Since I’ve resolved to get my diet back on track, I thought I’d revisit one of the most effective pieces of diet advice I’d gotten. In 2018, I read the book The Virgin Diet by J.J. Virgin, which was recommended by Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley. I kinda cringed at the name and the book cover, but I’m so glad that I read it.
For the first time, I found out that foods we might think of as “healthy” might not necessarily be, depending on how your body reacts to them. This is because food is information and it will send signals to the various hormones in your body. If your body reacts negatively, it can result in you gaining weight and not being able to shed it.
The worst culprit is inflammation. This is your body’s immune response when you eat foods that you’re sensitive towards. I dunno bout you, but this makes me visualise my digestive system going up in flames. Not good. 😱
If this happens on an ongoing basis, your body can become resistant to various “chemical messengers” (i.e. hormones that send information throughout your body) like the following:
👉 Cortisol – the stress hormone. Inflammation keeps your body from “hearing” cortisol so you get stressed out. High levels of stress make you store fat around your waist and cause you to crave carbs.
👉 Insulin – responsible for moving sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells for storage, so a stable level of blood sugar can be maintained. When your digestive system is up in flames, there’s too much insulin pumping out, leading to that extra blood sugar getting stored as fat.
👉 Leptin – controls how hungry or full you feel. If you’re experiencing inflammation, that “holy crap I’m so full” message ain’t gonna get passed to your brain. So you eat way more than you need and store more fat.
Essentially, the choice of food you eat can lead to your gut going up in flames and causing symptoms like bloating, headaches and brain fog. The worst thing is, it’ll stall all weight loss efforts. See a list of potential symptoms below.
How do we prevent this?
The Virgin chick recommends cutting out the top 7 foods that can lead to inflammation:
- Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
How it works: Cut them all out completely for 21 days, then slowly start to reintroduce them into your diet one at a time. This way, you can see which ones are giving you bad symptoms.
Oh, the symptoms will be VERY severe so you’ll definitely know what foods you react to. I remember having an acai bowl (full of sugar and gluten, of course) during one of the breaks in a law lecture because my classmate was raving about it. I basically couldn’t keep my eyes open in class and experienced severe brain fog. This was way more than an after-lunch slump, it was almost like a knock-out drug. NOT GOOD.
In the first week after the 21-day cleanse, reintroduce gluten on Monday – Thursday, then cut it out again for Friday – Sunday and track any symptoms you experience. Then, do the same thing for the next 3 weeks for soy, eggs and dairy. Be sure to only reintroduce one at a time so that you can really isolate the food and its effect on your body (i.e. don’t do both gluten and soy in week 2, keep the gluten out!!).
What happened when I did it?
Unfortunately for me, I think I react to just about everything. Gluten makes me bloated and gassy, soy and sugary stuff cause a huge energy dip and make me feel sluggish, and dairy causes breakouts of acne on my face. I’m not 100% sure about eggs but they might also contribute to acne. Apparently, if you give your gut 3-6 months to heal, you might not react to those foods anymore.
Trying out this diet was probably the biggest factor in bringing down my body fat percentage. Furthermore, it gave me sustained energy throughout the day – no more after-lunch slumps! However, I didn’t manage to sustain it in the long run. I’ve kept dairy out for good but went back to eating things like bread, pasta and oh my goodness, soy sauce (can’t eat sushi and sashimi without it!). That’s probably why despite maintaining my exercise routine, my body fat percentage shot up again.
I think it’s up to you to decide whether you make an effort to keep the foods out long-term or just try to avoid them as much as possible. Of course, moderation won’t work as well as saying goodbye to them completely, but sometimes it’s not realistic. If you’re struggling with weight loss, or constantly experiencing bad symptoms, I would recommend that you at least try the process out (it’s only about 2 months worth of experimentation) so that you find out what foods you may be sensitive to and you can be more mindful in keeping them out of your diet.
If you’re thinking, “how the heck am I going to cut all 7 of those foods out of my diet?!” – trust me, you can find a way. Personally, I really enjoyed the mix of plant-based protein powder and gluten-free oats topped with berries for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, I had quinoa or brown rice with plenty of vegetables and fish, chicken or turkey.
It might be a pain if you go out to eat and the menu doesn’t have anything suitable (especially here in Singapore) but if you’re committed to it, you’ll make it work for 21 days. It could be as simple as studying the menu beforehand or eating something prior to going out and just having a drink or something.
I’m slowly becoming more conscious and intentional about what I eat so that I avoid things that I’m sensitive towards. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do the 100% cleanse again, but I’d love to work up to it so that I can reduce any inflammation in my body.
The book goes into way more detail about the mechanics and recommended foods, so if you’re serious about doing this I would recommend that you get the book. Of course, I’m not a nutritionist or health professional, but I can help to answer any questions you may have about the process.
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