Chef AJ- Control Your Weight By Staying Left of “The Red Line”

Chef AJ is a delightful personality that I first encountered on Rich Roll’s podcast. This led me to read her book “The Secrets To Ultimate Weight Loss”, which is interesting and inspiring. This has a great, concise, concept of calorie density- the Red Line.

The idea that unprocessed plant foods are a good way to lose weight has been around a long time, For example, there was Dean Ornish’s book Eat More Weigh Less, and nutritionist Barbara Roll’s book Volumetrics (whose contributions’ AJ acknowledges). But Chef AJ’s chart summarizes this with an easy to remember visual:

The red line is food that has approximately 700 calories per pound. There is a study, mentioned in the book, that shows it is pretty much impossible to gain weight if you eat food that is less dense in calories than this. The chart doesn’t explicitly say it, but just about all animal foods are more dense than the red line, some considerably so (except milk because of its high water content). For example, even chicken breast, which many would think of as a healthier choice, is 750 calories per pound. All processed also are to the right of the line, as foods containing refined carbs like sugar and flour. Worst of all are foods containing or cooked in oils.

This leaves unprocessed plant foods, including vegetables, fruit, legumes, and minimally processed grains. Which happens to be a whole food plant based diet. It also just so happens that these are among the most nutritious of foods.

The only exceptions are the “purple” foods (avocados, nuts, and seeds), which are nutritious but also calorie dense. If your goal is weight loss, these need to be eaten sparingly.

Staying to the left of the red line means you can always eat till fully satisfied (the main point of the book Volumetrics is eating food that promotes satiety). With no physical hunger, this way of eating can readily be followed long term.

Is it necessary to always stay to the left of the red line? Probably not, for a lot of us. But the idea is that the closer you are to following this, the healthier you’ll be, as discussed in Dr. Dean Ornish’s book The Spectrum, which I discussed here. As for controlling weight, I’ve always found that being less strict, especially about processed foods, can be a slippery slope, as these can be trigger foods. The red line is a good visual tool because when the little voice whispers “what could a little oil hurt this once?” I can see how far it is to the right and it’s easier to say no.

Chef AJ’s Journey

Chef AJ has been a professional chef for a long time but is also a recovered food addict, as told in detail in the book. Her journey, which includes bouncing back from eating disorders, was difficult, but her recovery and discovery of this healthy way of eating is inspirational. There are also lots of good recipes in the book. It will be interesting to see if a mediocre cook like me can get them to come out well.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who has struggled controlling their weight, has had eating disorders, or tried multiple weight loss diets.

7 thoughts on “Chef AJ- Control Your Weight By Staying Left of “The Red Line”

    1. I did a new post expressing the concern you raised which will appear next. In retrospect, I don’t like that the emphasis is on weight loss in this post, rather than health. I think the a chart sorting food by calorie density has some usefulness, but perhaps the red line should be omitted to avoid the notion of “good” and “bad” foods. I would modify this post but the damage has been done for people who have read it so I did the follow-up post instead. Thanks for the feedback, I’ll be more careful in the future.


  1. Where on this chart or in my book did o say that foods are good or bad? The foods in green are nutrient dense and calorically dilute. The foods in red are calorically dense and nutritionally poor. We evolved as a species eating foods that averaged 700 calories per pound. It is the eating of the Standard American Diet and restrictive dieting that causes disordered eating. Eating to the left of the red line allows one to eat as libitum.

    Love & Kale,
    Chef AJ

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chef AJ, I just watched you on YouTube explaining the foods to the left of the red line chart. Your showing of calories per/lb instead of cups or 1/2 cups is genius. I’m going to use your chart. I completed a plant based cooking class through FOK and lost 16 lbs while cooking and using their techniques. Instead of continuing on that positive weight loss journey, I got side tracked “again”. Time to start over “again”.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s