Me and my pup, Astro.
I find it hard to believe I live in such a beautiful place as this.
A magnificent story; inspiring beyond words.
I’ve arrived in Woodland Hills, California, at the Marriott and location of the Healthy
Living Lifestyle Expo. Things haven’t even started and already the event is sold out. I’ve heard that this is the biggest Expo to date with 400 attendees.
I am excited as I see various speakers arrive. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of one of my favorite cookbooks (okay, it’s not a cookbook but it has great recipes just the same), Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, was spotted at the registration table.
My nephew, Willie, tells me Jeff Novick is on the premises. Jeff is speaking tonight; his topic, “Cracked! A Close Look at the Claims About Nuts.” Leave it to him to lead with a terrible pun.
I was mistaken when I previously wrote that Dr. T. Colin Campbell was going to be here. But the list of speakers is terrific: John Davis of the International Vegetarian League, writer,speaker and radio host Dr. Michael Klapper, Dr. Neal Barnard (who’s talk, “Alzheimer’s Disease & Diet,” promises to be a zinger), Dr. John McDougall (to whom I owe so much), and Reverend Heng Sure of the 1000 Buddhas. These are the names I recall from either past Expos or other venues.
John Robbins and his son, Ocean Robbins, of the Food Revolution Network, will be speaking on the last day. John Robbins is one of the most signal personalities of the vegetarian movement and author of the book that has changed so many lives, Diet for A New America.
Lastly, this event is a family affair for me. My brother, Jeff, and his wife, Sabrina, are the founders and Master and Mistress of ceremonies as well as chief cooks and bottle-washers. I love the Expo because I get to spend time with them and their gorgeous offspring, Nina, Randa and Willie. And my sister, Marie Louise and her husband, Marshall, are both manning the desk (while I get to lollygag about) and it’s so wonderful to spend this time in their company as well. (Hey, I’m willing to help; just ask!)
All in all, it looks like a very promising start.
Sorry to not post for a while. I’m enjoying cooking and eating as a plant-based human. I’m energized. I’ve lost 14 pounds. I really like the wide variety of recipes I’ve been making for myself.
The food I used to eat doesn’t hold the appeal it once did. It’s strange. I look at dairy and there’s nothing I want. I look at meat and I don’t miss it. I’m very satisfied by my meals. I eat as much as I want.
I like this life.
Dr. John McDougall introduces day two.
Dr. George Lundberg, former Editor in Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association and critic of how medicine is currently practiced.
Joe Keon, wellness consultant and author of Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth about Cow’s Milk and Your Health.
Dr. McDougall and his evaluation of the Diet Wars among food health proponents.
Next came lunch. While standing in line, the gentleman in front of me introduced himself as “Bill from Dallas.” He mentioned he was our next speaker of the day. I asked his specialty and he answered laconically that he’d done a year as at cardiology after med school (“You only needed a year of training back then”). He also did work in pathology so he asked good-naturedly, “What do you think that makes me?”
It turns out that Bill from Dallas is William Clifford Roberts, MD, MACC. He is executive director of the Baylor Cardiovascular Institute of Baylor University Medical Center. He specializes in cardiac pathology and is the current editor of the American Journal of Cardiology and the Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. From July 1964 until March 1993, he served as the first head of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Dr. Roberts has published over 300 scientific articles.
He stood at the front of the room with a flip chart and felt tipped pen and delivered an amazing talk on the way things go wrong with the heart and how he came to read John Robbins and John McDougall and became a vegan over 20 years ago.
After an easy drive from my day job in San Rafael up to Santa Rosa, I arrived at the now-familiar Flamingo Resort. Little has changed in the past two weeks. Same rotating neon flamingo atop its spire at the end of Farmers Lane; same easy-going atmosphere in the hotel below.
The Advanced Weekend started at 5:00 with a warm welcome from Dr. McDougall. He reviewed the past six months of subjects he has covered in his newsletter: MS, Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, breast and prostate cancer. A lot of the material was covered in the 10-day session so I will not review it here. However, it was great to be back with this brilliant doctor and to hear his evaluations of modern medical (mis)practices.
Dinner followed and wow did we eat well! The meal was served buffet style and I piled my plate high with quinoa, lasagna, split pea soup (okay, it was in a separate cup) and sweet potato with Mary McDougall’s famous peanut sauce(!!). Desert was an apple/strawberry crisp, chocolate brownies and soy ice cream. I stuck to the crisp although I regret missing the brownie.
We reconvened at 7:00 and Dr. McDougall introduced Dr. Dean Ornish. I am familiar with Dr. Ornish’s work in prevention and reduction of heart disease and prostate cancer but this was the first time I heard him speak on his techniques. He is a very surprising speaker in that I was expecting a much more clinical talk from him. His topic was The Power of Lifestyle Changes & Love.
He did offer many clinical insights. In his address he went from his early years of dropping out of medical school to conduct clinical trials of heart patients to his recent project implementing Ornish-style lifestyle alternatives to bypass surgery in 50 hospitals around the country. The project is the culmination of 16 years of working to get Medicare to pay for such an alternative and it is having amazing results. He shared a video of one recovering patient who gave a litany of before and afters illustrating the typical success (and adherence!) to a process most doctors don’t believe “practical.”
Changing diet, practicing meditation, and having loving and intimate relationships are key to not just better heart disease outcomes but, he says, for many other diseases. The body “wants” to heal and when you treat it well, it repays you with not only good health but good feelings. A person is willing to do behaviors, lifestyle changes, only if they have an immediate and tangible benefit. As he said, we go “on” diets only so we can go “off” them. But if we are not in deprivation, we can be successful. If we are doing well by relieving stress, enjoying our food and having meaningful relationships, we do physically better.
I was surprised how much he emphasized the importance of love. He had General Stanley McChrystal, the general who was undone by unwise remarks to a Rolling Stone reporter, speak on camera about love and military leadership. Dr. Ornish has spoken to the Army War College about the subject. McChrystal evaluation was that soldiers don’t respond to fear of their superiors anywhere as well as they do when they love and respect them. It was a startling thing to hear from general but, as with much of what Dr. Ornish said, it is a very “human” thing.
He also spoke about telomeres and their effect on our body’s aging. These are the ends, the caps if you will, on our DNA. He showed the first evidence that meditation grows these strands from a study he conducted. Conversely, he showed telomeres degrading and fraying as the result of handling stress badly. His study shows that, so far, the only known way to improve or enhance our genetic code is through meditation. This serves as proof that while we are dealt our genetic code at birth, “our genes are not our fate.”
I found Dr. Ornish’s talk very inspiring. I think this is going to be an amazing weekend.
I’m packing my bags tomorrow and heading north to Santa Rosa again. I’m signed up for the McDougall Advanced Weekend. It’s a three-day event consisting of lectures from some high-powered minds discussing their insights on health and medicine.
It’s an incredible list of speakers, too. Dean Ornish, MD; W. Clifford Roberts, MD; George Lundberg, MD; Keith Block, MD; Katharine Milton, PhD; Mary Gibson, MD; author Joseph Keon; Chef Kevin Dunn; as well as some familiar names from the 10-day McDougall program (Novick, Lisle, Klapper). Dr. McDougall is the master of ceremonies as well as speaker so this promises to be an intense and fascinating weekend. I’ll keep you up-to-date from the event.
If you can’t make it to Santa Rosa but are interested, you can watch it on the web for $150. (Ah, the Internet; what an amazing addition to our lives.)