Bestselling nutrition expert/author JJ Virgin (The Virgin Diet) has a new cookbook, The Virgin Diet Cookbook, which is based on the premise is that seven foods—soy, corn, gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, sugar and artificial sweeteners—should be completely removed for 21 days to unveil food intolerances. Her user-friendly new companion cookbook offers meal plans and shopping guides as well as a range of recipes to support readers on the diet.

Do most people have some kind of food intolerance?

Yes, I’ve been in the weight-loss area for a couple decades; I started recognizing early on that what we were teaching people about healthy eating wasn’t working. There are different ways that you can become intolerant to foods—for instance, genetics, immune issues, and hormonal pathways. I’d say 90 percent of people have some kind of food intolerance.

What was the process of putting this book together?

First, I examined all the feedback questions from the last book--the comments, the things people wanted more of and so on—then I worked with some really amazing chefs who were able to transform my “run in the kitchen and pop stuff in the pan” style of cooking into “here’s exactly what and how much you need.”

Your concept of lateral shifts seems both unique and practical.

With most programs it’s about what you pull out and then they don’t give you great things to put in their place so you’re left feeling deprived. I’ve been working with doctors for years, and most medical elimination diets don’t provide simple swaps that you can use if you’re traveling, dining out or making food for family. Once you have that piece of it you think, “I can do this!”

You write that fast weight loss is effective.

Yes, it’s surprising new research. It’s very difficult to get people motivated when weight loss is slow. But when I dug into the new research it became really clear that people who lose weight fast not only lose more weight overall but also keep it off.

Do you have a favorite signature recipe?

Shakes! That’s the number one thing I have clients do. Most people mess up at breakfast, and if you mess up at breakfast you mess the whole day up. Coffee and a muffin is not breakfast. Studies have shown that people who ate a substantial breakfast with good protein lost more weight and ate less overall than those breakfast-skippers.

You’ve included quite a few personal stories from readers in the cookbook.

Yes. I was looking for a kind of inspiration from the street. I really wanted to include these stories to show that regular people can make delicious recipes.

How did you collect them?

We offered a contest on Facebook and my website. The hardest thing ever was to try to pick these people from 300 entries--they were so amazing. We chose seven and we flew them into the test kitchen. I cooked with them and we made a book trailer with videos; it will be great for readers to come to know these people and be inspired by them.

What’s your next project?

I’m already deep into another book, which I’m very excited about; it will totally change the way we deal with sugar!