When nutritionist and weight-loss expert JJ Smith started taking her health seriously, it was at a time when she’d been on an endless loop of fad diets, losing upwards of 20 pounds only to gain the weight right back. “I was always in the cycle of trying to do some kind of low-carb diet just to get off the extra pounds that were starting to pile on and did that back and forth for years,” she tells ESSENCE.
Smith realized that in order to reach her goals to shed weight and better herself inside and out, she couldn’t keep wasting time on restrictive low-carb, high stakes diets. Instead, she needed to adopt an overall healthier lifestyle that she could maintain.
“You think you have to go on a diet in order to lose weight, but the reality was, changing my eating habits caused me to lose weight and I wasn’t even trying,” she says.
For 10 years, Smith began to fully immerse herself in the ins and outs of food. She studied, eventually becoming a nutritionist and expert in all things weight loss. In the midst of those life changes, she experienced a health crisis that threatened her life. “I got really ill, like bedridden, and had no energy,” she says. “If I got up and made up the bed, that was all the energy I had for the day. I’d have to get back into bed because I couldn’t even function.”
The cause of Smith’s dwindling health was mercury poisoning, with high levels of this toxic substance found in her kidney, liver and gut. While recovering from her diagnosis, Smith was prescribed 24 medications that she was expected to take daily to get her failing organs to function normally again. But she didn’t want to be held captive to such a routine.
“My mom came by and said, ‘Okay, you’re a couple of months in and you’re not getting better. You’re gonna have to you have to pray and do something different,'” she recalls. Smith soon learned about the transformative benefits and detoxifying effects of consuming green smoothies. As she integrated them into her diet, he results were nothing short of miraculous. “I went from taking 24 meds down to four, literally in days,” she says.
From that moment, she knew that her recovery was a testament to the power of the nutrients in these drinks. “I felt like I got my life back,” she says. She decided to use them to transform her overall well-being and also to inspire other Black women to prioritize their health, releasing her first book, 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse.
The 52-year-old New York Times best-selling author recently released her second book, The 14-Day New Keto Cleanse, which features a healthier alternative to the Keto diet. “People can maintain the lifestyle and won’t have to worry about regaining the weight back,” Smith shares. “It’s a plan that’s not as restrictive. You eat hot ‘Fat Burning Meals,’ and still have low-carb, low-sugar Keto smoothies.”
Smith’s low-sugar approach is especially beneficial to Black women since many of the foods we consume have added sugars that can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and early aging. Smith shares that although a sweet treat may feel good going in, the long-term effects are the complete opposite. Too much can inhibit your overall alertness and focus throughout the day.
“When you eat a lot of sugar, you will feel better [in the moment], but at some point, you’re going to feel sluggish and tired,” she says. “And we can’t be out there chasing our life dreams if we’re sluggish and tired. Sugar is robbing us of the energy of our mental clarity.”
Per her advice, over 840,000 women are living their best and healthiest lives with her 10-day and 14-day cleanses that have proven results. Her Facebook group, with over 1.3 million followers, is an ever-growing community of women who provide support to one another to achieve their fitness goals and master mental discipline, “One of the things we always say in my group is, ‘Food don’t run me.’ It’s like you have to say, ‘Food don’t run me. I’m in charge. I’m going to make the decision. I’m going to eat what’s best for me.’”
With her new book, Smith aims to provide support and an easy-to-follow guide to not only look good on the outside but to feel confident and love yourself on the inside. “Look good in your clothes. Feel confident about yourself,” she says. “With good health comes a whole new level of energy and clarity that you’ll need to pursue your life dreams.”
Get your copy of the “The 14-Day New Keto Cleanse” at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Target, Walmart, Krogers, Costcos, BJs, and Whole Foods.