Chef AJ’s Plant-Based Diet for Food Addiction

Plant-based diet food freedom journal entry number 3

I have wanted to stay on a plant-based healthy diet and get off my processed vegetarian diet for a long time. I knew it would be better for my health and for the environment.

After learning about the concept of processed food addiction I tried a lot of different programs to help me get free from processed foods.

I had always known I a problem with food and now it had an identifiable source and shape to it.


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I couldn’t stay on a healthy diet until  I found Chef AJ

Even though I was trying healthy diet systems I kept failing because a piece of information or understanding was missing. After finding Chef AJ on Youtube I had the answers I needed.

Before Chef AJ’s information on plant-based volumetric eating, I didn’t actually identify or remove all the foods that were triggering my cravings.

Food has always been my go-to addiction to deal with stress and negative emotions, but I discovered it was going to take more than mindfulness to get free from this addiction.

I needed to address the chemical reactions that were happening in my gut and brain from eating specific foods as well as dealing with emotions in a healthy way. Find out where you are on the food addiction spectrum.

Maybe I wasn’t just a “piggy-poo” after all!

Since I have identified my processed food addiction and started abstaining from specific refined foods, I have lost 40 pounds and counting in the last few months.

I have had a dramatic reduction in cravings and binges even though life has been just as stressful as ever. I simply do not crave these foods anymore.

First I tried the Spudfit Challenge

reivew of spudfit challange mono-diet photo of potatoes

Andrew Taylor lost around 100 pounds in one year eating nothing but potatoes for the whole year! Andrew ate white potatoes, sweet potatoes yellow potatoes purple potatoes, you name it he ate it.

He was so inspiring and warm on his videos that I wanted to try it.

He realized he was a food addict and wanted to do something close to fasting but not quite as difficult. He is now on a plant-based program and has an online course and a book. Read my experience with Spudfit here.

I had lost weight on spudfit but regained it back as soon as I went off of it because cravings kept pulling me back into refined foods.

When I discovered Chef AJ and watched her volumetrics video I immediately saw what I had been doing wrong all this time.

Plant-Based with Chef AJ

Spudfit feels like another diet because at some point it is going to be over and you are going to have to deal with eating a wider variety of foods. Chef AJ teaches you how to eat for life from the start.

Chef AJ eats a ton of food every day. I was amazed when I watched her “what I eat in a day” video. She is tiny and eats huge piles of greens, sweet potatoes, beans and grains, and some fruits but she does not eat any nuts, oils, seeds or processed foods at all.

She suggests trying to work your way up to eating two or three pounds of greens and other non-starchy veggies per day, and to try eating at least half of them raw in salads.

I just have to repeat that this might seem like a huge volume of food but these huge portions of non-starchy veggies only add up to about 300 to 500 calories per day. Most of the calories on her diet come from grains, beans, and potatoes.

Chef AJs Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss program taught me how to eat

I was resistant at first because I had tried many other plant-based programs over the years and failed. I tried Macrobiotics back in the 80s at the original center in Boston. And I had tried to stay on the Fuhrman system over the years only to topple off every time because I wasn’t eating enough food.

Eating by Volume cuts cravings

But Chef AJ’s has been at it for ten years and stayed thin and helped a lot of other people lose weight. One of her keys was clearly identifying how much volume of food one needs to eat on a plant-based diet especially at first.

It was way more than I had been eating. Since I was used to dieting and eating tiny portions I needed it spelled out. Processed foods are much more calorie dense than high fiber fruits and veggies.

I thought it was extreme at first to cut out oil, salt, and flour along with sugar and other processed foods But it rapidly wipes out any and all cravings for processed junk foods.

I was onboard with no oils, meat, dairy, flour products like bread, or pasta. I just wanted to get free and lose the weight and feel better.

Letting go of salt was hard

purple cabbage painting by zoe zuniga

But when it came to letting go of salt I just sort of skipped over it and ignored it at first. after all even McDougall allows some salt. But for some people, too much salt can make the food hyper-palatable and make you hungrier.

Kelly Brogan is another favorite of mine when it comes to overall health and nutrition. She is Paleo and uses lots of fats, meat, and even has this special Sol mixture that is supposed to help you retain water better and be very healthy but she is not a food addict so she doesn’t understand how stimulating to the appetite extra salt can be.

I had followed Dr. McDougall’s diet of high starch and low fat, but this included whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, whole grain bread and I had an inkling that maybe these pasta and bread products were still too refined for me and were causing cravings.

Veggies for Breakfast!

heal depression with dietary changes

This little tweak really helped me change my diet for good. I know it sounds strange but veggies for breakfast has a reason behind it.

Chef AJ recommends that you eat a pound of greens first thing in the morning as steamed greens and or salad greens with other veggies and again first thing at lunch and dinner because the least caloric most bulky water-filled foods are most filling and give the most satiety.

Another reason for eating greens first is that the bitter flavor of the greens reprograms the brain so that it is not overly primed for sweet flavors the rest of the day. Another reason for lots of greens is the high mineral content.

Bitter foods like greens tend to help you avoid cravings. Most of us eat a breakfast of sweet foods like fruit or oatmeal with fruit or a muffin. Chef AJ explains that these foods first thing can set us up for cravings when the first taste of the day is something sweet.

The rest of the diet consists of higher caloric foods like fruits and then cooked starches like potatoes, whole grains like rice or quinoa and legumes.

After a few weeks, whole foods taste great!

I am not going to lie, at first things didn’t taste as great as the highly palatable high-calorie foods I love so much but you get used to it and start to really enjoy eating this way.

The one thing about chef AJ that I don’t agree with is that she thinks supplements are not necessary except vitamin B12. though she does mention briefly in her book that you can take an algae-based EFA.

Even though her book The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss was not on kindle I ordered the paperback anyway after watching a bunch of her videos.

She also has an online course and has put together a plant-based summit. 

People may think you are weird but don’t let that worry you!

Two or 3 pounds of produce a day was a  much higher volume than I was used to eating but it worked because the fiber is filling and satiating and the greens are full of phytonutrients I needed.

Chej AJ describes one of her students in her book who was still very overweight but was losing weight steadily and feeling a lot better, by eating huge volumes of green leafy foods with some beans and starches.

One day this student was eating her lunch in the cafeteria at work and a co-worker came by, looked at the heaping plate of veggies and commented

“No wonder you are so fat! You simply eat too much.”

The huge plate of salad the woman was eating couldn’t have contained more than 300 calories and had a non-fat dressing. But her co-worker was too ignorant to figure this out.

Programmed for tiny portions

We are so programmed to diet on tiny servings of high-fat, high-calorie processed foods like weight watchers and keto, that it is very hard to break this stupid habit and eat enough high fiber whole plant foods.

Once I read about that experience, I was cured of my tendency to under eat on my non-starchy greens.

I began to eat a lot more greens than I was used to and suddenly for the first time my cravings went away!

What I eat every day

bowl of veggies

 

I have a big pile of steamed greens with each meal and sometimes also have a salad. I also have a scoop of whole beans and a scoop of sweet potatoes or whole grains for my starches. It is really simple. I season things with some salsa, tomato sauce, chipotle pepper, or rice vinegar, onions and garlic.

Chef AJ uses no overt fats relying only on the fats in her beans and starches and veggies and fruits. This gives her the 10% fat in her diet that she needs to survive. She doesn’t use any nuts, seeds or avocado in her meals because she feels that these lead to binges if she tries these.

but I have found that I can have a handful of nuts, or some avocado or flax seeds every day without having my cravings triggered or binging out on the bag of nuts that I know are in the fridge.

Detoxing my first day without salt

I lost 2 a couple of pounds the first week on her recommendations and had absolutely no cravings for junk foods. Maybe this was it! I was finally free!

I was excited to keep going. Finally, after finishing the whole book I decided to go salt-free and left out the tomato sauce, mustard, and miso I had been using.

I noticed an immediate reaction to cutting all salt. I got a sore throat and ear ache on the left side of my head where I have had sinus problems for years. I had mild flu-like symptoms, a few aches, and pains and I had very little appetite for about a week and was down to one or two very small meals per day with no cravings and very little desire to eat.

I trusted that my body was detoxing as needed and let it runs its course.

Just getting 100 percent of the salt out of my system was an amazing cleanse. A week later I had lost a total of 12 pounds and was pretty excited to keep going.

In about of week, my appetite came back. Taking all the salt out had heightened my taste buds so the plant-based diet was delicious and satisfying.  I still use a few items with salt, like tomato sauce, or seaweed now and then but I have dramatically reduced my salt intake.

The Pleasure Trap

For a while, my cravings would reappear out of the blue every few weeks but eventually, they went away.

I found out from reading The Pleasure Trap that cravings naturally return every few weeks or months out of the blue for a while. This is a natural part of the process and diminishes over time the more the body gets what it needs from a healthier high nutrient diet.

It is our natural instinctual reaction to the memory of the old food. When our defenses are down or we see the old food we can be triggered again.

Processed food  trick your brain every time

Processed foods give the survival part of our brain a false feeling that we are doing something that is good for us. But really the flavors and highly processed high caloric foods throw our system into confusion.

Our primitive limbic system thinks we should stock up any time there is something with highly concentrated calories. But in our culture, that means many of us are eating non-stop and getting super fat because there is so much processed food everywhere we go.

Obese no longer

I still have managed to lose 40 pounds with the occasional cheating and am presently down to 148. from 188 which at 5 ft 3 inches put me over into the obesity level.

So if you are done with diets and calorie counting, weighing your food and want a more intuitive approach I definitely suggest getting chef AJ’s book The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss, which has a lot of delicious but easy recipes.

 

Similar plant-based experts

Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Dr. Dean Ornish

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What to read next

Becoming a Food Minimalist with the Spudfit Challenge

How to Beat Sugar Cravings and Lose Weight for Good

How to Prevent Gas and Bloating on a Plant-based Diet

Are Your Gut Bacteria Making You Fat?

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I'm a natural health writer and designer at mindbodycopy.com and mindbodyclarity.com and MindfulJoyful.com a creativity blog. I'm also a former Pilates trainer and sports massage therapist, currently working on my Plant-Based Nutrition certification.

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