I received another great question the other day, and I wanted to take a crack at answering it:
“You are totally my favorite blogger. Even though you don’t blog as much as you used to, I so look forward to opening my email and seeing a post from you. I tried going vegan, lasted three months, but then fell off the wagon. I finally went on medifast to lose my weight, I lost 22 pounds. But in my heart of hearts, I know that it is not healthy. I would like to try going vegan again, but I was curious what the differences between the nutrarian diet that was so difficult for you versus the diet (or way of life) you are on now? I can’t seem to last on any diet longer than three months.”
I’m going to make an attempt to distill the similarities and differences between Chef AJ’s Ultimate Weight Loss (UWL) and Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live/Nutritarianism (E2L). This isn’t going to be perfect, just a list of my own personal observations after having followed both programs. There are probably many more similarities than there are differences, but there are some important differences that have made a huge effect on my well being.
(1) Frequency of Eating
Fuhrman makes it very clear that eating in between meals is a no-no. He says that there is a difference between true hunger and toxic hunger and that we should not eat unless we are truly hungry. UWL allows snacking in between meals, but limits it to fruit and vegetables. The only exception was AJ’s recommendation for me to eat a piece of sweet potato (or a banana) when I get in the door at 5:15 pm.
As a point of note, McDougall says eat when you are hungry, which I really like. I don’t want to feel guilty for being hungry at the “wrong” times and I want to eat when I am hungry because it prevents me from overeating at a later time. I like listening to my body’s signals.
That being said, AJ has told me on many occasions, “If you’re not hungry enough to eat kale, you’re not hungry.” So don’t mistake your feeling that you need to eat something (an emotional hunger) with actual physical hunger that would cause you to be happy to eat a bowl of kale!
(2) Nutrient Density vs. Calorie Density
E2L emphasizes foods with a high nutrient density. On UWL, you will be eating a ton of foods with a high nutrient density, but you are not concerned about getting G-BOMBS in every day.
AJ’s focus is really on calorie density, so more than you are looking to eat greens, beans, mushrooms, etc., you are looking to eat a high volume of low calorie food while trying to minimize or eliminate all foods with a high calorie density (fatty foods and processed grains, for example). That’s why AJ has us eating a pound of green vegetables (not just “greens” like kale or Swiss Chard) twice a day. If you are eating a lot of vegetables at 100 calories per pound, you have a lot less room in your stomach for higher calorie foods like nuts and avocados.
I had studied calorie density for a long time and thought I was eating in a way to maximize these principles, but until I understood UWL and how Chef AJ ate to lose all that weight, I never could have put this to work in my own life. It took me quite a while to really get this and internalize this. I was eating way too much tofu, tempeh, avocado and nuts–even though I thought I wasn’t.
I didn’t know how I could live without tofu, tempeh, avocado and nuts because I saw myself going so hungry without them. No one can live on vegetables and fruit alone. On E2L, there was no potato or brown rice to take their place in my mind, because Furhman had said that in order to lose weight I could only eat 1/2 a cup of brown rice per day. On UWL, you can eat large volumes of potatoes and grains. But you won’t even need to go crazy with them because potatoes are the most filling food in the world! You will not believe how satisfying a potato is if you haven’t had one in a long time. Incidentally, you can also consume a whole boatload of calories from nuts while not feeling full at all.
Observing a typical day of food for Chef AJ when she was at my house really helped. Watching this video took my understanding to a whole ‘nother level.
(3) Brain Chemistry
UWL is essentially a plan for food addicts who need to eat a high volume of food in order to feel “okay.” It’s not for everyone. It just happens to work really well for folks who struggle on E2L. While E2L basically deprives a person of complex carbohydrates, equating a potato with a donut and telling us that if we want to lose weight we need to restrict complex carbohydrates, UWL says just the opposite.
UWL is based on AJ’s actual life experience trying out both E2L and McDougall Maximum Weight Loss, plus spending a lot of time at True North, and finding out what worked for her. Since I share a lot of the same characteristics as AJ when it comes to my food needs, I was attracted to her ideas.
Severely limiting whole grains and potatoes was not working for me from a weight loss standpoint. Just the opposite, in fact. I was packing on the pounds. It took my reading a few books on brain chemistry and food addiction to understand why, but as an addict, I NEED whatever chemicals a potato and a bowl of whole grains are providing to my brain and body. It’s those compounds that actually make staying on a healthy, whole food plant based diet a breeze. It has to do with the serotonin and the beta endorphin levels in my brain, but don’t ask me anything more detailed about it because I barely understand it myself.
On E2L, off plan food became a horrible struggle for me. I didn’t know why I couldn’t walk past a plate of cookies at work without being tortured by them, even though I was saying to myself, “That shit is poison, don’t eat that!”
On UWL, as long as I fuel myself properly with lots of vegetables (see, there’s that similarity to E2L) and starches (there’s the McDougall), staying on the plan is not a struggle and weight loss is happening.
But it all really comes down to any plan that works for you that has a low calorie density that you can stick with and not go crazy in the process. Stick with whatever plan you are on if it’s working. If it’s not working, find one that does, because your happiness and sanity are worth it.
And don’t forget . . .
Chef AJ has agreed to do a free teleclass for us this Wednesday night at 9 pm EST/6 pm PST.
Just call this dial–in number: (712) 432-1212 at 9 pm EST/6 pm PST
the Meeting ID is 263-629-008
After you call in, you must hit the “mute” button on your telephone or the call will be very difficult for everyone else to hear (lots of static). You will be listening to a discussion between me and AJ that is based on your questions, so . . .
Please leave your questions for Chef AJ as comments to this blog posting. We will be using your questions as the foundation of the teleclass!