Vegetarians in Paradise/Chef AJ/Abbie Jaye/24 Carrot Vegan/Vegetarian Award
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Vegetarians in Paradise

24 Carrot Award

Vegetarians in Paradise presents the 24 Carrot Award to an outstanding person or organization that endeavors to practice or promote education, natural health, wholesome nutrition, and ecology techniques for the mutual benefit of humans, animals, and the earth.

Vegetarians in Paradise takes great pride in presenting its 24 Carrot Award to Abbie Jaye, AKA Chef AJ, who has promoted veganism through her teaching, writing, consulting, and lecturing.

Chef AJ has been devoted to a plant-based diet for almost 40 years. She is the host of the television series Healthy Living with CHEF AJ airing on Foody TV.

A chef, culinary instructor and professional speaker, she is author of the popular book Unprocessed: How to Achieve Vibrant Health and Your Ideal Weight that chronicles her journey from a junk-food vegan faced with a diagnosis of pre-cancerous polyps to learning how to create foods that nourish and heal the body.

Students in her classes learn how to create meals to transform health, deal with cravings and food addiction, and address the emotional side of eating. In her Ultimate Weight Loss Program she has helped hundreds of people achieve the health and the body that they deserve.

Chef AJ is also creator of Healthy Taste of LA and the YouTube cooking show The Chef and the Dietitian, and is proud to say that her IQ is higher than her cholesterol. She holds a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell University and is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Web surfers can visit her website: Chef AJ Unprocessed.

As is customary, Vegetarians in Paradise takes this opportunity to interview each award recipient to share his/her accomplishments with our readers.

What follows are the questions asked by Vegetarians in Paradise (VIP) and the answers by Chef AJ (AJ)

VIP: What personal experiences led you to vegetarianism/veganism?

Chef AJ AJ: I became vegan at the age of 17 while attending the University of Pennsylvania to become a veterinarian. Instead, I became a vegetarian!

I was working for a veterinarian, and he handed me a tank of live salamanders and asked me to decapitate them. He was doing protein lens regeneration experiments in amphibians and he only needed their eyes. I was on scholarship and afraid to say no to the man in the white coat, so I cut the head off one of them, and my life was forever changed.

I started vomiting and had to go to student health. I told God at that moment that I would never eat or wear any of his creatures ever again!!! And that was almost 40 years ago.

VIP: What circumstances in your life resulted in your becoming a chef focused on diet and nutrition?

AJ: On January 1, 2003 I woke up bleeding profusely after going to the bathroom. It turned out my colon was riddled with precancerous polyps from eating a strictly junk food vegetarian diet for the past 26 years. Because my colon was in such a state of ill health, the doctor could not remove the polyps with the scope without risking infection, and he said I would have to come back and have surgery.

Having had an allergic reaction to anesthesia in my twenties, I now have an extreme phobia surrounding surgery. So instead, on July 6, 2003, with a Coke Slurpee in one hand and a Dr. Pepper in the other, I checked into the Optimum Health Institute.

It was the first time that anyone, let alone medical professionals, said that what we eat has a profound effect on how we look, how we feel, what diseases we get and what disease we can reverse. Within 6 months of eating a WHOLE-FOOD plant-based diet free of sugar, oil, salt and flour (as opposed to the highly processed vegan junk food diet I had eaten for 26 years) all of the polyps "mysteriously" disappeared.

The doctor actually accused me of having surgery somewhere else! I knew if I was going to keep eating this way, it would have to taste better than the sprouts I was eating, so I went to culinary school. And the rest is history!

VIP: How do your friends and relatives react to your emphasis on a plant-based diet?

AJ: I really don't think anyone reacts to my plant based diet as I have been veg for so long, but many think that not eating sugar, oil, salt, and flour is quite extreme.

VIP: What benefits have you realized yourself by following the diet and lifestyle you espouse? Can you give our readers the main features of your personal diet and exercise regimen?

Chef AJ AJ: Following an SOS-free low-fat, starch-based WHOLE--FOOD plant-based diet, I not only was able to reverse my precancerous polyps, but I also lost over 60 pounds. (See photo).

I eat as many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes as I want and don't eat any processed foods or high-fat foods such as chocolate, nuts, and seeds. As a food addict in recovery, I find these high fat foods are trigger foods for me, and I simply cannot moderate my use of them. To make sure I get adequate Omega 3 fatty acids, I eat purslane daily. Purslane is the highest plant source of Omega 3.

I do not add any chemicals to my food such as sugar, oil, or salt, nor do I drink alcohol. The diet I eat is the same diet outlined in the bestselling book The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss and the same diet that has been taught and served at TrueNorth Health Center for the past 30 years.

As far as exercise is concerned, I was late to the party and didn't get the memo. I really didn't start exercising until 4 years ago when I was 51 1/2. I did not have to incorporate fitness to lose my weight, but I definitely have to do it to maintain my weight. I travel extensively, so when I'm on the road, I do the best I can. If my hotel has a gym, I use the treadmill or elliptical machine. When I'm at home, I do three 90-minute Yin Yoga classes, one 90-minute restorative yoga class, and three 60-minute spinning classes per week. I walk my dog one to two hours a day and make sure I get in at least 10,000 steps.

VIP: Can you tell our readers about your education?

AJ: I have a BA in speech communications from CSUN, and I went to the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute. I also am a graduate of the E-Cornell Plant-Based Nutrition program.

VIP: There seems to be a controversy within the medical community about nuts as part of a healthy diet. What is your feeling about the role of nuts?

AJ: I think nuts can be part of a healthy diet, if they are eaten raw and unsalted and you can handle them, but I don't believe they are this magical super food that they have been touted as being. I have worked with over 2,000 food addicts, and high fat foods like nuts, seeds, nut butters and tahini are very difficult for us to moderate the use of, as they perpetuate overeating. Just because something is healthy doesn't mean that more is necessarily better.

An ounce of raw walnuts daily can be health-promoting but not a 3-pound bag of roasted and salted nuts from Costco. Our ancestors ate nuts, but the nuts were seasonal, and each one had to be opened individually.

Still, there is nothing you can get from nuts that you can't get from eating 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flax or chia seeds. As I said, I eat purslane daily. It has more Omega 3 than either nuts or seeds. Dr. John McDougall has been saying for over 40 years that "the fat you eat is the fat you wear." I was not able to lose any weight until I stopped eating nuts.

Unprocessed VIP: Since you follow a vegan diet, how do you get your protein? calcium? B12?

AJ: Except for a B12 supplement, I get all the protein, calcium, and fat I need from eating whole-plant food. Except for B12 which is a microorganism found in the soil, there is nothing you can get on meat-based diet that you can't get in a better, more utilizable form in a WHOLE-FOOD, plant-based diet.

VIP: In your book UNPROCESSED you relate much personal information about yourself. How has your story of overcoming serious health issues influenced others to make healthful lifestyle changes?

AJ: It's been over 4 years since UNPROCESSED came out, and I still get daily e-mails from people who have thanked me for sharing my story and have told me that they could relate to it.

VIP: We noticed Desserts is the first chapter in the recipe section of your book. We're curious to know what made you give desserts such prominence? Do you recommend people start their meal with dessert?

AJ: Well, I wrote that book when I was still in the throes of my food addiction. So no, I don't recommend that people eat dessert first! I rarely ever eat dessert anymore except for fruit. But I was an Executive Vegan Pastry Chef at a restaurant at that time, so dessert making, and eating, was a big part of my daily life.

VIP: You have an attractive presence on the internet. We noticed the following. Would tell us about each:

  • Chef AJ Telecasts
  • The Chef and the Dietitian
  • YouTube videos
  • Foody TV Healthy Living with Chef AJ

AJ: I do a free LIVE weekly tele-class where I interview experts on health and nutrition almost every Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time. If you can't listen live, you can hear replays on YouTube or iTunes. It's called Healthy Living with CHEF AJ.

Healthy Living I did over 60 episodes of a YouTube cooking show with Julieanna Hever that was a lot of fun. You can watch all the episodes on my website at Some of my favorite episodes have celebrity guests like Dr. T. Colin Campbell.

I have a TV show now that airs on Foody TV called Healthy Living with Chef AJ. If you don't have Roku or Apple TV, you can watch the first 6 episodes here.

VIP: You have conducted a number of 30-Day Challenge Programs. What happens during a challenge? What success rate have you achieved?

AJ: When I run these 30-day lifestyle programs, we get amazing results. We have had males lose as much as 27 pounds and females as much as 18 pounds. The least amount of weight lost was 3 pounds by people who were already slim.

Participants also got off of, or greatly reduced, their medications for heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. The program is now called The Ultimate Weight Loss Program that I now run online with celebrity fitness and nutritional guru, John Pierre. To attend a LIVE program in Sherman Oaks, check the schedule at Chef AJ Unprocessed.

VIP: We notice you have an extensive speaking and teaching schedule. What topics important to you have been the subjects of your presentations? What success have you had in influencing non-vegetarian audiences? What facts or topics are most effective in influencing people to adopt a vegan lifestyle?

AJ: I do speak extensively and have the privilege of presenting at some amazing conferences such as three times at the McDougall Advanced Study weekends, the Holistic Holiday at Sea Cruise, Vegetarian Summerfest, and at Rancho La Puerta. I have even spoken to medical doctors at hospitals, to medical students, and at childhood obesity summits.

With over 75% of Americans overweight, and more than half of those obese, weight loss is something that interests most people. My "Secrets of Ultimate Weight Loss" lecture is one of my most popular because it teaches people how they can easily lose weight without suffering or deprivation-- with a WHOLE-Foods, plant-based diet.

Healthy Taste of LA VIP: You have been a principal force in bringing Healthy Taste of LA to Southern California. Would you briefly describe the event and its accomplishments? When and where will the next program be held?

AJ: I am the creator and co-producer of Healthy Taste of LA which debuted in 2010. MY team has produced 13 of these wonderful events where "the finest in plant-based cuisine meets the best in nutritional science." We are taking this year off and coming back next year with a tremendous lineup on January 17, 2016.

Our keynote speaker is Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., and our other amazing presenters are Ann and Jane Esslestyn, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Michael Klaper, Brenda Davis, R.D., and John Pierre. For more information go to Healthy Taste Events.

VIP: In your view what are the most unhealthful foods people need to eliminate from their diet?

AJ: I think the most destructive foods in the diet of most people are animal foods, especially dairy. After that I would list all processed foods, especially oil, sugar and alcohol. The World Health Organization recently issued a statement saying they could no longer recommend ANY amount of alcohol as safe anymore. Alcohol is not a food; it's a drug.

VIP: Animal companions have been an important part of your life. Would you share details with our readers?

AJ: In my opinion, a house without a pet is not a home. Ever since I left home I have had a doggy companion. I always make sure that I rescue an older spayed and neutered mutt. Over 1,000 dogs and cats are put to death each week in the city of Los Angeles alone and the national figures are even more staggering. PLEASE DON'T BREED OR BUY WHILE HOMELESS ANIMALS DIE. Thank you.

Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan VIP: Dog Whisperer has played a significant role in your life. Would tell our readers about that role?

AJ: After my 4th baby died, I developed severe panic disorder with agoraphobia and couldn't leave my home for almost a year. Consequently, I lost my home. I was very lucky to meet The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan and be on his show. He helped Sparky become my service dog so I could reenter society and function again. You can watch the story here:

VIP: What personal goals have you set for yourself in the coming years?

AJ: Well, having a TV show was a professional goal that I recently achieved and losing weight and maintaining my weight loss were personal goals that took me over 50 years to reach!!! My main goal, however, has always been to make a difference in people's lives in the area of their health, and at the same time saving animal life and the planet. I think of myself as changing the world a bite at a time.

VIP: What person or persons have had the most influence on your life?

AJ: Personally, the person who has influenced me the most was my grandfather. He was a medical doctor who not only would treat patients for free if they had no money, but would give them the money to fill their prescriptions. The people throughout history who have influenced me whom I never met were Rosa Parks and Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning.

Professionally the people who have influenced me the most were Dr. Alan Goldhamer, Dr Doug Lisle, and Dr. John McDougall. And without books like Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Esselstyn or The China Study by Dr. Campbell, I wouldn't be able to influence anybody!

VIP: We may have omitted areas that are important to you. Please feel free to add anything you would like to share with our readers.

AJ: While some people may consider my diet and me extreme, I need to point out that I was not born eating this diet. I ate animals for the first 17 years of my life and crap for the next 26 years. What I would like to say to people is that any changes they can make in the direction of optimum health is a good start. I believe that everyone, first and foremost, will benefit greatly by giving up dairy permanently.

Just because you feel you can't do everything does not mean you should not do anything! Start somewhere, like eating more fruits and vegetables. Anyone can do anything for 30 days. There is a whole holiday called Lent built around that premise. So just agree to do this for 30 days. Just try it. You may actually like it!!!

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