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NBSV 106


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 106

Chef AJ & Glen Merzer on the science of low-fat, plant based diets

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 106. Chef AJ and Glen Merzer are on the show to talk about their new book: Own Your Health, and a whole lot more.

Hey, thanks for tuning in. I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. We are covering a lot of ground today with chef AJ and Glen Merzer, so let's jump right in. 

They've just published a brand new book, Own Your Health: How to Live Long and Avoid Chronic Illness. Chef AJ has been devoted to a plant exclusive diet for nearly 44 years. She's the host of the television series, Healthy Living with Chef AJ, airing on Foodie TV, a chef culinary instructor, and professional speaker. She's the author of the popular book, Unprocessed: How to Achieve Vibrant Health and Your Ideal Weight, and the best-selling books, The Secret to Ultimate Weight Loss: a Revolutionary Approach to Conquer Cravings, Overcome Food Addiction and Lose Weight Without Going Hungry, and Own Your Health, which have received glowing endorsements by many luminaries in the plant-based movement. Chef AJ was the executive pastry chef at Santee restaurant in Los Angeles, where she was famous for her sugar, oil, salt, and gluten-free desserts, which use the fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the whole fruit.

These recipes can be found in her upcoming book, a Date with Dessert. She's the host of the YouTube show Chef AJ Live, which broadcasts live daily at 11:00 AM pacific time. She's proud to say that her IQ is higher than her cholesterol. In 2018, she was inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame, and her favourite food is roasted Hannah yams with broccoli.

Glenn Merzer is a playwright, screenwriter and author. He has authored or coauthored 11 books that advocate the vegan diet. Most notably, he was chef AJ’s coauthor on Unprocessed and The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss, and Howard Lyman's coauthor on Mad Cowboy. Glenn wrote, Own Your Health to which chef AJ contributed over 75 recipes, to demonstrate with humour that the science proves that there is no serious alternative to the low fat whole plant food diet. Glen's latest book is, Food is Climate, which argues that we have been misled on climate issues by many of our leading climate activists and that the true leading cause of climate change is animal agriculture. Glen's favourite vegan meal is portobello mushrooms with tempeh and any kind of potatoes. Hope you enjoy our discussion.

Hi, Glen and chef AJ. Thank you so much for joining me today on the show.

Chef AJ: Thank you for having us.

Glen Merzer: Glad to be here.

Karina Inkster: Let's jump right into your new book that came out. I want to get a little bit of background on veganism for both of you, but I'm very excited to talk about the new book and how it came about, what it is. It's called, Own your Health: How to Live Long and Avoid Chronic Illness. And so I want to know everything there is to know about this book. We'll have a link to it in our show notes, of course, for our listeners, but why don't we start with Glen and then Chef AJ can talk about some of the recipes, perhaps. So what's the basic concept? What is this project?

Glen Merzer: The project is a discussion of vegan diet from my personal perspective. So there are a lot of personal stories, my history of becoming first a vegetarian and then vegan. But I wanted to make some points in the book and I think I made them. One of the points is that we should end the, we should stop pretending that there's a legitimate debate between the plant-based diet and the ketogenic diet or the caveman diet or any kind of meat-based diet. There’s zero evidence, zero for any health benefit from roast beef or fried chicken or sausage or cheese. There's just one study after another that proves that the plant-based diet is superior. So the point that I wanted to make in the book is it really isn't a debate between science and science. It's a debate between science and culture.

Karina Inkster: Mmm. Interesting, yeah.

Glen Merzer: We know that all of the science is on our side in terms of the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the better you do. I was just reading a study today from PCRM that they notified me of that people who eat more fruits and vegetables do better if they get COVID, unsurprising. And that wasn't the study of people who eat the way AJ and I do with zero animal products and lots of fruits and vegetables, that was just the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the better you do. So it gets proven over and over again. And we have to realize that what we're up against is the culture. The culture that celebrates grilling hamburgers, and eating hot dogs at the baseball game, and having turkey for Thanksgiving. There's no scientific question. So that was one of the points I wanted to make.

I also wanted to tell the story of my wife, Joanna, and how she overcame the symptoms of lupus with diet and certain supplements. And I wanted to tell the story of my friend, Steve Lwendo, who's a doctor who for many years felt unsatisfied working as a doctor because he felt he really wasn't helping anybody. He kept giving them medicine and they weren't really getting better. And he himself was overweight and not in good health. And then he discovered the low-fat plant-based diet. And now when he meets with his patients he sits down with them and he asks them, what are you eating? He works with them on their diet and now he's curing type two diabetes. He's making his patients healthier. So this is how doctors should practice. This is how people should eat. And we have to do it for the environment and the climate as well.

Karina Inkster: That's amazing. So chef AJ, what are the recipes like? So Glen just mentioned low-fat vegan. I'm going to assume that we have a huge focus on whole foods here. What is the deal?

Chef AJ: Well, so this is the third book Glen and I have written together. So we like to keep it consistent. So the recipes are what I like to call plant exclusive. Even though I've been vegan for 44 years and I'm an ethical vegan and proud of it, I just think that plant-based is not the best word, because you can be eating 51% of your calories from plants and 49% from animal products and technically be plant-based.

Karina Inkster: Good point.

Chef AJ: So these are plant exclusive. They're whole foods, meaning unprocessed, which was the name of our first book. And they are low in fat, but they're also free of the chemicals, sugar, oil, and salt that a lot of vegans still include, but that we feel aren't the healthiest thing to include in your food, especially if you're somebody that's wanting to be at a trimmer weight or avoid food addictions, and they're still delicious. They're all different categories. Anything from desserts to soups. I contributed 75 new recipes, and then we asked a few of our friends to contribute over 25 more. So I firstly think they're delicious. And for the most part, they're really easy to make with common ingredients. Cause that's important to us, to not make people search for things that they might not be able to find in their location.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Yeah. That's awesome. So what's the rationale for the low-fat piece here?

Chef AJ: Well, for many people in the United States and the world they're overweight for one, and I think we're now at over a 70% rate of being overweight and actually over 40% being obese. And fat is very, very cruel. Now we're not telling people not to eat fat. We're basically telling them not to eat oil because oil is processed.

Karina Inkster: Right. Ok.

Chef AJ: It’s not found in nature. It's 4,000 calories a pound and people want to eat fat, they eat it from whole food sources like nuts, seeds and avocado. But low fat is just, it's such a great way to eat to, especially if people have a chronic lifestyle disease like obesity, like diabetes, it reverses insulin sensitivity. It's really just the way we're meant to eat. When you think about the macronutrients in breast milk, I mean, that's what humans kind of eat is about 80% of their calories from complex carbohydrates, 10% fat, 10% protein. And so that's what we like to keep it consistent with. And I think people do really well without as much fat in their life. Fat is very, it makes you feel sluggish, it makes you feel heavy. And I just think for optimal performance and health, it's just the low fat is it’s not for everybody, but I think that those that can do it, it works really well. And you get to eat more carbs! That’s the thing! Because the less fat you eat the more carbs you get to eat and I’m pumped about those carbs.

Karina Inkster: Yay for carbs. Of course. Yeah, no, I like that you said it's not for everybody, cause I would assume, you know, our team works with high level athletes and a lot of them are on what would technically be considered high fat diets. Now this is of course all vegan whole foods for the most part, healthy fats, nuts seeds, all those kinds of things. But we're talking like, you know, 30 to 40% of calories coming from healthy fat sources. So I think overall, when you're talking about these chronic conditions, for example, you mentioned diabetes and obesity, yeah, of course. That totally makes sense. But I think like anything, anything in fitness or anything in nutrition, it always, it depends. And what's your lifestyle? Is it going to work for you specifically? But it makes sense on a kind of broad level.

Chef AJ: But you know, when you think about it, but think about it this way. And the reason I say this now is I just interviewed Dr. Doug Graham for two hours and he works with high level athletes that eat, I'm not kidding, 8,000 to 14,000 calories a day without eating high fat. They're eating primarily their calories from fruit. How much fat could you really get in nature? You know, one of the things that his wife said on the show was when you have a question look to nature. We can't get 40% of our calories from fat from nature. Not really. I mean, we can get it from Costco now because the nuts and seeds are in bags and they're salted and they have oil on them, but our ancestors couldn't have eaten 40% of their calories from nuts and seeds. It wouldn't have been possible, or from animal products. And so the thing is, I think that there's still a lot of benefit for even healthy people, even athletes, eating a more 80, 10, 10 low fat diet, but again, it's whatever works for the person.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. Glen, are you kind of on the same page I assume? You're an active person. Like it works for you obviously.

Glen Merzer: Right, absolutely. I'm five foot eight. And for a lot of years, I was about 165 to 160 pounds. And in America, when you're five, eight and a hundred fifty five, a hundred sixty pounds, people call you skinny, but I really wasn't skinny. And I was eating a vegan diet and I was still having oil. And then about, I don't know, 10, 15 years ago I cut out the oil and I lost eight pounds. So that was eight pounds I didn't need. I didn't go on a diet, I just cut out oil. So, and I think the same thing happened with AJ’s husband, Charles. Once you give up oil, you lose weight. There's no nutritional benefit to oil. So how can you make the case for it? Plus when you heat oil, there's a case that's been made that it's a little carcinogenic to heat oil.

Karina Inkster: Right. Yup.

Glen Merzer: So you're just better off without it and you know, we get brainwashed into thinking, oh, you've got to sauté the vegetables so get out the olive oil. You can sauté in vegetable broth, you can sauté in water. You can sauté in soya sauce.

Chef AJ: You can sauté in a dry pan with nothing!

Karina Inkster: There ya go! You could, yeah.

Chef AJ: Oil is such a triumph of marketing over science. And to think that we need it for heart health or brain health, I mean, cars need oil, humans don’t. We need fat, but there's fat in everything! Greens have something like 3% of their calories from fat, there's trace amounts of fat in fruit. Oats are like 20% fat. We are not a country of people that are suffering from a fat deficiency, or protein!

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Or protein! Yeah. I was going to say - you beat me to it. Awesome. Okay. So let's talk about some of the points that we have kind of on our random list of topics. We have a lot of things. One is the kind of what Glen was saying before we hit record, we were chatting a little bit about, you know, like the science that supposedly supports eating meat, but doesn't actually when you look at it. You know, dubious medical studies that supposedly make the case for meat, but actually don’t. So what's the deal here? I mean, a lot of these are presumably supported or funded by large animal based agricultural companies, which is a red flag in itself. But what's the deal here? Is there a body of research that actually in quotes, “shows that animal products are good for you?” And if there is, why is it not accurate?

Glen Merzer: There’s no legitimate body of evidence that shows that. There was a study called the Red Meat Papers that got international headlines. And I think it was about a year and a half ago just before the start of the pandemic. And the recommendation from the red meat papers was people should continue their red meat consumption as is. It's perfectly fine. Go ahead. So how did they do that study? What they did was, and I'm not making this up, this was published in the Annuals of Internal Medicine, which used to be a respectable scientific journal.

Karina Inkster: I like how you said, “used to be.”

Glen Merzer: Yes! And what they did was they assigned points. Now the exact numbers I'm making up out of my head here because I don't remember exactly, but they said, okay, let's look at longevity. Well, it looks like the vegans live longer. So we'll give them two points for that. Let's look at blood pressure. Well, it looks like the vegans do better with blood pressure. So we'll give them three points for that. Let's look at heart disease. Well, the vegans do better with heart disease. So let's give them four points for that. Look at cancer. The vegans do better with cancer. What do you know? All right, we'll give them two and a half points for that, but now let's look at ease of use.

Karina Inkster: Ah yes!

Glen Merzer: It’s much easier to be a meat eater. You go to Thanksgiving, you can have the turkey, you go to the barbecue, you can have the hamburger. So for ease of use, let's give the meat eaters 32 points, and then Oh! There’s more points for the meat eaters so continue meat consumption as it is because it's much easier. That was in a scientific journal, that nonsense.

Karina Inkster: I remember that.

Glen Merzer: And then there's what I would call implicit bias, because even if a study isn't funded by you know, by the meat industry or by the dairy industry, it's usually conducted by scientists who are meat eaters.

Karina Inkster: Right, of course.

Glen Merzer: You know, they don't want to think that what they're doing is wrong. But there are no legitimate scientific studies that for example, show that you could reverse heart disease by eating sausage. Could you imagine if a scientist actually believed that you can reverse heart disease by eating sausage? And he proposed to the Cleveland Clinic, let's do a study of heart disease patients, and we're going to give them sausage three times a day. Would you underwrite this study? Do you think the Cleveland Clinic would underwrite that study? They'd get sued! Because they know the science is in, they'd be doing something that they know is detrimental to human health. So no one will ever do a study like that.

Karina Inkster: Well, I like what you said earlier about it's not science versus science, it's science versus culture. So what do you guys think are some ways of moving this discussion forward? I mean, I do think even in the last five years - I've been vegan for 18 years and so I've noticed even in the last few years, it's definitely - in the fitness industry, in the food industry, all sorts of ways - It's definitely making progress. But clearly we still have a lot of work to do so how do we move this culture versus science thing forward? What do you think AJ?

Chef AJ: I’ve been vegan for 44 years and I still don't know the answer to that question. I think what helps is the documentaries that have come out because really it was really, I think, since Forks Over Knives, that I really started seeing a shift because I was preaching this for, you know, since 1977, shouting from the rooftops and nobody was interested in animal compassion really. And nobody even thought about the environment in the seventies.

But one thing people do think about is their health. At least as they lose it, you know, when you don't have health, you could have lots of goals in life and want to do things, but when you're not healthy, you have only one goal. And that is to be healthy again. And as people got fatter and sicker and got documentaries, like Forks Over Knives, started appearing in the early two, I think it was 2011. People said, well what's in it for me? And you know, cause they didn't want to do it for the animals or the environment, but it was something in it for their health. And I think the more these documentaries come out and now you mention with athletes, Game Changers, people are seeing not only don't you need animal products to thrive and survive, but you're actually more efficient, healthier, and better off without them. 

So I think that does help. But again, changing culture. I mean, here's the thing: farmers, they have to feed their families. And I understand that, and unless they can make a shift in their thinking in consciousness and turn, you know, cattle farms into, I don't know, what else can you grow, It's going to be really hard because when somebody's finances are attached to something it's very hard to change their culture.

Karina Inkster: That's very true, not to mention all the different government subsidies that are available for animal-based products versus things like produce. I mean, that's a whole other discussion. Glen, do you have any insight on any ideas on how we can move this forward?

Glen Merzer: Well, I'll say this: the next mayor of New York, Eric Adams, is a vegan.

Karina Inkster: Oh right!

Glen Merzer: We'll see if he, and he's not a, you know, he's not a shy vegan, like Senator Cory Booker or I think, I hope I'm not misspeaking, but I think Representative Adam Schiff is a vegan. But they tend to be shy about it. Eric Adams almost lost his eyesight to diabetes. And he explains in his book - he wrote a book called Healthy At Last - that the overcame it going on the diet that we're on. And he's not shy about it and I'm hoping he's going to make it public policy. If you remember when Mayor Bloomberg was mayor, he made an issue about trans fats, to reduce trans fats, and that saved some lives and he made an issue, got a lot of criticism for it, but he made an issue about the size of of giant servings of Coca-Cola and soda pop in restaurants.

But I'd love to have a mayor who makes an issue about what kind of food are they serving in hospitals and in schools. And so we'll see if Mayor Adams does that. That could be a little bit of a breakthrough there. But the other thing is climate. And I'm going to make the case in my next book, which is coming out soon, which is called Food is Climate, that if we don't make this change, we're not going to be able to breathe. So it used to be that if there was an argument on the moral issue or on the health issue between a meat eater and a vegan, essentially the meat eater would often say, hey, enjoy your rice and vegetables. Let me enjoy my hamburger.

And it's hard to argue with somebody when that's their attitude, if they just want to enjoy their food, and they don't particularly care about the cows or about the environment or about their health. But now they have to say, enjoy your rice and vegetables, let me enjoy my hamburger for as long as my hamburger allows us to breathe.

Karina Inkster: That’s a good caveat right there!

Glen Merzer: Because pretty soon, none of us are going to be able to breathe because of people's hamburgers. You know, the fires in the west are terrible. And it's my feeling that the leading cause of climate change is animal agriculture. So we have to stop it in order to breathe.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Well it goes along with what chef AJ was just saying about, you know, people care about their health and sometimes that's where veganism starts. It's very self-centred. I mean, it makes sense. We're all human, right? But I do think that nowadays there are a decent number of folks who are using the environment and the climate as their main, or one of their two main, reasons for going plant-based, or at least going more plant based, right, if they're not completely vegan. So I feel like, yeah, it's out there, but obviously we need a lot more work in this department. It needs to get out there more. We need more, you know, kind of, we know from research, what's going on. People just need to figure it out for their own dietary changes, I suppose, which is hard to do. I mean, how do we approach saying, hey, we're basically all screwed if you continue eating your hamburgers? How do we approach that in a way that's actually going to lead to behaviour change?

Chef AJ: That is the million dollar question. I have no idea how, because I think people, many of them are just very self-centred and aren’t thinking past today, you know, and they're not thinking about their children or grandchildren and that if they continue their behaviour, they're not going to have a place to live.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, it's tough, hey?

Glen Merzer: It is the million dollar question. But I find myself thinking and hoping that when the climate becomes the number one issue for people that we're going to have to deal with what I would consider the low hanging fruit. In other words, it's very hard to give up airplanes. You know I don't think we're going to become a world in which nobody ever flies on an airplane, but it's very easy to give up hamburger and not only is it easy to give up hamburger, but then you get healthier.

You know, many of the causes of climate change that have to do with fossil fuels create a social good, like flying on an airplane. You get to see people you love in other parts of the country or the world. You get to go to Paris. There’s a social good associated with fossil fuel. You get to drive a car. Of course, the cars can be electric, that would be better, but you get transportation. You get to leave your home and so forth. Social goods. There's no social good associated with eating meat. It only harms. So the harms to the animals, harms to the environment, harms to the climate, harms to your health. So why don't we start with the low-hanging fruit? Let's stop doing the thing that's destroying the climate and creating nothing but harm.

Karina Inkster: Well, that's a damn good way of putting it. I like it. That's brilliant. Let's shift a little bit to something that Chef AJ speaks a lot about, and that is food addiction. And you did mention it before in your intro around things like oil and sugar and why they're not in your book. Can you talk to us a little bit about this concept and why it exists maybe, or why you don't have some of these ingredients in your recipes?

Chef AJ: Yeah, I think it only exists in the processed food world. I don't think that any whole natural food found in nature in the way it's found from a plant rather than being processed and manufactured in a plant is addictive. But it's when we process these foods, you know, things like sugar and flour go through the exact same refining processes as drugs and alcohol. For people that are vulnerable or susceptible to the effects of food addiction, it becomes more drug-like than food like. 

And it really comes back to the book that Glen and I first wrote 10 years ago, Unprocessed. We make the case that we are supposed to eat our plant-exclusive diet from unprocessed plant foods, not processed ones. And when you’re doing that, there is no food addiction. There was no food addiction in the stone age. They barely got enough to survive. It wasn't until we started processing food, removing the fibre, removing the water, the vitamins, the minerals, antioxidants, and micronutrients. And that's what food addiction is. I always say there's nobody going to arugula anonymous meetings, never happened.

Karina Inkster: So true. That's awesome. So is that kind of the basis of the book, Unprocessed? Kind of why this happens and what to do about it?

Chef AJ: Well actually that's our second book, The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss, where we really delve deep into the topic of food addiction and teach calorie density. But Unprocessed was just, you know, I was very inspired by Jack Lalanne, who actually, I would have met if he hadn't died right when the book came out, because I knew somebody that was friends with him. And I have since met his wife. You know, he said over 80 years ago 13 words that I never forgot: if God made it, eat it, if man made it, don't eat it. And we're not designed to eat processed food and this is the problem. I get criticized a lot in the vegan community because I go to these, well not during the pandemic, but veg fests, and there's nothing but crap to eat. There's no fruits and vegetables and people say, oh, well, you know, it's more important to not eat animals.

Of course it's very important to not eat animals for all the reasons we’ve mentioned: your health, the environment, and of course the health of the animals who we don't want to harm, but if you're eating a crap diet, at some point you're not going to have the health that you need to be a good spokesperson for veganism In my opinion, whether that's excess weight that people do judge you on. I'm sorry about that, but that's the way it is, or not looking the best you can be. And we're just not supposed to be eating processed food. And if we’re eating it, it should be a very, very small amount of our diet. There are vegans who eat a hundred percent of their calories from processed food. When I became vegan 44 years ago, there was no Beyond this or above that. There wasn't even soy milk in a box.

And I'm sorry, guys, it's not food. You may like it. It may be socially acceptable, readily available, easily affordable, but food is not supposed to come in a can, a box, a bottle or a bag. It's supposed to come from nature from a plant. And of course the does that mean you can't have canned beans that have one ingredient: beans? That's not what I'm saying. But if they have words that you can't pronounce, that your grandmother wouldn't recognize, and if you can't make them in your own home with a few easy ingredients, you probably shouldn't be eating it.

Karina Inkster: I'm not like morally opposed to processed foods, but I'm also not eating a hundred percent of my diet from foods that come out of a factory type plant versus, you know, a growing type plant. But I see your point. And I think there are vegans out there who are primarily ethical vegans and not health conscious ones. But as you just said, at some point, it's probably going to come and bite them in the ass, if that's all they're eating, if that's a huge portion of their diet.

Chef AJ: Right, but the thing with food, you know, think about it. If you smoked one cigarette and then got lung cancer, you probably wouldn't continue smoking. If you had one drink and became an alcoholic, you probably wouldn't continue alcohol, but it's the same thing with food. It does its damage slowly, insidiously, silently often, over time. And that's why people can't really make the connection that their heart attack and diabetes today is from all the crap they've been eating for the last 40 years.

Karina Inkster: Right. Exactly. That's why it's so tough for folks. Cause it's, you know, it is a cultural phenomenon, right? It's a family thing. It's a social thing. It's a pleasure thing if your food tastes good, and oh yeah, well, you know, I'll be 80 in however many decades. I'll think about that later. It's not really how the human brain is wired. So it kind of does make sense, but that's why folks like you are out there saying, hey, actually, this is important. We’ve got to think about this.

Chef AJ: It really is important because our children are becoming fatter and sicker. You know, when I grew up in the sixties, my grandmother had what was called diabetes. There was only one word for it because that's what grownups got. If a kid got it, it was called juvenile diabetes. But now we have to call it type one and type two, because little kids, as young as six years old are getting your grandmother's diabetes. Now, come on. That's not genetic. It's the food that parents are feeding their children. I mean, you know, I love Costco because I get my organic greens there very affordably, but they have this snack bar. For like a dollar you get a hot dog and a soda. And I go there and I see, I'm not kidding, it’s like I’m like child protective services. When I see parents filling their cup with Coke and then pouring it into a two-year-old sippy-cup and then fulfilling it for themselves. I mean, how has that like allowed?

Karina Inkster: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. It’s, I mean, this is a systemic thing as well, is those types of foods are generally much more affordable. And the folks who are on, you know, who are dealing with financial stress are most likely going to go to those foods, which is clearly not how it should be, but that's a huge societal systemic challenge that needs to be addressed for sure. We could do a whole other podcast episode on that.

Chef AJ: Yeah. But there are people who have the means that are still eating that crap.

Karina Inkster: Right. Yes, of course. Yeah. Well, something that Glen put on the table kind of goes along with what my team and I always tell our clients, which is you can’t out-train a bad diet. And so it's this idea of like, you don't actually need to be a full-time athlete to be fit and healthy, but if you're fuelling yourself with food that isn't in line with that or food that is detrimental to your health, you're probably not going to get any results from the training or the exercise you're doing. So, Glen, can you talk to us a little bit about this? You mentioned light exercise, staying fit, but it's not really going to be beneficial unless you're fuelling that properly.

Glen Merzer: Yeah. I mean, if anyone's ever gone on a treadmill and they looked at how many calories they're burning and then they had a candy bar, well, three more hours on the treadmill to make up for that candy bar. You just can't outrun a bad diet. So you know better than I, but fitness has to begin with diet and and then you can build up your muscles from there. But you just have to get your body in a shape, which you could then mold, you know, but if you're going to be 50 pounds over weight you're not going to be able to mold. So and I myself, I'm not great at exercising, but I just do a lot of walking, a little bit of running. And for some reason, I've got to ask you because you're the expert on this. But when I was 10 years old, I could do 20 pushups. And when I was 20 years old, I could do 20 pushups. When I was 40 years old, I could do 20 pushups. Now I'm 65 years old. I know I don't look at thank you for saying it.

Karina Inkster: I was going to say, you beat me to it.

Glen Merzer: I’m 65 years old and I can do 20 pushups! So is it possible that I have a gene for 20 pushups?

Karina Inkster: That is such a good question. You know what's actually happening is you are actually improving because there's a natural aging process that happens. I did my master's in gerontology. So we have a lot of clients who are older, you know, 50 plus. And you know, there's normal processes. Even if you're an athlete, even if you're super healthy, there's a normal aging process that happens. I don't think we should be scared of it. I think we should be embracing it. The thing is, though, if you're maintaining the same level of strength or at least the same number of pushups into your sixties that you did in your twenties, normally what happens is that number decreases over time. So the fact that yours is the same, you're actually making progress, even though you're not improving your numbers.

Glen Merzer: Alright, I’ll take it.

Karina Inkster: Because what normally happens is the opposite. So you're doing pretty well. Even with athletes. I mean, this is why we don't see like 52 year old Olympic athletes. It's just normal aging.

Glen Merzer: Right.

Chef AJ: Well if it makes you feel better, Glen, I'm 61 and I can't do any pushups.

Glen Merzer: You can’t do any pushups?

Chef AJ: I really can’t.

Karina Inkster: But you could probably do 20 pull-ups no problem, right?

Chef AJ: But you know what I can do? I’ll tell you one thing, I may not have the strength of you guys, but I am so limber. If anybody's ever seen me in a conference with the splits and stamina.

Karina Inkster: Oh wow! Yeah I can’t do that.

Chef AJ: So that is one thing I am be able to do, but I think he's right. You know, there's a wonderful book by Herman Pontzer called Burn where he talked about the exercise paradox and you can't outrun your mouth. Exercise is important. We should do it for so many reasons. Brain health, bone health, immunity. It actually helps people with food addictions manage them, but it really contributes very negligently to calories. And they've studied populations like the Hunza and it really, you don't want to do it to lose weight, but for weight loss, maintenance, it's really critical.

Karina Inkster: That's a really good point. Yes. It really is all about nutrition if weight loss is the goal, or fat loss to be specific. But yeah, if that's all you're doing, you're going to be on that treadmill for probably four and a half hours a day at least if that's your only method, and even then it's really going to be not great results. So where can folks find your book? It's available pretty much anywhere? Amazon? I saw it on Amazon.

Glen Merzer: The answer is more complicated than it should be, but it used to be available only on Amazon. And we got, we have now I think 360 reviews and it's a 4.6 average. So it's very well reviewed and most people like it, but we did get some bad reviews from people who said the pages of the book are falling out!

Karina Inkster: Oh no!

Glen Merzer: So a book publishing company called you ready for this? They're called the Book Publishing Company. They publish a lot of vegan books. They're out of Summertown, Tennessee. They picked up the book, they liked the book and got behind it. And so now it's being printed on forest-sustainable paper. And now the pages of the book don't fall out.

Karina Inkster: Well that’s good to know!

Glen Merzer: It takes care of some of those few bad reviews. But when they put it up on Amazon, there are now, if you look for the book on Amazon, you either see it for $19.95 and you can get Amazon Prime, or you see it for $19 plus shipping and you can't get it. And that's because the Book Publishing Company put it up and somehow Amazon got confused that there were two versions of it, but it's the exact same book. It's all on forest-sustainable paper. So just if you're clicking around and if you're a member of Amazon Prime, you can get it with Amazon prime. If you're not a member of Amazon Prime, you can get it for a lower price plus shipping and it's available now in all bookstores.

Karina Inkster: Amazing. The book publishing industry is an interesting one. So I hear you on the Amazon being confused thing. And Glen, you do have a promo that we will give details about, but can you give us a quick rundown of what you've got going on?

Glen Merzer: Yes. If you by the book in any form, Kindle, paperback, or audio book just send an email to, and I will personally send you our bonus offers, which are a PDF file of 25 love fat vegan recipes by my wife, Joanna, some more of Merzer and Chef AJ’s a famous double layer carrot cake recipe, and a video, a private video of chef AJ making the double layer carrot cake recipe. So just send proof of purchase to and you'll get all those bonuses.

Chef AJ: You forgot to say frosted! Frosted carrot cake!

Karina Inkster: Ooh, frosted double-layer. Wow. That's amazing. Well, thank you so much for that offer. That’s awesome. I think a lot of our listeners are going to take you up on that.

Glen Merzer: Oh and put Karina in the subject line.

Karina Inkster: Yes. Good point. We'll give another rundown just so folks are good on the details. We'll also have them at our show notes, so folks can go and see them all in one place, but thank you both so much for being on the show. It was fantastic to speak with you and yeah, I appreciate what you're both doing with your work. Congratulations on the new book, and thanks so much for coming on the show.

Chef AJ: Well thank you so much for having us.

Karina Inkster: Chef AJ and Glen, thank you again for joining me on the podcast. Much appreciated. Check out our show notes at, to connect with chef AJ and Glen. And don't forget that you can access some amazing free bonuses if you purchase chef AJ and Glen's new book, Own Your Health in any form: paperback, Kindle, or audio book. Just send proof of purchase to and put Karina in the subject line. You will get a PDF of 25 delicious vegan recipes and the recipe for chef AJ’s famous double layer, frosted carrot cake with a video as well. Thank you so much for tuning into the show, and I hope you'll join me for our next episode.

Download your free vegan strength training ebook by Coach K!

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