Obsessed With PBS: JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Secret

JJ Virgin* is back! This time she is talking about sugar and how much I personally am addicted to it and can’t stop and I visit all the candy dishes at work and now I need to eat a Magic Cookie Bar. Well, not in so many words. She says that “it’s not the sugar itself that’s the problem but the impact of sugar that matters”. Translated: it’s the sugar that’s the problem. She gets right to it, too. She lists the Symptoms Of High Sugar Impact Foods:

  •             Weight Gain
  •             Cravings
  •             Mood & Energy Swings
  •             Inflammation
  •             High Blood Pressure
  •             Insulin Resistance & Diabetes

Yeah. I know. She then says that so-called healthy eating actually contains a lot of hidden sugars. Salad Dressings, cereals, fruit juices, you name it. She even drives the point home by comparing the amount of sugar in those foods to ice cream cones. Which actually made me crave ice cream so she may need to rethink telling us that ten ice cream cones in a day is not a good thing.

I want to take a moment to admire PBS and their balls for showing this special during Thanksgiving weekend. We’re all loaded up on pumpkin pie and Cool Whip, which is just the start for the next month, and now we are forced to face our sugary sins right in the middle of it. It might be a good tactic for fundraising but I would hazard a guess that re-airing this in January might be even better. See, if most people are like me, you give up once the Halloween candy invades the office. PBS should capitalize on the extreme food guilt from the last three months of the year, coupled with the New Year’s Resolution, and rake in the pledge bucks. Just a Sugary Food For Thought.

Early on, Virgin asks the audience if they have ever seen the movie The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Where does this lead? Is Virgin suggesting that sugar will turn us all into Shrunken Old Brad Pitts? No, she just wants to quote the film: “It’s never too late to be who you want to be.” I’ve only seen the film once but I guess this is said at the point when Pitt’s old man head is CGI’d onto a kid’s body. What I love about this is that it’s a pretty generic quote. I could have said it at some point.

Here’s another quote, this time from JJ: “Sugar is the #1 thing taking down your health.” Of course it is. She then tells us some of the horrible things that it does. Sugar makes you:

  •             Age faster (See! She could have tied in Benjamin Button better. So easy.)
  •             Feel exhausted
  •             Lose focus
  •             Fight cravings (I’m not sure if this is good or bad)
  •             Put on weight
  •             Plus lots more damage!

Later she gives a “quiz” which is actually just a list of symptoms of sugar impact. Things like cravings, low energy, hunger, poor mood, gas & bloating and growing waistline. If I got them all right, do I win something? Yes! I win diabetes, accelerated aging, dementia, cancer and heart disease! And yet, I still want those damn ice cream cones.

Virgin goes on to talk about glucose and fructose. Fructose is worse, she says, because it goes straight to the liver (it’s the only thing that can metabolize it) and stores the excess as fat. Fructose also doesn’t trigger “satiety hormones” so you are still hungry afterwards.

Virgin’s nickname when she was younger was “Poppy” not because of the flower but because she ate a lot of Pop Tarts. (This is where JJ and I bonded.) But, she says, her drug of choice was French Fries. (Wait. Am I JJ?!? I have been called Spuddy in my past…)

Back to Sugar Impact. Here’s something that I’ve heard contradicting thoughts on which Virgin acknowledges: “Eating every 2 to 3 hours keeps blood sugar and insulin elevated.” Now others have said you should keep down cravings by eating smaller meals more frequently but Virgin says that more frequent meals keeps you in a Sugar Burner way and not in a Fat Burner way. Sugar Burners burn sugar for fuel and store fat while Fat Burners burn stored fat for fuel. She says eat every 4 to 6 hours to become a Fat Burner.

As for what food to eat, she gives some examples of how to swap out hidden sugar foods for ones that are better. Things like kale chips for potato chips. Needless to say processed food is frowned upon.

Random quote: “What is a cupcake without frosting? A muffin!” There’s got to be a joke in there somewhere.

I’m pleased to report that JJ gives her blessing to some sugar substitutes! They are monk fruit, stevia (Yay!), xylitol & erythritol, cinnamon and vanilla. I realize cinnamon and vanilla aren’t usually thought of as sugar substitutes but I like them both so I’m running with it. (On cinnamon, there is a caption that read “Ingredients in cinnamon…” which I thought was weird. Isn’t it one ingredient? And isn’t that ingredient cinnamon?)

To sum up, JJ Virgin wants us to eliminate High Sugar Impact hidden sugars (like ketchup and popcorn [boo hiss]), cut down on Medium Sugar Impact foods (like 77% dark chocolate and red wine [boo hiss]) and enjoy the Low Sugar Impact ones (wild fish, goat cheese, olives and other as far away from sweet foods that you can think of). Taper and Transition is the key. “Going cold turkey sets you up to fail,” she says.

But eating cold turkey is OK!

*I almost typed JJ Abrams but that would make “Sugar Impact Secret” the second worse Star Wars sub title.


  1. I have jj virgin’s books and want to copy her low medium and high sugar impact foods list but cannot get them on the internet. How do I do that?

    • Hello! Just saw this comment. Does she not list them in her book? The PBS special only listed a couple for each category and I only jotted down a few. I assumed they would be in her Sugar Impact book. Or maybe try her website. If it helps here are the ones I wrote down:

      High Impact – popcorn
      Medium Impact – red wine and dark chocolate
      Low Impact – wild fish, winter squash, quinoa, pesto sauce, chicken breast, goat cheese, lentils, steel cut oats, nuts & seeds, non-starchy vegetables, green tea and olives

      I’m sure there are more for each category but that’s all I had written down. Hope it helps!

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