Sunday 18 March 2018

Shape up: Quit feeding yourself all that rubbish

Damian Maher

When you're sick you go to the doctor and often you'll get a pill that will cure your ill. But sometimes a different approach can work just as well.

Nutritional medicine is all about harnessing nutrition and using it as a means to treat illness as opposed to always instinctively reaching for the prescription pad. Nutritional medicine is an emerging trend in the States where one of its proponents is JJ Virgin.

You may be familiar with JJ, as she is one of America's foremost fitness and nutrition experts and has appeared on the top-rated 'Dr Phil Show' and 'Extreme Makeover'.

She is also the author of 'Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy' and her client list includes Gene Simmons, Ben Stiller, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Carrie Otis, and 'Superman Returns' star Brandon Routh.

I was lucky enough to catch up with JJ for a chat following a nutritional medicine conference in the US recently, at which she delivered a speech to an audience of 400 doctors and dieticians.

One of the things that she has encountered is the fact that many overweight people don't realise they are overweight, even though sometimes they can be carrying as much as 100lbs of excess baggage! No one had told them -- not their friends or, more importantly, their doctor.

This is not entirely surprising because research shows that doctors who train are more likely to promote exercise to their patients, but doctors who don't train do not tend to promote exercise as they feel uncomfortable being stuck in the same rut as their patients and struggling with their own weight.

JJ says that identifying the problem and making the person aware of it is the key to making changes. It is essential that the problem and its consequences are reinforced through science so that there's no room for quackery.

You may think it is strange that no one tells it like it is but as obesity is rising, not many people believe they are overweight because so many of their friends are too.


Philosopher Jim Rohn says that you are the average of the five people you interact with most of the time. So if all of your friends are overweight, it is much easier to be part of the crowd than to stand out from it.

Clothes shops have changed the sizes of clothes over the years so people can save face, but who are we really kidding?

Your body is not a bank account. It's not a straightforward case of calories in and calories out that dictates your body shape. It's more like a chemistry laboratory, with many different inter-reactions between our different hormonal systems. It's not what you weigh that is important; it's what you are made of.

JJ distills the truth about nutritional science and puts it into bite-size chunks so clients can implement changes immediately. A small change, from a glass of orange juice to an orange, for example, is a lot easier to make than a doughnut to a piece of salmon.

She also warns people to be mindful of their eating patterns.

"If you shrink the size of your plate you can shrink your waistline, so stop eating when you are no longer hungry, rather than when you are full," she says.

When it comes to her clients' eating habits she adopts a hardline approach. Most of their so-called 'diet' bars are just grown-up candy bars disguised as health foods.

She advises checking to see if your salad is a sugar bomb. You need to skip the sweet dressings, dried fruit and glazed nuts. Opt for chopped nuts, black beans, turkey or chicken and use balsamic vinaigrette or lemon juice as a dressing to reduce the glycemic index of the foods you eat.


When clients complain about feeling bloated, JJ gets them to undertake food sensitivity screening tests, which tend to show sensitivities to dairy and gluten. Upon removal of these from their diet they look and feel so much better.

The key is to lower your stress levels from all sources so you'll look younger. It's better than moisturising and a whole lot cheaper too!

JJ is a great role model. As a healthy mother of two sons, she is a walking, talking business card. She is a big proponent of weight and interval training which she refers to as burst training.

Exercise should get you hot and sweaty. Mild workouts won't do much for your waistline -- you have got to strain to gain.

Changing your body shape is a journey, not a destination, so staying motivated is going to be hard, but it is habits which will keep you on track.

You need to think positive and remove obstacles. Don't keep junk food in the house for your kids or spouse. Instead do everyone a favour and clean out the rubbish from your cupboards and fridge.

Health & Living

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