Let’s welcome JD Roth to my plant chat today. As a producer, author, host and motivational media personality, JD has created some of the industry’s most prolific and compelling entertainment programming. He first introduced viewers to the weight-loss TV arena more than a decade ago with “The Biggest Loser” on NBC – now a worldwide, half-billion dollar brand – and expanded upon it with 3 Ball Entertainment’s “Extreme Weight Loss” on ABC, which ran for five seasons and airs as “Obese” in more than 130 countries. Now, as executive producer and host of the new reality series “The Big Fat Truth”, JD guides and mentors groups of overweight participants, posing challenges and providing the tools they need to accomplish their health and weight loss goals.
Whether it’s nurses at a hospital, teachers at a school, moms who never lost their baby weight, or even former reality TV weight-loss contestants who regained their weight, JD shows them how to change their lives and gain the ultimate reward of a healthier lifestyle. Mining the same problem-solving and motivational skills JD used so successfully on his past shows – a combination of enthusiasm, empathy and “realness” conveyed in his inimitable no-holds-barred style and signature, master story-telling abilities – JD helps “The Big Fat Truth” cast shake up their lives to do what they thought was impossible. Exploring mental and emotional awareness and fortitude as the missing links in transformative weight loss, “The Big Fat Truth” addresses the real reasons people struggle with weight, with JD serving up the tools and optimism that are the keys to lasting change. I sat down with JD to ask him about his diet philosophy and upcoming show, which debuts June 11 at 8 pm ET/PT on Z Living.
What inspired you to cover weight loss and diet in your work as a TV producer?
It’s become a passion of mine that got unleashed in the 2000s, and I can’t turn it off now. I didn’t know it back then; I was just a TV producer and I had no idea that my next show was going to be about weight loss. I saw that I could help people to push that button to choose salad instead of fries. It brought something out of me. All of the doctors and nutritionists were saying that you can’t lose more than a pound or two per week, but I saw that wasn’t true. What we perceive as hunger pain is really emotional pain. Doctors and nutritionists are good at physical health, but not emotional health. I saw that people could achieve weight loss if we managed the emotional side of weight loss, not just the calories in and out.
We are not evaluating why people are eating foods in the first place, which leads them to “yo-yo” dieting, where they lose weight and go right back to the decisions they made about food before. I always say, the body is no match for the power of the mind. No one was really dealing with the power of the mind.
That’s what we did on our show. We could get large amounts of weight off people this way vs. the “normal way.” It had to do with figuring out the emotional reasons for eating right and working out. We would see people lose no weight the first week, a pound the second week, and then on the third week have an emotional breakthrough and lose 10 pounds. A light bulb went off for me. I like to say tears weigh more than fat. When people have an emotional breakthrough it shows on the scales; I’ve seen this happen hundreds of times and it’s been consistent on every show I’ve ever done.
After all of the programs you’ve run on diet and weight, how can you sum it all up into one major conclusion about the impact of diet on weight?
You can’t outwork three bad meals a day. I’ve seen this a lot. Anyone who thinks you can go take a spin class, finish it, get off the bike, turn to a friend, and say that it felt so good, now I can have a cupcake for lunch…it doesn’t work that way. Don’t reward good behavior with bad behavior; change your reward system. If you just did the hardest workout class, go treat yourself to a new shirt, some shoes, or workout gear. Don’t reward it with food, so that eating becomes your happy place. Change the pleasure principle.
People are experts at making excuses. I’ve never heard so many excuses about this or that in my whole life. At some point, you have to look yourself in the mirror and make a promise, keep the promise, and then make and keep two promises. Promise that you will do 20 min on the treadmill, and do not get off at 19 min 50 seconds. Promise yourself you’re not having dessert when all your coworkers are eating it and keep the promise. Stack those successful promises one on top of another and another. Look at all aspects of your life—working out, eating right, emotional health, mindfulness, relationship health, work health, and family health. All of those are fingers on the hand to being successful.
Why do you think people have such a hard time losing weight, and even a harder time keeping it off?
I think that keeping it off is hard, because what people do is have a relationship with that word “diet”, which means restriction and that you can’t have certain things, or you have to eat less calories, and you’ll be unhappy. You can only keep yourself restricted for so long before you say I’m not going to do this anymore; hence the floodgate opens and you go off the diet. Replace that thought process with a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. I tell people to replace processed foods with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes and eat as much as you can—until your jaw hurts—and I say this is not a “diet.” I have put countless people on this way of eating to lose weight, which focuses on foods with good nutritional content, and the body responds instantly.
On the new show people lose 100 points on their cholesterol levels—there are no meds on the planet that can do this. We’ve had people with type 2 diabetes treated with insulin and in under 10 days they no longer have type 2 diabetes. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
We got off track by eating highly processed foods that sit in a warehouse, then the supermarket shelf, then your pantry for months before you finally crack it open and eat it. We have to literally get back to our roots so that the body can heal itself.
I always say that genetics loads the gun, but the decisions we make pulls the trigger. We all have issues in our families, such as heart disease or cancer, but the decisions we make can turn those genetics off so that they are no longer a factor in our health. If that’s the case, then why wouldn’t we do that? If everybody ate this way and we had success, what would happen to our health care in the U.S.? We could save billions.
I think that doctors in our health care system have almost no nutrition courses in their training, and they are set up to treat disease not prevention of disease. If doctors said “eat more broccoli,” people would do that and then never come back. This is not reimbursable in our health care system. Everyone is on medications now, but what if people ate right all the time? The body would heal itself.
What is a whole foods, plant-based diet, and how can it be the solution to a healthy weight?
I think 24 of the 26 chronic illnesses on the planet are obesity-related. You could stop disease in its tracks with a whole foods, plant-based diet. I had T. Colin Campbell over to my house for dinner, and he told me that nobody has to have heart disease ever. What a concept. I had Dr. Michael Greger over and he talked about the power of diet for cancer prevention. Now there is so much research that we no longer have to use guesswork to understand this; it’s no longer a bunch of hippies in northern California eating fruit. Now it’s real science behind this. It is no longer just an idea, it is fact.
For me, it’s no longer looking in the mirror, knowing I have family genetic issues that concern me. It’s about making really good decisions that change the genetics and help me achieve the goal of a longer, healthier life by being more aware of diet, right up to the very end. Dr. Greger says you can look at it this way: You can go over to the corner table, and bang your head as heard as you can and it hurts. You step away and your body heals the wound. And then three hours later, you do it again. So your body never has a chance to heal, and then three hours later you do it again. That’s what happens when you eat poorly and then you do it again at your next meal—your body can’t heal. I try to eat really clean, but I’m a human being, I like to eat a chocolate chip cookie now and then, but then I go right back to my dark green leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruits.
Can you share some of your best nuggets of advice for eating a plant-based diet to promote optimal weight and health?
I think the benefit for the movement of plant-based eating is that we would like everyone in the tent with us, it is not exclusionary. If you’re not on board 200%, that’s OK, come on in sit down and see that it’s pretty nice. You can eat one meal that is plant-based and see how you feel, see if you have more energy, if you feel like taking a nap after a meal, and see what your thought process is. I was a full-in meat guy; I laughed at my wife when she suggested that we eat a plant-based diet, but she slowly shrunk the protein on my plate from 8 ounces to 6; 6 ounces to 4; 4 to “is there any on my plate?”, until I saw that I didn’t need it at all. Some people are brave enough to make a 100% flip to plant-based and go for it. I give them credit, but if that’s not you then take baby steps and do it like I did it; slowly. I started with making all breakfasts plant-based—that’s an easy one to start with. Then after a week you can take a look at how you feel, and make more choices that bring you closer to the end zone. You will realize how much better you feel. I am 50-years old and I’ve never felt more in control of my health and life as I do now.
In the first episode of the TV show, our contestant Ryan said it was too expensive to go on a whole foods, plant-based diet. A lot of people say that. But when we did it our grocery bills were cut in half because buying meat is always the most expensive thing on your list. I said that I could get dinner on the table for five people in 15 minutes with just five ingredients. One of our contestants said that it would take too much time to cook plant-based meals, and I get what they are saying. But I made a bet that I could make a meal before he could get fast food and come back home with it. I said, go, get in the car, and I went into the kitchen and made a full plant-based meal and got it on the table two minutes before he walked in the door with his bags of fast food.
People have excuses why they don’t want to do what they know they should do. They could say it’s expensive or that it takes too long, but then they should start making excuses for why they should do it and then just get it done. On Sunday, we make a big bowl of quinoa and vegetables so that we have them all week long. When we’re hungry, we just go into the refrigerator and get them. There are plant-based food companies now that provide frozen foods for emergency situations, which give you a premade solution for every problem.
This is the first plant-based TV show ever. The program on the show is 100% plant-based for 90 days. People literally go from McDonald’s on Monday to a whole foods, plant-based diet on Tuesday. For the first 10 days, we supply them with all of the food. We see amazing results; we have doctors running the blood tests twice because they don’t believe the results. But the proof is there; we have lowered cholesterol by 100 points in 10 days and seen triglycerides go from heart attack levels to below normal.
There are tens of millions of Americans walking around that are half dead and they don’t need to be. They can reverse these issues and live a great life. We hear a lot from people that after six or seven days on a plant-based diet they are starting to think more clearly. I wonder, “What were you thinking before?” They say there was a fog before, with no clear thoughts. Now they have clarity. They never knew what a carrot really tasted like, that it could really taste that good. Their bodies were so used to high-caloric density burgers with salt, and foods with processed ingredients like sugar that they couldn’t process what was good for them.
What does your own personal wellness plan look like?
I’m 100% whole foods, plant-based—that’s my goal to always be as close to perfect as I can be. I make an attempt every day to be active. It’s a joke in my family that I work out every day, except for one month when I work out 28 days and that is February. It’s super important to move every day, for emotional health. I meditate as often as I can and do yoga, which are all things important for emotional health. Our family time is about simple things—we don’t rush around doing a lot of things, we just watch the sun go down, walk down and put our feet in the water, share things that happened in the day. We share quality time disconnected from the phone and electronics. Feeling whole emotionally is as important as eating whole foods. It’s very important, and obviously all of those things matter. Almost 100% of overweight people I work with are on antidepressants, but when you live this way you no longer need them. Instead you can move more to increase your endorphins and sleep better and feel better. As soon as you start moving, you take control of your own personal health. It depends on how committed you are; just stop making excuses as a start.