so you can share it with your, with your guests as well. Absolutely. Take care. Bye.

Chef Aj:                        01:18:23          I hope you enjoyed that conversation and at the very least, this conversation with chef a, J and any past or future conversations, plant seeds in your head. I hope they give you something to think about when it comes to your health and behavior change. If you enjoyed this and are new to the podcast, please keep listening. I hope you get hooked and binge on all the past episodes, but if you are a regular listener of the podcast, consider what these conversations are worth to you. Consider what they've given you in the past two years. Yes, these conversations are free and always will be, but behind the scenes there are production costs that I absorb because a, this is a labor of love and be. I feel that these conversations are what the world needs. Now more than ever, they're in too important to put behind a paywall. The world is a little bit better because of these conversations. I hope these conversations help you. So in 2019, would you consider helping me continue to put out these podcasts, become a patron today and look forward to the unique rewards at each donation level, but also know that you are part of something bigger. You're part of a movement that's gaining momentum every day. Go to Patrion.com forward slash Ian Cramer podcast. For more information on what this is all about, how to sign up and what rewards you will get at each level, but also know that you're worth more to me than just being a donating patron. If you've written a review on Itunes, if you all your friends about the podcast or share it on social media, that absolutely counts any way you are being a responsible and compassionate ambassador to this movement and helping me spread this message or my podcast is worthy of praise. We'll see you next episode. Stay healthy.