A Conversation with JJ Virgin about Health, Wellness and Staying Inspired – HPP 82

JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN, EP-C

Overcoming the everyday challenges of life can be really tough for most of us. But if you look at it through a different lens, these obstacles are really just opportunities for us to grow into someone more resilient, be it in our relationships, careers, our well being, and in business. At the end of the day, it really is just all about our mindset.

In today’s episode, we explore topics around food, nutrition, health and having a positive mindset. We are deeply honored to welcome today’s guest JJ Virgin, celebrated author, certified nutritionist, influential fitness instructor and coach, and prominent TV and media personality.

Show Notes:

A Motivation To Spread Health And Wellness – 02:51
“And what I realized was that most of the people were not where they wanted to be in their health, not because they didn’t want to be healthy. It was because they were following the wrong set of rules. They honestly didn’t know quite what to do”

What Practitioners Don’t Know About Sales And Marketing – 07:31
“And for the most part, what I see with a lot of the practitioners is they hate sales, they hate marketing, mainly because they don’t realize that if you want to be a really good practitioner, if you really want to change the world, you have to be amazing at sales and marketing pitch”

Growth Oriented Mindset – 12:56
“And so for months, I mean, all I did, I had a Sony Walkman with tapes, I listened to the Og Mandino, I listened to Think and Grow Rich, I listened to everything that you know, everything Napoleon Hill and Brian Tracy just over and over and over. She taught me to fiercely manage my environment, that negative in was negative out. So no news, no negative people”

What You Need To Prioritize – 25:02
“And I thought, you know, the only way I’m gonna be able to pull all this off, I can’t be sick walking into the ICU, can’t even have a sniffle, I have to put my self care first. And, you know, for most people, especially women, that is so counterintuitive, they put themselves at the bottom of the list if they even make the list at all. And so I think the first mindset shift is to realize that self care is not a selfish act”

What You Learned Won’t Get You What You Need – 32:00
“I was just thinking about all the things that I had to do to get him to this place. From the dietary shifts, the heavy metals, the GI issues, the hormonal issues that went down, hyperbaric and neurofeedback, stem cells, I mean, it’s unbelievable the amount of things that when you really look at it, that to truly work in mental illness, you really need to have”

The Truth About Sugar – 35:42
“Well, the problem is, it’s still sugar. And remember, all carbohydrates, except for fiber, turn into sugar. It’s really a matter of whether your body is making sugar slowly from the food you eat or mainlining it — So the first step in all of this is to unprocess your diet, you want to eat as close to nature as possible”

The Discovery Diet – 41:45
“So I like to have people start with figuring out their hidden food intolerances. Which foods work for them and which foods don’t. That’s Virgin Diet, where you go through a process. And this is where food journals are key and critical. And weighing in every day is super critical”

Full Episode Transcript


JJ Virgin, Dr. Will Van Derveer, Keith Kurlander


JJ Virgin  00:02

We look at one metric: the scale to decide if someone’s being successful on their journey. The challenge is, if you are super metabolically unhealthy, the scale might be the last thing to change.


Keith Kurlander  00:21

Thank you for joining us for The Higher Practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer. And this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Hey there, welcome back to the show today we’ve got a really great guest to talk to, and her name is JJ Virgin, if you don’t know her, she’s one of the first Personal Fitness Trainers really kind of helped start the industry and then really moved into the wellness space, nutrition space. She’s just really a force of wellness, you could say and helps a lot of people with weight loss and fitness and health and is really passionate about her work. She says that she’s really at some point she said, Well, how can I reach a billion people and really help change their lives? How can I make a global impact and she’s very on track in terms of getting that done. So this is really an inspiring woman to learn from about how we get well on our bodies? And also how we stay very efficient in our lives and inspired, we talk to her a lot about inspiration and motivation and how to deal with devastation and stay focused and keep serving the world in huge ways. So it’s a pretty exciting episode, and I think you’re gonna really enjoy it. JJ Virgin is a prominent TV and media personality, whose previous features include co-host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters, two years as the on camera nutritionist for weight loss challenges on Dr. Phil, and numerous appearances on PBS, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray Access Hollywood and Today’s Show. JJ is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, The Virgin Diet, The Virgin Diet Cookbook, JJ Virgin Sugar Impact Diet, and JJ Virgin Sugar Impact Diet Cookbook. Her latest book Warrior Mom seven secrets to bold, brave resilience shows caregivers everywhere How to be strong, positive leaders for their families. While exploring the inspirational lessons JJ learned as she fought for her own son’s life. Let’s welcome JJ to the show. Hi, JJ, welcome to the show. Glad to be here.


JJ Virgin  02:48

Glad to be here, thanks for having me.


Keith Kurlander  02:51

It’s great to have you. And I’ve been following your work for a while and you’re obviously a major influencer in the movement of health and wellness in the world, you’re really out there changing a lot of lives, and you seem to have a big passion for it. And you’ve obviously dealt a lot with people’s relationship to food in your work and their bodies and how to get well. And so I thought a good starting point is just, you know, a little snippet of your story like, what got you so excited and motivated, really what got you so motivated, that you’re like, I’m gonna devote myself to this and make sure that a change is happening.


JJ Virgin  03:31

I know. It’s so funny people go Okay, so how did this all start? What was your why I go, Well, my first why was just to never have to get a job. That was the first why. I was very fortunate. I grew up in Berkeley, California, and I was always into health and fitness. I was teaching dance class in high school and teaching calisthenics. Back then we did not have any of these other things. And I started studying nutrition in high school and going to the health food store and reading everything I could. My mom was from the Midwest, she thought I was nuts, like nuts. She would make casseroles and was upset with me because I wouldn’t eat these things. And then I went off to UCLA as a theater major and promptly dropped out of that because it didn’t seem like the right use of my time. And by the time I’d graduated from UCLA, I had a full blown business as a personal trainer. And back then, this was years and years and years ago, there were no personal trainers. I was buddied by Jake Mark Sisson. And what I discovered pretty quickly, I then was in grad school and exercise physiology. And it was so clear that you could not out exercise a poor diet. So when I got into doctoral school, I started studying nutrition and aging, kind of ran out of classes and exercise science. I started studying nutrition, I got obsessed with nutrition and then hormones and then you go down all of that rabbit hole. And what I started to see was, when I was working with people, I’d be at their houses. you’d help one person in the future. And then you’d have this trickle effect. And what I realized was that most of the people were not where they wanted to be in their health, not because they didn’t want to be healthy. It was because they were following the wrong set of rules. They honestly didn’t know quite what to do. There was so much misinformation, they were basically being duped by misinformation. I mean, you see that now. And so I would see that, gosh, I’d go into a family, I’d help one person start to trickle to the whole family. And I just wanted to help more people. And I just first was just like, how do I help a million people? That was my big question. And here I am. I’m a personal trainer and nutritionist. I’m seeing people one by one. So that is a crazy, big goal. Right? How do you help a million people? Next thing I know, and I think that when you ask the right questions, right, those answers show up. I mean, literally, the next thing I know, I’m on Dr. Phil. Every week in his weight loss challenges, overweight.


Keith Kurlander  05:56

So how did that happen? How was the story there?


JJ Virgin  06:01

So I was living in Palm Springs at the time. And I was on local TV, which was really important, because you don’t want to go on national TV if you have not done any little local TV. So I’ve done a lot of little local TV. I was really comfortable on the camera. I also knew all the weird things not to do anymore on TV that you do when you first start. And I was editing a lot of my own TV segments, because I was doing these things called Medical Minutes. So I was really looking at myself closely and coaching myself. I was helping a doctor with her online business, Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, it was an IFM conference, and the doctor came up to me and said, hey, you’ve been helping that doctor, I need help. I’m the doctor on the Dr. Phil show. I go Alright, so I went to help him with the weight loss challenge. I was so used to being on TV I walked in, no one knew who I was. This is what’s so funny. I walk in, and I just start doing my thing. I brought in a big Tony to scale. I started helping with my diet. They all just assumed I was supposed to be there. This was on the very first house shows. And so I was there for a couple days. And then I was supposed to fly Gene Simmons was my client at the time, I was supposed to get on a plane with Kiss and go somewhere. And I remember I’m saying hey, I gotta go. And the doctors like, you know, you really should stay. And I went really cuz I’m supposed to go on this plane with Kiss. No, no, you really need to stay. So I stayed. And that started two years on Dr. Phil, that I eventually left because I got a primetime pilot.


Keith Kurlander  07:31

So it was like Kiss or Dr. Phil, Kiss or Dr. Phil. Dr. Phil,


JJ Virgin  07:35

I think I made the right choice. But what was really interesting about all of that was, you think about it go How do I help a million people? Well, you’re on. Dr. Phil, I think there were like 13 million viewers on his show every day. And I go well check that box. So what’s the next question you would ask once you do that? How do you help a billion people? How do you help a billion people? And you don’t do it yourself? Like I didn’t do it myself. I did it because I was on the Dr. Phil show. And I had that reach there. And I was able to get that message out to more people. And then I realized, aright? Well, I learned through Dr. Phil how to do TV, I learned how to launch a book, I learned how to speak. And so I started helping other healthcare practitioners do the same. Because I spent so many people over the years, I used to do a lot of practice development. And I would meet the smartest doctors, the smartest healthcare professionals, who it’s such an important message to get out into the world. But let’s face it, when you really look at what it takes to go through medical school, it’s kind of the antithesis of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. It’s like they almost kill you any entrepreneurial spirit, and you follow the rules, follow the process, do this this way. Right? And for the most part, what I see with a lot of the practitioners is they hate sales, they hate marketing, mainly because they don’t realize that if you want to be a really good practitioner, if you really want to change the world, you have to be amazing at sales and marketing pitches. You have to get people to eat more broccoli, go to sleep, drink their water, have good relationships, believe in something bigger than themselves. That’s all sales and marketing. Right?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  09:13

It absolutely is sales and marketing. And I think you put your finger on the pulse there of how difficult just as a physician myself, it is to overcome this programming that you’re talking about of broccoli and hydration is not understanding that’s a sales conversation. Right?


JJ Virgin  09:30

And early on. I was teaching before Dr. Phil, I was going around the country teaching this course called overcoming weight loss resistance. And it was two days of clinical steps. All the things could get in the way of you losing weight and cause you gain weight and then one day of sales and marketing. And I remember I was using the word sell. And one of the doctors came up to me and she goes you gotta stop using that word. Like a word. What are you talking about? She goes sell. I think she’s gonna say stop swearing. I was like I haven’t been selling Like, oh, I go, you actually need to get over this and understand that if you want to be the most effective practitioner, you’re a sales person, right? You’ve got to sell them first on this bigger, better vision for themselves. You’ve got to sell them on the fact that they’re worth it to do that. And then you’ve got to sell them on what they have to do to get there. Because when you move outside an allopathic model, a pill for an ill model, it’s all self responsibility and behavioral change, and these things that we have to do, and that requires sales.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  10:33

And I think it also requires a different mindset, which is something that you talk about a lot in your teaching and your books. And I’m wondering about this book that it came out after your son was injured so severely, which was first called miracle mindset, and then republished it as Warrior Mom, is that correct?


JJ Virgin  10:53

Yes, because it was so interesting. And it just shows you you can change a book title. That title never resonated with me, but couldn’t figure out the title. So I was like, and that’s what the publishers want. And I’m like, all right, and I was doing an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman, and his team was like, we had to have you for a broken brain series. He goes, we had to have you, you’re such a warrior mom. And I’m like, Oh, my gosh, the title, right. So you can change the title of the book, in case you were wondering, you know, everyone’s worried about not publishing something till they have it perfect. It’s like, just get it out there can do a lot of good. So I wrote the book “Miracle Mindset”, when my son was 16. And instantly, this was literally months before the virgin diet was being published. And I had put everything into that book, like, I invested everything, I’m the primary financial support for my family, like this book has to go, we’re bankrupt. And now my son is lying in the pediatric ICU hovering between life and death in a coma. And this book is coming out. And so the warrior mom book is written about the mindset, what the mindset was behind how I showed up how he’s able to show up through those times, it’s not about my son surviving, it’s about what it takes how you have to show up when times are tough, like they are now. Because those are the defining moments, I can’t think of one day in my life where everything went perfectly, you know, I got flowers, cooked dinner, and I looked at the end of the day, and I went, boy, I became a better person today, right? That is not when we grow, there is no growth inside your comfort zone is when things get tough that you really see who someone is. And the cool thing is, when you go through those challenging times, you build that muscle, and then things get easier when my son gets hit. I had never faced anything like that before. But I faced a lot of tough times in my life. And I spent a long time really learning the mindset you needed to be able to show up during these times. So I was prepared, as prepared as you can be for nearly losing your 16 year old child.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  12:56

Well a lot of people when they face really severe events like this, like having a child who is nearly killed in a hit and run accident will collapse or they’ll freeze or they’ll go into some kind of trauma response. And I’m wondering, how would you describe your capacity, this ferocious capacity that you have to stay connected to that growth mindset I would say? Is that something about how you were raised or things that you went through? Or how would you explain that?


JJ Virgin  13:22

You know, it’s so funny, Will? When I wrote the book, everyone was saying, How did you do that? And I’m like, I don’t know, they go, where did you learn that? I go, it just was in me. And I write the whole book. And I talk about the different mindset hacks really, that I had. And then about a year after I write this book, I’m doing an interview and someone’s like, well, how did you learn those and I went, Oh, they were so ingrained in me that I forgot even learning them. But I did learn them, which is really important, because the fact that I learned them means anyone can learn them. And at the time, I learned from them, who knew that this would actually be the differentiator for my son. This is why my son is here today because of what I learned. And so when I was in my 20s, I was in Florida, I had a client. And she was a super successful woman, in a multi level marketing company. She was a Hawaiian Blue Diamond a Newskin. And I was her personal trainer. And I was at the time at University of Miami and grad school. And I remember walking down the beach with her and she goes, so what do you want to do? Why are you in school and I go, Oh, I want to be more successful. I want to help more people. She goes, huh? All right. What are you gonna do when you graduate? I go, I’m gonna go get my doctorate. And she goes, interesting. Why are you going to do that? And I go well, because I want to be more successful and help more people. She goes, huh? She goes well you know, you don’t need to do all that to make more money. And I remember at the time I was in my 20s I went, this is not about money. Right? You know, in your 20s you’re like you don’t have kids. You don’t have any of these things and like, you don’t have to worry about money. And then all of a sudden reality hits like houses and mortgages and kids and all that. So I’m like, this is not about the money, I just want to help the world. It’s all impacting us, okay? She goes, Well, when you’re interested, because at the age 30, that’s going to shift and when you’re really interested in learning how to build a business, call me. She totally, like the future paced me on this thing. And I just was like, Yeah, right, this lady’s crazy. And the other thing I didn’t really think about at the time was this woman was so successful. She was a high school graduate, who grew up in a trailer park, in Kansas. So on my 30th birthday, she sent me a videotape just to show how old I am. She sent me a videotape, and the videotape was about trading time for money, and how to create true wealth and true impact in the world. And it was for an MLM company when Newskin launched their first nutrition product line, I looked at that and like, Oh, my gosh, this is it. This is what I need to do with my life. This is how I make a big impact. I sold my personal training business, I dropped out of my PhD program, and I moved into her house in Florida, because she was gonna teach me how to be successful. So in my move, and I’ve now sold everything, I’ve sold my business I’ve dropped out of my Phd. D. program. I sold my car, I got rid of all my furniture. I’m at her house, like you know, two suitcases here I am, and she puts rubber bands on my wrist. And she says anytime you have a limiting belief, snap your wrist and say cancel, cancel. Now I’m looking and I’m thinking I have just dropped out of a PHD program. I had sold my business. I’ve gotten rid of everything. And I have two rubber bands on my wrist and I’m supposed to say cancel, cancel. I’m like why am I so impulsive? What is wrong with me? I was already there. So for six months, she coached me on mindset. It turned out that in Newskin, that was her role. She was the mindset coach and her whole vision had been that I was going to become her protege and that she was my Mr. Miyagi. I was going to become, you know, she was stepping out, I was going to become this mindset coach. And so for months, I mean, all I did, I had a Sony Walkman with tapes, I listened to the Og Mandino, I listened to Think and Grow Rich, I listened to everything that you know, everything Napoleon Hill and Brian Tracy just over and over and over. She taught me to fiercely manage my environment, that negative in was negative out. So no news, no negative people. And just every morning, wake up. Three things that I’m grateful for, write them down, have that vision, have that clear goal of what I want in life and just boom, boom, boom, that’s what I did. And so when my son got hit, I already knew how to do this. So my son gets hit. And I remember looking at him after the doctor told us let him die. And we told the doctor, we were overruling him when he got to the hospital. The second hospital, we got him airlifted out of the first one and got him to the UCLA trauma center. And after he survived the surgery that the first doctor said he wouldn’t survive and survive the airlift. And I sat with him holding his hand, he’s in a deep coma, I’ve got two fingers I’m holding because everything else is bandaged, or in a cast or covered with Road Rash. And I just said, Grant, you’re going to be 110%. And your name means warrior. I need you to fight. I’m going to bring in everybody that needs to help you. I said, we’ve got this fight 110%. That was my mantra. That’s all I went for. And that’s all I allowed in my mind. I believe that thoughts create, I believe you get what you expect. And I just decided I’m going to only see 110% not like anything else get into my mind. Because I was so afraid that I’ve even entertained even slightly less than that, that would be there. And I thought you know, I mean, later on, you kind of realize, okay, if he doesn’t quite hit that, it’s totally fine. It’s better than the zero that the doctors wanted telling us to let them die. And so I used all the tools that Kay had taught me of getting up in the morning, knowing what you’re grateful for, knowing how to do state shifts, if you start to get into a negative place, calling for help, being vulnerable. And really, one of the biggest things that Kay always taught me was so only limitations are the limitations in your mind. And so when you believe that you go for something insane, like 110% something that doesn’t exist, and the crazy part is prior to the accident. My son had been diagnosed with bipolar now he is the exact reason you all are doing the work that you’re doing. I took him to a psychiatrist at age five within five minutes that psychiatrist had diagnosed him with ADHD, OCD, some impulse control thing and rapid cycling bipolar, like five minutes, and it was so insane. It’s what actually at that time I dropped out of I was back in grad school for nutrition and I dropped out of the school I was in and went and studied pharmacology because I thought, you know what I’m going to learn these pathways, I’m going to learn what’s going on, because at the time, we had to have him on some psych meds because if we didn’t, he was suicidal. And I said, I’m just going to do every single test, I’m gonna look at heavy metals and gluten and methylation and dairy, I like to do every single thing I need to, to help figure it out. And the thing that I didn’t figure out back then, because it really wasn’t talked about way back then was neuro infections. pandas was just starting to come out when Grant was around, I think 12. But he’d never really had a strap. So that wasn’t the issue. But when he was a very little kid, probably around Grant’s got Lyme and bartonella. And after this whole thing, seven years into him on his healing journey from this traumatic brain injury. One of the doctors in mind shared Dr. Kat Toups, I got introduced to her through Dr. Sara Gottfried. And she said, Have you ever checked for this? And sure enough, we found it. And I worked with her, I worked with another doctor, Dr. Glenn Wilcox, who does testing out of Africa in a specific therapy out of Africa. And we’ve gotten rid of all of it. And my son is 110%, 110% better than before the accident. And it’s these things are all possible, if you just keep asking the question, we got stuck at 60%, we got stuck at 70%. And I tried so many therapies that didn’t work, or that just worked a little bit, but I just kept turning the rocks over. Right?


Keith Kurlander  21:34

Yeah, it’s such a powerful story of like, first of all, warrior mom who’s right devoted to going down the rabbit hole as far as you could possibly go, to discover what’s going on. And I think what’s so challenging for people is that we have a lot of information now, I mean, in terms of what we know, causes a lot of these problems, especially in mental health and the information is out there. But what’s so challenging is that there’s not a lot of providers necessarily that have it all in one place. It’s scattered, you really have to be very well organized and resourced to find it. And that’s obviously what our work is. We’re trying to bring it together in one place. But it seems like you, we’ve been talking a lot about mindset, it just seems like there’s something inside of you, as a person that won’t stop until you feel like you’re getting to the truth or something. Is that right?


JJ Virgin  22:37

You should with your kids. Oh my gosh, like, I mean, pretty much with everything, but especially with your kids. Like I remember being in the hospital, and wanting to put my son on high dose fish oil, like it’s obvious. He’s got a traumatic brain injury and the hospitals not letting me so I just did it anyway. Like, okay, we will do this behind your back, if you’re not gonna let us do this. You’ve got to be an advocate for yourself. And then for your kids, like you just have to be. But I think a lot of that comes from just some ideas about self worth and self confidence, right? I think there’s this idea that someone else must know better. Well, I think that we are all our own best healthcare CEO and that you’re gathering information, putting it together to make those right decisions. It is really challenging. And I’m just so grateful to know what you guys are doing because oh my gosh, you’re right. I mean, here’s the big challenge: mental health and this is what I faced in the hospital. Here. I have all this information. I sent out this SOS I mean, Dr. Daniel Lehman’s coming into the hospital, Dr. Hyla Cass, like all these people, the doctors like who are you, and why are all these people here, you know, and but yet they wouldn’t listen to them. Like they had their ways they were going to do stuff and like this is ridiculous. Like if you look at the information on brain injury and fish oil, it’s really pretty clear the risk isn’t there, it’s all reward. And they still were thinking he was going to have a brain bleed from him like this zero research to show that. So it is an interesting situation where I think that we’ve had doctors on pedestals for so long, and by keeping that first doctor on the pedestal. I would not have a son because the first doctor that we talked to at Palm Springs desert hospital. Well, he worked in the ICU there. Well in Palm Springs, most people coming in are 70 plus years old. It’s very different for a 70 plus year old person coming in with a severe traumatic brain injury and 13 fractures in a torn aorta than a 16 year old. So that was his lens, I get it. But the other doctor said that, it was interesting, there was a neurosurgeon there who said, Hey, He still has brain activity. And I go, what would you do if it was your kid? He goes, I would absolutely airlift him. It’s like, no one wanted to The big guy, and I’m like, I don’t care if you’re upset.


Keith Kurlander  25:02

So JJ, what do you tell people? You know, a lot of people are going in circles around their physical health, their mental health, right? It’s like they’re hearing in the chatter. They’re hearing all this great stuff. But they’re spinning in circles, they can’t solve the puzzle of why are they not getting better? Why are they not getting fitter? Why are they not getting healthier relationships? Like they can’t solve the puzzle just like, I don’t know how to cut through. What in all this time of being exposed to thousands and thousands of people like, what would you tell somebody about like, how do you cut through that circle that they’ve been in for so long, where it’s like, I don’t know, really what to do next, I’ve been trying a bunch of random things so long.


JJ Virgin  25:48

One of the things that’s really important, like I look at my world that I work in the most is weight loss. And here’s the challenge with weight loss, is we look at one metric, the scale to decide if someone’s being successful on their journey. The challenge is, if you are super metabolically unhealthy, the scale might be the last thing to change. And other things may change much more quickly. But you don’t look at them. So you just assume what you’re doing isn’t working, we have to redefine the whole way we look at what you know, in business, we call KPIs, the Key Performance Indicators to indicate whether someone’s on the right path. And I’m excited about all that we’re doing with personalized medicine and nutrigenomics. Because we are all different. But we also have some basic things that like if you want to start getting healthier, there’s some basic things that are going to help all of us, the most important basic thing to make the change on everything is to realize that your self care has to be your number one priority above all else, when my son was hit that second night in the hospital first night in a hospital was like making the decision to overrule the doctor and driving from Palm Springs to LA not knowing if we were going to have a son still alive when we got there. The second full night, he’d survived that surgery, he’d now been moved to the PDF, ICU and I looked at him and I went, alright, I am not going to like I’m not leaving my son. The one leading cause of death, of course, is death by doctor in the hospital, not because the doctor did it, but it’s a teaching hospital. And I need to make sure this book goes so I can pay for all this, how the heck might not accomplish this. And I thought, you know, the only way I’m gonna be able to pull all this off. I can’t be sick walking into the ICU can’t even have a sniffle, I have to put my self care first. And, you know, for most people, especially women, that is so counterintuitive, they put themselves at the bottom of the list if they even make the list at all. And so I think the first mindset shift is to realize that self care is not a selfish act. It’s a selfless act that if you are going to show up and be able to lead your family, do things for your community, then you can’t do that if your health is not there. So self care has to be top, has to be top. And for a lot of people, it’s not there because of a self worth issue. When I queried my community a couple years ago, and I said, hey, you’re not where you want to be with your health. Your Wait, why not? And I thought, well, they’re gonna probably tell me they can’t quit the gluten or the sugar or whatever. They don’t have time, the typical excuses. It’s like, I don’t have time, I don’t have money, I can’t quit sugar. Well, that is not what the majority of people who rode in said, they said, I don’t feel good enough, I’m not worth it. I’m like, Oh my gosh, Wow, that’s a lot bigger thing. So that first thing is realizing, hey, you’re here for a reason. And you can’t do those things. If you are not taking good care of your health, like so that has to be the number one decision that you make. And when you have that decision that I’m going to prioritize myself carefully, then take the first step. Now, you wouldn’t run a marathon by trying to do it all. Like if you’re gonna run a 26 mile marathon doesn’t happen in a minute, right? It happens over hours, you don’t become healthy, overnight. It’s a daily practice of small steps. This is where I love BJ Fogg tiny habits book, you start with one thing, then the next. Sadly, it’s not what is pushed out into the world of like, you’re gonna start exercising and you’re gonna start sleeping well and you’re gonna start meditating, and you’re going to go keto, and do intermittent fasting and take your supplements and it’s like, stop it. start the new year and say, This is all about self care. And the first thing that I’m going to start with is adding more vegetables into my diet. The next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to step on the scale every single day not thinking that judging me as right or wrong, but just so I have that point of reference to know how food and other lifestyle habits are impacting me. It is not an emotional judge. Right? We would never put a blood glucose, continuous blood glucose monitor on us and think of it some kind of like an emotional judge, but we do it with the scale. So you just start with one thing at a time. Next thing, build on it, build on it, build on it. And then you find those people, those healthcare professionals who you trust, and also who work as a team and work as guides and help you along the way. When you find that healthcare professional, who will not work with anybody else, and suddenly their way I’m like, come on, you can’t be the expert of everything. So I was like, how can I assemble an amazing team who are open minded, and we’ll look at everything and then track everything in your journal, because you’re ultimately going to be the one that’s knowing if something’s working for you or not by how you feel. And we’ve got to connect the dots between how we’re eating, how we’re moving, how we’re living, and how we’re feeling?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  30:51

Well, yes. Just like yes, yes, yes. Yes. Yes. So, so many dimensions of that. we could go from here, JJ, I really appreciate the breadth of your vision and connect with it around how many different elements make for wholeness and make for wellness. And they’re all connected together through our psychology and through the mindset to get there.


JJ Virgin  31:15

And it’s a process and a journey, right?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  31:17

Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, when you said that a lot of people in particular women are, I would say programmed by a culture of forces to put their needs behind the needs of others, I see the same thing in health care providers, and the difficulty in training that really teaches you in residency and medical school, not even go to the bathroom, not sit down, admit patients for 24 hours straight, goes on and on.


JJ Virgin  31:46

It’s not gonna change. That is the most insane thing, when you really organize. And it’s like they say, Oh, it’s for training. So you’ll be able to do that I go, but you can’t train your body to deal with sleep deprivation. That’s ridiculous.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  32:00

Right? Well, there’s also a downside to limiting. And as a physician, it’s a little hard for me to even say those words. But I remember I used to be an advocate for wages for health staff when I was a resident, and we would go to the faculty every year, and we would ask for modest raises from say, 31,000 a year to 32,000 a year. And we would complain about being worked too hard. And the head of the surgery Department said, Look, do you want a surgeon who graduates in five years? Who’s going to do your appendectomy to have 1500 appendectomies under his belt? Or do you want him to have 50 appendectomies under his belt? Because he wasn’t working too hard as a resident and I thought, Oh, that’s a good point. But there are these issues, right? It’s balanced. It’s like how do we get enough experience in a short amount of time where you’re not a resident for 15 years. But at the same time, you’re not a complete mess with your health and you have shortened telomeres and the whole nine yards by the time you graduate. So I think that we’re after creating the balance and the sort of basic skill set across these areas like the neuro inflammation, the neuro infections, having pandas be a part of the conversation for pediatric OCD, or pediatric bipolar, this whole issue about nutrition and the depletion of soil and the environment and why genomics of metabolism, why some people actually need higher doses of certain micronutrients. And the RTA is not a one size fits all model, and so forth and so on. And so I’m kind of relating to the fact that I think for physicians and other health care providers, a lot of times the journey toward becoming an integrative provider or a functional medicine provider often starts with a personal experience or the experience with a family member where you really had to go the extra yard to get there.


JJ Virgin  33:47

Well, you see that what you learned, won’t get you what you need. Right? I mean, I know for me, just my whole thing was always weight loss. Now, I’ve never had weight loss issues, I was just fascinated with weight loss resistance, I thought it was so interesting. But then when my son went through what he went through, I’m like, Alright, this is biochemistry. I can figure this out, right? But I was just thinking about all the things that I had to do to get him to this place. From the dietary shifts, the heavy metals, the GDI issues, the hormonal issues that went down, hyperbaric and neurofeedback, stem cells, I mean, it’s unbelievable the amount of things that when you really look at it, that to truly work in mental illness, you really need to have. Right? I mean, it’s so fascinating now what we’re finding with the gut, and what happens there. I mean, it’s just incredible. But early on, I remember my son was at school and got a call and they said, come pick up your son, he’s climbing the walls and like what is going on? And they give him a pound bag of m&ms because he won a contest. I mean, every single mom knows intuitively That food affects their kids’ mood.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  35:02

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it should be the first step in trying to address behavioral issues in a child is to dramatically reduce sugar, in my opinion, and then look at screens and sleep.


JJ Virgin  35:14

Yeah. Well, if you fix what’s at the end of your fork, for most people, that alone makes such a dramatic shift. But then you have a situation where the mom goes to the store and picks up the product that says no sugar added, not realizing that the apple juice concentrate that they put in there has actually more fructose and is higher in sugar than if they just gotten the thing with the sugar added. Right? Not sure. So like,


Keith Kurlander  35:42

Say a little bit more about your, how you talk about sugar. Now, in general. What’s your message about? First of all, we have to define what sugar is. But what’s your message about sugar? And maybe, how are you speaking about carbs and more refined sugars specifically? And obviously, there’s a lot of refined sugars and a lot of products in this country.


JJ Virgin  36:04

Oh, yeah, I think about it. So at the turn of the 19th century, the average person ate five pounds of sugar per year. And there was no obesity. It was .2%, and now it turned a 20th it was 150 pounds of sugar per person per year. 35% Obesity. 70% overweight or obese. Correlation? Yes. Causation? Yes. And the thing is, we’re eating less table sugar than ever, like if you go to try and find sugar cubes, you can’t even find them. But sugar sneaking into places that it should never be just Case in point. The mom in the aisle is trying to get something healthy and thinks the fruit snacks are healthy for a kid because it says no sugar added its fruit. But it’s not. It’s fruit juice concentrate, right? So it’s literally just candy. When we look at sugar, your body isn’t going to tell the difference between it being refined or unrefined when it gets in your mouth, it’s going to start to have the same process. And that’s one of the big challenges. I literally was not very interested in sugar. I don’t have a sweet tooth. Sugar is not my thing. And I never really paid too much attention to it. And when I wrote the Virgin Diet in the book, seven foods. Well, at first it was six foods. It was gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, peanuts, because those were the ones that I saw showing up on the food sensitivity test. And the gluten, the wheat test the most. So I was like, Alright, pull those out. Well, what I discovered when it pulled those six out, if I didn’t tell him sugar, then they just started eating a bunch of sugar. And the reality is sugar can create more food intolerance issues because of how it disrupts the gut microbiome and Fructose also makes the small intestine more permeable. So that’s why I started including sugar. So I write the book. The number one question I get asked when I read the Virgin Diet is about sugar. I’m like, Oh my gosh, they’re like, honey, it’s all natural. That’s why I have that pet peeve there, Keith about like, Gold’s all natural. Well, the problem is, it’s still sugar. And remember, all carbohydrates, except for fiber, turn into sugar. It’s really a matter of whether your body is making sugar slowly from the food you eat or mainlining it. And so we’ve really kind of messed it up talking about complex or simple carbs, because you complex carbs can still be made into sugar fairly quickly. So the first step in all of this is to unprocess your diet, you want to eat as close to nature as possible. Like if you look back, most of the sugar that’s sneaking into our diet is really coming in the form of packaged foods. And most of this happened, when 30 years ago, 40 years ago, all of that information started coming out that fat was creating heart disease. And so all of a sudden, we were pulling fat out of food and putting sugar in to replace it because you got to put something in and we started talking about things being low fat, well, they’d be low fat, but high sugar. And that’s kind of ridiculous, because if something’s low fat and high sugar, it’s really high body fat, right? Because sugar is going to make you store fat and especially around your waist. So that’s the big challenge as we started to add sugar in two places you wouldn’t expect so things like that light salad dressing that you think you’d be so good having the salad so you have the salad, you put dried fruit on there because it’s just fruit not realizing that dried fruit is candy. And then you have the glaze. pecan glaze, of course, is code for candy. And then you have the raspberry vinaigrette. It’s light, so it’s better for you. It’s light just means it’s lower in fat, but it’s high in sugar. And literally, that salad is now a Sundae. You’ve got so much sugar in it. And then you look at things like the marinara sauce and they add a bunch of sugar to impact marinara sauce. The regular ones at the store have more sugar in them than an equal serving of Oreo cookies. So that’s the big challenge is you can think you’re doing everything right you can look at it and say oh, I’m buying these healthy things. They can See no sugar added. And still use things like fruit juice concentrate, and have high sugar impact have a load of sugar in it. Or you can be eating things like very refined flours. And they’re very quickly turned from carbohydrate into sugar in the body. And as you know, when you eat sugar, you raise blood sugar, which then raises insulin. And if you’re eating little bits of sugar all throughout the day, you’re going to keep your insulin up, which tells your body to store fat, not burn it. If you go and eat some of the lower glycemic offerings out there thinking you’re doing a better job like you’re having a gavi etc. Well, the challenges those are high in fructose and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver. So fructose goes to the liver. And if it can’t be turned into glucose and stored as glycogen there and it probably can’t, there’s not much room there, and then it’s turned into fat raises your triglycerides can make you insulin resistant can create fatty liver, I mean, we have non alcoholic fatty liver that should not exist. And we have it in kids because we’re giving them apple juice, apple juice concentrate, fruit snacks, all this garbage. When the reality is you should only eat fresh or frozen fruit no sugar added in small amounts, fruit is not free food. You look at like 1000 years ago, we have longer days in the summer, so we’re sleeping less so we’re more insulin resistant, we have fruit Why? So we could eat a bunch of fruit store a bunch of fat and make it through the winter when we can sleep more be more insulin sensitive and burn off stored fat for fuel. Fruit is not a diet food, it’s not deserved its fruit, using limited quantities.


Keith Kurlander  41:33

It’s how you feel about sugar.


JJ Virgin  41:34

That’s a nice fruit ramp right there well, and don’t get started on artificial sweeteners. Because you guys are in the mental health field. Artificial sweeteners should be like they should be criminal.


Keith Kurlander  41:45

Yes. Well, so actually, since we’re let’s just hang with this nutrition conversation for a moment. So, so many different ways to eat, right? So many different ways we could eat as a human being so many different sorts of diets, different food plans that we could try. And for the person who’s out there, like really wanting to discover what’s best for their body? How do you go about telling them where to start and be their own science experiment and not take 10 years to figure it out?


JJ Virgin  42:15

Yes. So I actually wanted to create this discovery diet. That’s so funny that you said that I wrote this out to my agents, and my agents like no. But here’s how I view this. Number one, we need two different words. A diet is something that you should do short term, to learn about yourself to get a therapeutic result. So let’s say that you need to, you just got diagnosed with cancer, or you just got diagnosed with high blood pressure, your blood sugar is unstable, or you’re trying to lose some belly fat. So you pick a diet to use it, to learn some things, then you have your eating plan. The problem is, we use the same word. So that’s super confusing. So I think of diets is something that you do therapeutically, the way I’ve written all my books, they’re not things that you do long term, they’re cycles that take you through a discovery cycle to learn something about yourself. So in my perfect world, here’s how it would work. Number one, you would realize that your self care is the most important thing that you can do. And the biggest contribution you can make to society, because you’re no good if you’re not healthy. So your self care would be number one, because you know you’re worth it. And then you would start with starting to add before you take away in your diet. Because if you look at little kids, why don’t we feed them dessert first at dinner, because they’ll get full and they’ll stop eating. So you start first by adding in important things, I think people should at least eat at least five servings of non starchy vegetables a day 10 would be better. So the first thing is start adding more non starchy vegetables, start drinking more pure water in between your meals, increase your fiber. So when you start to do this stuff, we can start to crowd some of the other stuff out. Then if you want to lose body fat, your body has to be able to detoxify Well, if it can’t detoxify well, and you start freeing up body fat from your fat cells, you’ll free up toxins, you’ll make yourself worse, not better. So at the start of anything you’re doing, you really want to make sure that you’re supporting good detoxification. So as I start to write Virgin Diet 2.0 part of what the first week is, is a detoxification focus, so that we make sure that we’re really able to use those pathways well and detoxify well. So I like to have people start with figuring out their hidden food intolerances. Which foods work for them and which foods don’t. That’s Virgin Diet, where you go through a process. And this is where food journals are key and critical. And weighing in every day is super critical and really looking at how you feel so the first thing you do is pull out the foods that are most likely to cause problems. And you swap in healing and detoxifying foods to help heal your gut while you’re doing that and build that good gut microbiome. That’s so important for Your mental health and your weight and your immune system. At the end of the time, you’ve gotten a new normal reset, I think most people have no idea what it feels like to feel really good. Now you’re there. And what I hear so often from people is that they’ll go on this type of a program to lose weight, but they stay because of how good they feel. At the time you’ve gotten to that reset, then you go back and you challenge those six foods, you don’t need to challenge sugar, just get the sugar out, challenge those six foods and see how you feel, I believe most people in the United States because of what we’ve done to the gluten, so it’s like, is it gluten or is it glyphosate, like, what’s the real issue here, but you can’t disconnect them, really. So I find in the US because of glyphosate and the way we’ve genetically engineered our wheat to be more gluteny to be more insulin genic is a problem. And I think most of us do way better without gluten without dairy without soy. Corn is very GMO soy but I go back and have you connect those dots, then you get to your new normal, then I move you into a sugar impact diet, getting you really clear on what a plate should look like? Why are you eating clean protein, healthy fats, slow low carbs with loads of non starchy vegetables that have a lot of fiber so that fat fiber fat and protein trifecta is really important for satiety and blood sugar balance, which is super key important. My son one of the biggest triggers for him having any kind of explosive event was hyperglycemia. So I was like, how do you make sure we’re keeping that blood sugar super stable, and that’s not by eating every couple of hours snacking has been created by the snack food industry, when we pulled the fat out, we started getting people to snack and that was the start of this whole obesity problem. Because every time you’re eating, you’re raising blood sugar, raising insulin, your strength fat around your waistline, and you’re locking the doors to fat cells, so you cannot burn fat off. So that’s super key and critical. So one of the things I started having people do is stop eating three to four hours before bed, don’t go to bed later. And get rid of the snacks, drink your fluids, especially water a lot in between meals, and then start to have breakfast a little later as well. And so the next thing that I have people do is a sugar impact diet really identify where sugar is sneaking in and see how they feel about lowering their carbs. Because macronutrient ratios will shift depending on what you’re going through how much stress you’re under age, sex, genetics. So some people do better with a little more carbs, some people do better with less. And so the sugar impact diet helps, you really can do that. And if you do want to go into intermittent fasting, which I think is a super powerful therapeutic tool, and fasting, it prepares you to be able to be a fat burner. So you can move into that and not crash. It prepares you if you do want to do some ketogenic cycles to move into that and not crash because that’s something that you need to prepare for, and move into to make that transition from your body being a sugar burner into a fat burner. So that’s how I teach people and then after that, it may be you know, once you’ve gone through those, then it’s playing around with intermittent fasting and fasting cycles, paint playing around potentially with a keto cycle done like my girlfriend, Dr. Anna, Rebecca teaches keto green with a lot of green vegetables in there. So it’s not a more acidic keto diet. So again, journaling all of this connects the dots using a scale using a food journal looking at symptoms trackers so that you really start to identify how you feel when you do certain behaviors. So it doesn’t become like I’ll have a cheat day or I was bad that day. It’s like when you learn things about yourself, like an adult will learn and go, Oh, I shouldn’t drink a bottle of wine. I feel like crap. When I do that. It’s the same thing with food. You start to go oh, you know when I ate that? Pizza, this is what happened. You got to connect those dots. Like my son Bryce gets migraines if he eats pizza. It took me like quite a while to get him to get that one. But he finally connected the dots. And so he eats gluten free dairy free pizzas now.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  49:01

It’s a hard one for me to eat pizza and connect the dots. There’s a lot of resistance to it.


JJ Virgin  49:08

There’s a cauliflower crust, there’s an amazing gluten free crust.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  49:11

I know. We make our own cauliflower crust at home and we try to work around it.


JJ Virgin  49:19

We all have our thing. I will tell you what I found, believe it or not, so einkorn wheat is a different type. A wheat that hasn’t been genetically engineered.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  49:27

Urgench wheat, right.


JJ Virgin  49:28

Yeah. So I found a woman who makes einkorn wheat sourdough. So that basically is taken the gluten way down and it’s einkorn pizza crusts on Etsy.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  49:41

I have to get that link from you.


JJ Virgin  49:42

Right, isn’t that crazy? So we get those and it’s amazing. So there you go. Probably the most helpful and useful thing I’ve said the entire time, right.


Keith Kurlander  49:53

I’ll probably be googling that tonight. My wife is gonna roll over in bed and go. He’s up to it again. Well, JJ, this has been really a great conversation with you. I’m curious about what you want people to know about what you’re up to right now and anything you want to highlight?


JJ Virgin  50:10

Right now I am deep in. It’s so funny. So here’s what I’ve really been up to. I have been reorganizing my house because I’m getting ready to write a book. And I can’t write if my house is not absolutely 100% organized. So this is what I’ve been doing and organizing in preparation to give birth to Virgin Diet. 2.0, which I’m super excited about. And then of course, we’ve been doing all sorts of fun things over with our mindshare collaborative because of the pandemic, allowing us to shift a lot of things because people start accepting, oh, you can have events online, and they can be amazing. And we can really connect that way. So we’ve been doing a lot of cool things over there and big community building because that’s the biggest thing that I see that we as practitioners need to do is stick together, collaborate, share ideas, a rising tide lifts all boats.


Keith Kurlander  51:01

JJ, why don’t you take a couple minutes to share about Mind Share, because this podcast has a ton of professionals that might be interested in it. Just take a couple minutes to say what it is.


JJ Virgin  51:11

Sure, Mind Share is my gosh, it is my number one passion. And it years ago, I used to help doctors put nutrition into their practice, and then I started doing a lot of practice development with them, helping them create their brand and market because I got so frustrated being the most amazing, talented practitioners who weren’t sure how to get the word out about themselves. It’s like nothing you ever taught in school. Then I started doing more like I never taught anything that I wasn’t doing myself. So I got on TV, I was on Dr. Phil, I did a book, I did a PBS show. And then that all that side of my business took off. And so then I just was like, Oh, I better focus over there. But meanwhile, the doctors I had been coaching before, like, what are you doing? And I go, I can’t teach you yet I’m not ready. Well, then I started to really get clear on it. And the first thing I knew was that we needed a community, we needed a community to share best practices to share, you know how you can build a brand, how you can do books, how you can do speaking how you can do TED Talks, how you can do some at some podcasts and move your business online how to do virtual how to create multiple streams of income. And so that’s really what mindshare collaborative is, is a group of like minded practitioners, I say like minded because I think that kind of the old school of practitioners is that we are built to compete and that you go to one person then go to another person for a second opinion. And in the new school people collect and they collaborate when you look at it, if someone’s trying to lose weight in my area, they’re not going to buy one Diet book, they’re not going to do one diet program. You know, my greatest collaborators have been Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Sarah Gottfried, Dr. Anna Rebecca, people that were very similar in thought process to me, and we share those audiences. So that’s really what mindshare was built to do was for everyone to share their best practices to support each other. And gosh, you know what the biggest thing is to know that you’re not alone. Number one subject line open subject line of all time is you are not alone. And I think it can be lonely out there as you’re building this business, right? And to know that you’ve other people that you can share with and share some of the crazy stuff that goes on is fantastic.


Keith Kurlander  53:26

Right? Well, we end with a question with every guest, which is if you had a billboard that had a paragraph on it, that every human being would see one time in their life, what message would you want them to hear from you?


JJ Virgin  53:39

So there’s two parts to this. And when my mentor when I was 30, with Kay Smith, one of the things she taught me back then was don’t wish it was easier. Make yourself stronger. And I remember thinking that over and over and over again, when my son was in the hospital, I was like, okay, don’t wish it was easier, make yourself stronger. I will tell you I wished it was a little easier. But I was like, okay, make myself stronger. And it was interesting. The night Grant walked out and got hit by the car. We were in a big fight. He stomped out. And last thing I said to Grant was, Grant, you are stronger than you think. And I kept telling him that and I think for so many of us, you know, we’re never better than when we’re challenged, right? That’s when we really grow. And so do not wish it was easier. Make yourself stronger. And by the way, you are so much stronger than you think.


Keith Kurlander  54:34

Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us on the show, JJ.


JJ Virgin  54:39

Well, thanks so much for doing what you guys are doing. It is like, I just wish you’d been doing it 20 years ago.


Keith Kurlander  54:51

That was a great episode to really learn from just this amazing woman who’s done so much in the industry around helping people around, it was such an amazing episode to just really hear from JJ. You know, how she thinks, and how she went about being able to influence so many people, and build so many companies and stay strong in herself and also know how people really make change, what’s the best way to make change with your bodies and your health, your mind. So it was definitely impactful for me. And if this resonated with you, specifically, if you know if JJ or you release something, speak to you about how to stay inspired or how to make a big change in your health. And you think there’s somebody out there right now that would really benefit from this episode. Let’s send it off to them. So go on your phone and share the episode right now. That’s the way we’re gonna make a big change together on this planet is through sharing information and information that inspires people. Right now, there’s a lot of information being shared. And some of it is inspiring and some of it isn’t. So the more we can share information that’s inspiring to others, the more we can all together make an impact on this planet. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of The Higher Practice Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.

JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN, EP-C

Triple-board certified nutrition expert and Fitness Hall of Famer JJ Virgin is a passionate advocate of eating and exercising smarter. JJ helps people stay fired up and healthy as they age, so they feel the best they ever have at age 40+.

JJ is a prominent TV and media personality, whose previous features include co-host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters, 2 years as the on-camera nutritionist for Weight Loss Challenges on Dr. Phil, and numerous appearances on PBS, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, Access Hollywood, and the TODAY Show. She also speaks regularly and has shared the stage with notables including Seth Godin, Lisa Nichols, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mark Hyman, Dan Buettner, and Mary Morrissey.

JJ is the author of four NY Times bestsellers: The Virgin Diet, The Virgin Diet Cookbook, JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet, and JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet Cookbook. Her latest book, Warrior Mom: 7 Secrets to Bold, Brave Resilience, shows caregivers everywhere how to be strong, positive leaders for their families, while exploring the inspirational lessons JJ learned as she fought for her own son’s life.

JJ hosts the popular Ask the Health Expert podcast, with over 8 million downloads and growing. She also regularly writes for Rodale Wellness, Mind Body Green, and other major blogs and magazines. JJ is also a business coach and founded the premier health entrepreneur event and community, The Mindshare Summit.

To learn more about JJ Virgin: