I know how hard it is to eat a healthy diet.
It requires time and energy that you often feel like you don’t have. But what if I told you the time and energy you think you don’t have is because of the food you’re currently putting into your body?
It’s easy to be skeptical about this idea. But that’s what the food industry wants us to think. It wants us to continue eating its food, not giving a second thought to the sugars and fat we’re putting into our system.
To break free from this mindset, it’s really helpful to talk to the experts. And today, I have one of the most knowledgeable people in the field: Dr. Mark Hyman.
Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. is the founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center, Director of the Cleveland Clinical Center for Functional Medicine, and the Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Functional Medicine.
He is a New York Times bestselling author with books like 10-Day Detox Diet and Eat Fat, Get Thin. His latest book Food: What The Heck Should I Eat? provides an explanation of the nutritional science around food and why the political, environmental, economic and social issues corrupt our understanding of food.
Dr. Hyman is one of my favorite people to learn about health from because he is so honest about what’s going on. Instead of trying to push his own agenda, he’s got humanity’s best interest at heart.
If you’re looking to learn about the connection between food and energy or how the food industry manipulates what we see on TV, tune into Episode 616 to forever change your eating habits.
TSOG – Ep616 – The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 616 with number one New York Times bestselling author, Dr Mark Hyman.
Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now, let the class begin.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The first wealth is health.” And if you’re not thinking about your health, my friends, you need to start making it a priority every single day. “How can I optimise my nutrition, the way I move, the way I think, the way I feel?” How can we optimise this? Because an optimal health will give you an optimal life. But if your health is under attack on a consistent basis, or it’s struggling, it will build negative momentum over the long run and you will suffer and struggle, my friends.
That is why we brought on the number one New York Times bestselling author, Dr Mark Hyman, who’s the director of the Cleveland Clinic Centre for Functional Medicine, Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Functional Medicine, and founder and director of the UltraWellness Centre.
He’s an eleven time New York Times bestselling author, and his books include, Eat Fat, Get Thin; The Blood Sugar Solution; and many other massive books. His newest book, Food – What The Heck Should I Eat? provides an explanation of nutritional science, the political, environmental, economic and social issues around food.
This is fascinating stuff. And then it dives deep into food as we eat it and the questions surrounding the food, and provides a guide on how to make the best choice for real food in each category. And Tony Robbins said, “If you’re confused about what to eat, then read this book.”
And what we cover are some fascinating things. Number one, how what we hear on TV shows about health is actually manipulated by sponsors, and a lot of times not actually true or good for you. Also, the five causes of disease, and which one is the biggest that Mark talks about.
Why Mark is a reliable doctor to listen to over other nutritional experts, and I ask him that question. Also, the connection between our food and our mood and our energy, and why your genetic makeup isn’t as significant as you think. This is going to be interesting.
Now, check out the Fan of the Week! Big shout out, who says, “Thanks to Lewis, I have started the change to be my best self. I can’t say enough about this podcast and if you’re looking to change and truly become and know who you’re meant to be, then listen to Lewis and his guests, because they provide critical information to help you in all aspects of life. I can’t thank you enough, Lewis. From Matt Bruns.”
So Matt, a big shout out to you! Thanks for being the Review of the Week. And again, all you guys got to do is go to The School of Greatness Podcast App and click on that review right there, for a chance to be shouted out on the podcast, and to be the Review of the Week. So, big thank you to Matt Bruns for helping out with that.
And a big thank you to our sponsor, designcrowd.com/greatness. So many of you ask about my personal brand and say, “Lewis, how have you continued to develop this brand that attracts all these mainstream influencers, that gets all this mainstream press?” The big thing I go back to is my design. I constantly focus on high quality design, and that’s why I love designcrowd.com/greatness. Because they have over half a million designers from all over the world, ready to help you with awesome creative ideas.
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I’m so excited about this! Again, I don’t want to be confused about my nutrition, my food, what is good to eat, what’s bad, how to optimise your health and nutrition. That’s why we bring on the expert, the one and only Dr Mark Hyman.
Welcome back, everyone, to The School of Greatness Podcast. We have the legendary Dr Mark Hyman in the house. Good to see you, sir!
Dr Mark Hyman: Thank you, Lewis!
Lewis Howes: I’m very excited. The last time you were on was two years ago, actually.
Dr Mark Hyman: Two years ago. Talking about fat.
Lewis Howes: Talking about fat and now we’re talking about, Food – What The Heck Should I Eat? is the new book, make sure you guys check it out. New York Times bestseller already, crushing it and helping a lot of people, the no-nonsense guide to achieving optimal weight and life-long health.
So, what should I eat? Now, you were talking about this before that very day we get multiple times to vote on what we want to put inside of our body, right? And we have control over this. Or, I guess, most people do, right?
Dr Mark Hyman: Most people do. Not everybody on the planet, but most people do have choice about what they eat and what they put in their bodies and how it impacts everything that matters in the world.
Lewis Howes: How does it impact everything?
Dr Mark Hyman: Well, I wrote this book because people are confused. They don’t know what to eat. They’re hearing Paleo, vegan, Keto, low fat, high fat, low carb, high carb, raw, cooked, whatever.
Lewis Howes: No sugar.
Dr Mark Hyman: No sugar. You know, there’s no soda diet, that anybody who believes in, but pretty much everything else. And so, I really want to answer that question, and so, in answering that question it really became clear to me that the field is so confused because there’s so much money in the food system that’s driving the food we eat and the way we grow the food. And the kind of food that we produce. And the way it’s marketed, the way it’s distributed and the way it’s promoted, are literally driving almost everything that’s wrong with our society.
And people don’t understand how it all connects together. For example, yes, we know that we eat that food we get sick and fat, but the truth is that food is the most powerful driver of chronic disease which affects one out of two people now. And it costs 84% of our 3.2 trillion dollar healthcare costs, all for chronic disease.
So, that’s a big deal, and that is affecting our economy. Because most people don’t understand that Medicare and Medicaid are going to go bankrupt in twenty years, because 100% of our federal revenue from taxes will be required to pay for Medicare and Medicaid for chronic disease. Today one third of the budgets of most states is for chronic disease through Medicare. So that’s just the health and economy.
Then it goes on. The climate. I mean, the food system itself is the number one cause of climate change. Food waste. We waste 40% of food. We grow food in terms of soil practices that deplete the soil. We lost 1.1 billion acres of arable land to deserts, which then affects carbon in the environment, because soil holds carbon. Healthy, organic soil actually sequesters carbon, that, if built back up its scale, could take us back to the pre-industrial era of climate change.
And on top of that, that carbon goes into the environment, goes into the oceans, and then kills the phytoplankton by acidifying the oceans. And the phytoplankton are the single-cell organisms that are essentially the bottom of the food chain in the ocean, but they produce 50% of our oxygen. So, every other breath you take comes from the ocean, not the rain forest.
So, the way we’re growing food, tilling, industrial agriculture, is always damaging that, factory farm, animals, is really the number one cause of climate change.
Lewis Howes: Factory farm? Why is that? Just because of all the pollution they put out?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah. Because, one, we use industrial agriculture practice to grow the food, so 70% of our agricultural lands are to grow food for animals for human consumption. In other words, soy beans and corn and all the feedlot cows that eat, not grass, but eat corn and soy, which they’re not supposed to eat, and who knows what other junk. Plus given anti-biotics and so forth.
And all the chemicals that are used in industrial agriculture, the fertilizers, the pesticides, the herbicides, all run off into the waterways, then it kills the waterways and you have dead zones the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico, from our agricultural practices.
And so, all of these things are combining to actually drive climate change. Plus, one fifth of our fossil fuel consumption is used for industrial agriculture. So its a huge problem that most people don’t realise. So our environment and our climate are being driven by the food we eat.
And then, of course, there’s the social issues. People don’t understand that the quality of the food we eat, the processed foods, the refined oils, the sugars, the chemicals, the additives, affect behaviour. We know, for example, Lewis, that in prisons, if you give people a healthy diet in prisons, they will reduce violent crime in the prison by 56%. If you add a vitamin supplement, it goes down by 80% because they’re all nutritionally depleted.
I mean, I had a patient, not a patient, he was a guy who was in jail, who was a murderer. He wrote me a hand-written letter years ago. He said, “I followed your program in jail, I realised I was a murderer, my behaviour was so violent my whole life, and when I changed my diet I became a completely different person. I realised it was what I was eating, and now I am so thankful for having my life back.”
Lewis Howes: So you think our diet also determines our behaviour?
Dr Mark Hyman: Absolutely. There’s clear evidence about that. I was just reading a study the other day the showed that people who eat a lot of carbohydrates and sugars and starches have much more violent behaviour. You know that people who eat refined oils, which we now have as 10% of our calories from soy bean oil.
Its in everything. It’s not necessarily put in our food, it’s in every packaged, processed food. That has led to increase in homicides and violence and suicides around the world, and we’ve gotten higher on these refined omega 6s and low on omega 3s.
So the evidence of how it affects behaviour, mood, poverty, it keeps poor communities down, and then the food industry targets these communities disproportionately. So you have all of these things happening and then kids, kids can’t learn in school because they’re eating Doritos and Coke and they can’t actually focus and learn and their behaviour is all erratic and they’re on these chemicals which alter their behaviour. That’s why one out of six kids has some neuro-developmental problem. Which is enormous! You know, ADD affects one out of ten kids. I think 14% of kids have ADD and about one in ten kids are on medication.
Lewis Howes: You think ADD can be removed if we have a better diet? Or is that something with the brain or something?
Dr Mark Hyman: Absolutely! No, absolutely! So, it’s not a brain problem, it’s a body problem. And the body problem is caused by our diet and by environmental toxins. And I have had hundreds of ADD patients who transformed their lives. I mean, we were just talking about the Broken Brain documentary series I did. I had a guy, I was in a New York Russian bath house the other day. So, I’m coming out and I see this guy with tears in his eyes and he said, “I was on ADD medication all my life and it helped me get off my medication.” We see this.
So, you’ve got health, you’ve got the economy, you’ve got social justice and poverty issues, you’ve got climate, you’ve got environment, you’ve got education, it’s all connected. And the issue is that most people don’t connect the dots, number one, and most people don’t realise that we’re in this situation because of money in the food system, that’s driving our policies.
Lewis Howes: You were mentioning how there’s some press hits that you do, I won’t mention who, but that will say you can’t talk about certain things because of a sponsor that’s funding the program. That means you can’t talk negative about one brand or one product because of that.
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah, that’s right, I was told, “You can’t cover that subject because we get our funding from this sponsor.” I can tell you a story from the past because the show’s not on the air any more. It was a Martha Stewart show, and I was on the show and I worked with the producer and we were talking about getting healthy and working out and detoxing, and Martha had her trainer there. And the producer says, “We’re going to have to do a bit, it’s part of the segment, on dairy, and how dairy is such a great sports recovery drink.”
Lewis Howes: No way!
Dr Mark Hyman: Yes. And so I was, like, “You know, I’m just sorry to tell you, but there’s all this evidence that that’s not true.” So I downloaded all the scientific papers documenting the science behind the fact that dairy isn’t a sports drink. And he was like, “Mmm. I know, but, we kind of have to because this spot is sponsored by the dairy council.”
If you are ever on television you know that the experts don’t get notes. They don’t get cue cards, they don’t get tele-prompters, they have to know their stuff. Well, this woman, who was the trainer, had all these cue cards that was being held up about dairy, with all the bullet points of why dairy is such a great food and sports drink.
It’s insidious. So we think we’re getting news, we think we’re getting authentic [information].
Lewis Howes: From experts too. From doctors or specialists or experts and we are influenced by these experts.
Dr Mark Hyman: Huge! I mean, the evidence is so clear that industry is heavily funding science. And they’re funding corrupt science. So, if you look at the data, for example, artificial sweeteners, 99% of the studies done by the food industry show that they are safe; 99% of the studies on artificial sweeteners done by independent scientists find that they’re not safe. You know, if an industry funds a study they are 8 to 50 times more likely to find a benefit for their product. Right?
And then you look at the American Heart Association, the American Diabetic Association, the American Nutrition Dietetic Association: these are all funded by the food industry. I mean, if you look, it’s Coca-Cola, it’s Pepsi, it’s Cargill. It’s frightening to see how much money is…
You have Trix Cereal, for kids is a “heart healthy cereal”, Coco Pops, Lucky Charms. I mean, Trix has seven teaspoons of sugar, red dye, blue dye, yellow dye, you die! You know? Like, it’s all in there, but it’s a “heart healthy food”. Why? Because they get a thousand dollars for every time they put that check on a box.
Lewis Howes: No way!
Dr Mark Hyman: Yes, way! And this is happening globally. Globally. I mean, there’s a huge battle going on in Malaysia now, because Nestlé has promoted this drink called Milo, which I never heard about, but it’s a big drink in the developing world and Asia and South America, and it’s basically like Ovaltine. It’s basically a malted beverage with sugar, that has the same glycaemic index as Coca-Cola. And they have athletes on there and sports characters and how it’s a great drink for health. And they have this commercial, which I saw, which was a Filipino rock star singing this great rap song about how everybody who’s a kid has an energy gap, four out of five kids has an energy gap.
Lewis Howes: What’s an energy gap mean?
Dr Mark Hyman: I was at a medical conference with fifteen hundred doctors and I said, “Anyone here heard of an energy gap? That four out of five kids have?” No. They completely made this up and they said these kids need Milo for their “energy gap”!
Lewis Howes: No way!
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah! And this guy who lives in Malaysia called them out on this, and they came out with this huge propaganda campaign against him to discredit him and manipulating the facts and lying and I was just watching this whole thing. It’s unbelievable. So it’s not an accident that we’re in this situation.
Lewis Howes: Wow! The manipulation, yeah. And do you think that all inflammation, chronic pain and disease can be eliminated [by] the foods we eat, or is caused by foods? Besides having a car accident or something.
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah. I’m a functional medicine doctor, you know, we’re in the Centre for Functional Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. So we look for the root causes of disease, and there are many, right? There’s environment, there’s lifestyle, there’s genetics, all affect the systems in your body, right? So, we always say there’s five causes of all disease, based on how they influence your genetics and combine with your lifestyle.
Toxins, so environmental toxins. That’s not your fault, that’s just the fact that we put 80,000 chemicals in the environment without testing them and we have 3,000 food additives we eat every year. As Americans, about 3-5lbs of it, which is frightening. And there are heavy metals and pesticides everywhere. So we’re exposed to a lot of toxins making people sick.
Infections. Which we can get, whether it’s viral infections, bacterial infections, lime disease, tick infections. Allergens, which are increasingly common, or food sensitivities, things where your body’s creating an immune response where there’s gluten or dairy. Those are big. Then poor diet, and stress, all those are contributing to disease. But by far the biggest cause is food. By far.
What’s amazing is, it’s not a little bit. Like, “Oh, my migraines,” or, “My arthritis,” or, “My irritable bowel.” People don’t connect the dots between how they feel and the food they’re eating. And then when you switch, people have transformations very quickly, you know?
Lewis Howes: Yeah, they notice it quickly. The pain goes away, the weight goes off, all these things.
Dr Mark Hyman: Quickly, yeah. And, I mean, I always say food is medicine. It’s not just like a medicine, it’s faster, better and cheaper than almost any drug. I mean, we have people who are off insulin who were Type 2 diabetics within a week. And get off all their medications.
There was a huge study just published on a Ketogenic diet intervention for Type 2 diabetics. Now, I don’t think Ketogenic diets are right for everybody, but in an extreme situation where you metabolism is so broken, it can help reset things. Reducing carbs to 30g a day, 70% fat and help in the context of a healthy, plant rich diet.
And they were able to get 100% of the people in a year, all of them diabetics, off of the main diabetes medication, and 94% off insulin, or dramatically lower, with an average weight loss of 30lbs, about 12% of body weight and this is unprecedented in the research. Because food, if you know how to apply it in the right way, at the right dose, for the right person, it’s the most powerful drug.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, now here’s the thing that you talked about in the book that you’ve been studying food for thirty-five years.
Dr Mark Hyman: Forty, now.
Lewis Howes: Forty years!
Dr Mark Hyman: I was, like, oh! I did the math. 2018, I started in 1978 in college, and I’m like, “That old?”
Lewis Howes: Here’s the thing: you’ve got eleven New York Times bestselling books, you’ve probably done how many books, total?
Dr Mark Hyman: Fourteen.
Lewis Howes: Fourteen books, eleven New York Times, including this one, Food – What The Heck Should I Eat? And for forty years you’ve been studying food and you say even the experts are confused by the science.
Dr Mark Hyman: They are!
Lewis Howes: They are? So, how come…
Dr Mark Hyman: How come I figured it out?
Lewis Howes: How come you know the answers after forty years?
Dr Mark Hyman: I don’t think I know all the answers, but I don’t have a bone to pick. In other words, I haven’t spent my life dedicated to the low fat diet. I haven’t dedicated my life to veganism. I mean, I’m looking at what worked. And the other thing I know is that I’m not an academic. I do research, but that’s not how I started. I am a practising doctor.
So, what’s happened over the years is, the latest thing comes in, I try it, see what happens, see what happens to the patient. So, seeing tens of thousands of patients, doing thousands and thousands of lab tests over the years, seeing what happens when people change their diet and how their biology responds. That’s the best laboratory you’ll ever see.
And I even noticed it on myself. I was a vegetarian for seven years, and I see pictures of myself when I was 28 and I am so scrawny, even though I ate really healthy, I ran five miles a day, I did yoga all the time, and I look at myself now, doing far less exercise and I am far more muscular and I have more muscle mass than I did when I was 28 because I learned how to change my diet. And we know that the right kind of high fat diet and adequate protein actually increases muscle mass.
I recently got off the phone with a friend, who says, “I went on a vegan diet and three days into it, I can’t lift any more.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah. But then you see some athletes that are all vegan who gained muscle mass and gained strength and all of that.
Dr Mark Hyman: Maybe they’re taking steroids, I don’t know.
Lewis Howes: Who knows? So you think living a vegetarian or fully vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, that it’s hard to gain muscle mass.
Dr Mark Hyman: I think it’s hard, it’s hard. It’s not impossible, I mean, if you really work at it and really work out and there are great vegan athletes out there, but there’s never been a historically voluntary vegan society, ever.
Lewis Howes: Not even the Blue Zones?
Dr Mark Hyman: No, they were never exclusively vegan. They always had some animal food.
Lewis Howes: Fish or something.
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah. And as hunter gatherers, we had 800 species of plants, so we had a very plant rich diet, but we also included wild animals. When we could catch them. It’s part of our evolutionary history and our bodies are well adapted, and the protein in vegetables is different. So, for example, there’s something called leucine, which is an amino acid, that is the rate-limiting amino acid for muscle synthesis. In order to build muscle, you need this amino acid. And it’s very low in plant proteins, very high in animal proteins.
Lewis Howes: Why not just live a plant based diet and then have the supplements.
Dr Mark Hyman: You could, you know, and I have patience for vegans, monks, you know, I’m not going to force people not to eat it, but it’s much harder to do, and you have to know what you’re doing, and I see people over time, initially, when they switch from a processed American diet, to a whole foods vegan diet, they are going to get so much better. Okay?
Lewis Howes: Of course, yeah.
Dr Mark Hyman: But the real issue is: compared to what? Right? And they’ve looked at, over time, these big studies looking at animal and plant proteins, over time, looking at what people do with it, there was a vegan/vegetarian/omnivore study which was 250,000 people. It was an observational study, but they didn’t find any difference in outcomes.
Another study, a 42 country study, looking at food pattern consumption over long periods of time, showed actually the people who had animal fat and protein did far better than people who focussed on cereal grains in their diet. Less heart disease.
Another study, the Pure Study, just came out recently, 135,000 people that was 5 continents, I think 18 countries, ten years, and there was actually improvement when people had more saturated fat and more good fats and less cereal grains and more animal protein.
Lewis Howes: More animal protein?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah! It was not a risk factor. Now, these are difficult studies to interpret sometimes, because they’re observational. But if you look at interventional studies, where you intervene by giving people high fat protein diets with lots of plant foods. People do better metabolically. So, I mean, it’s very hard to eat a low glycaemic diet if you’re a vegan. You can, but it’s very hard. I have a friend who’s a Keto vegan, and she’s a Type 1 diabetic, and she’s rocking it. But you have to know what you’re doing.
Lewis Howes: It’s so disciplined, yeah.
Dr Mark Hyman: It’s super disciplined, super smart about it.
Lewis Howes: It’s challenging.
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah. I think, the data on meat, honestly, which I go into in the book in great detail, is confusing for people.
Lewis Howes: It all depends on the factors of the meat. Where you get it, the environment it’s in, how it’s fed, how it’s raised, the stress of it, how it’s processed, everything, right?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yes, exactly! Totally! Right, so people are saying, “We shouldn’t be eating meat, because it’s better for the animals, better for the environment.” Yes. We should not be eating factory farm meat. This is really bad. It’s bad for the animals, it’s bad for the planet, it’s bad for us because the quality of the meat’s very poor.
But let’s say a wild elk, or a grass finished bison or even cow, very different. And it turns out that these animals actually have higher levels of omega 3 fats and higher levels of antioxidants and minerals and nutrients and beneficial fats and actually are a great source of protein and don’t have the harm that we think they do.
When you look at the studies that showed there was harm, the reason they show that is because when you do a study, an observational study, you give people a questionnaire every year. So you take 10,000 people, 100,000 people, and every year you give them a questionnaire. What did you eat last week? What did you eat last night? If you can remember. And people answer according to what they think they should answer, a lot of times, right?
So if meat is bad, they’re going to underestimate the amount of meat they’re eating. So, during the time of these studies, meat was considered bad. So people who ate meat didn’t really care about their health. And the data shows it, when you look at the factors of these people, their characteristics, which you can read in the studies, which I read. They were overweight, they smoked, they drank, they didn’t eat fruits and vegetables, they didn’t exercise, they didn’t take vitamins. They ate more processed food, more sugar, of course they were sicker.
Lewis Howes: Now, what are the three basic food rules that you live by?
Dr Mark Hyman: Me?
Lewis Howes: Yeah.
Dr Mark Hyman: Well, I always joke because I used to teach a lot at churches, and I go, “Ask yourself one question when you’re shopping. Did God make this, or did man make this?” Right? Did God make a Twinkie? No. Did God make an avocado? Yeah. Pretty simple rule. And you can even take that to its logical extreme: Did God make a feedlot cow? No. Did God make a grass fed cow? Yes. Right? So you can kind of go down the line on all that.
That’s the first principle. The second principle is: We should be eating a mostly plant based diet. We call it plant rich. I call it plant rich.
Lewis Howes: It’s about 80/20?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah, 80%, 70% of your foods on your plate should be lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruit, whole foods. And the third principle is: we need a lot of good fats. Avocados, olive oil, I think there’s controversies about some things. Nuts and seeds are good, but then there’s the whole saturated fat debate which we can get into with refined oils. But essentially, we need a lot of good fats, low starch and sugar, plant rich diet, and stay away from processed food.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Now, should that be true for everyone, or does it depend on your body type, your blood type, your genetics?
Dr Mark Hyman: I jokingly call this the Pegan diet, right? Because I was sitting on a panel with friends of mine, one was Paleo, one was vegan, they were fighting, and I was like, “Listen, guys. You’re Paleo, you’re vegan, I must be a Pegan.” And I was joking, and then it occurred to me that there was more in common than there was different, that we could come up with these general nutritional principles that nobody’s going to disagree with, right?
Nobody thinks we should be eating a lot of starch and sugar. Everybody thinks we should be eating more plants. Everybody thinks if we eat animal protein that we should only sustainably raised or harvested or grass finished protein. That we should eat fish, but it should only be fish that’s low in mercury and toxins, that doesn’t overfish the oceans, that if it’s farm raised it should be sustainable. We should eat lots of good fats. I mean, there are a few outliers who are still holding to the low fat dogma, but the train has left the station, on that one.
And I mean, there’s these simple things where nobody thinks we should be consuming pesticides and herbicides and GMO, that we should be having three pounds of food additives per person every year. I mean, nobody thinks we should be eating those things. Like, nobody’s going to say, “Okay, I think you should have more dibutylhydroxytoluene with your salad.” Or red dye number 40, right? These are things that are inserted into our diet. So, those are principles that I’ve sort of outlined.
And it’s adaptable, what about grains and beans? Well, some people do well on them, some people don’t and it really is individual. But I talk about if you are going to, here are the things to know about, here are the grains to eat, here’s what you should or shouldn’t do. Gluten, why is it a problem? Who is it a problem for? Is our current wheat the wheat we used to eat? No, it’s not. So, that has an impact.
What should we focus on? Should you eat rye, which has gluten in it, but it’s probably, if you’re gluten sensitive, a much better food. So, it goes to every single chapter, I go through meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, grains. And I talk about the controversies. What are people fighting about? What does the science say? What do we know? What do we not know?
There’s still stuff that we’re learning, right? We’re still discovering every day. So it’s really kind of a foundational principle book. It’s not extreme, it’s sort of the middle of the road.
Lewis Howes: This is kind of the Bible, for you then?
Dr Mark Hyman: Kind of.
Lewis Howes: Of all the things you’ve learned, for forty plus years now, fourteen books.
Dr Mark Hyman: Pretty much. Yes. It’s actually given the other books I’ve written because the other books are topic specific. They’re on the brain, or they’re on metabolism, or diabetes or sugar. This is really, if you’re an eater, and there’s about 9 billion of us, it’s probably something that will help.
And I also talk about how do you eat, not just for your own health, but what is the overall footprint of the food you eat? What is the health footprint, the economic footprint, the carbon footprint, the environmental footprint, the educational footprint, and even poverty and social justice footprint of what you eat?
Because there are things we can’t change as individuals. We can’t end nuclear war, we can’t single handedly end climate change, but we can change what we eat, because we do it all the time. And the choices we make, matter.
I mean, I was just with the Vice Chairman of Pepsi, who is my new best friend, you can imagine, we had a great time together, and we don’t agree on a lot of things, but it was fascinating listening to him talk about what’s happening in the company as they try to shift to meet the consumer demand.
So they’re like, “How do we create special,” and he introduced me to his engineers, working for him, “How do we create special types of packaging that’s compostable ,but that keeps the food fresh. We don’t need to use preservatives or artificial ingredients, and we can have whole foods that we distribute globally?”
I’m like, “Wow! That’s a great thing to be looking at, right?” So, they’re thinking [about these things]. And he said, “I was also asked to talk to the USDA annual meeting, the agriculture department,” and I’m like, “They asked Pepsi to go to that?” But he’s talking about regenerate agriculture. He’s talking about how we’re losing water by our farming practices. We’re losing soil, we need to change that.
And they have enormous power, because they’ve got their bottling facilities, they’re probably even number one food company in the world, up there with Nestlé. And they are interested in doing this, and I’m thinking, “Wow! Here’s the vice president of Pepsi, talking about regenerate agriculture.” And I’m thinking, “Holy cow! That’s pretty cool!”
Lewis Howes: Because they can have an impact.
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah, they can have impact. But it’s their responding to the demands of the culture, they’re responding to people who are voting with their fork, so it’s a hopeful message. You not only get to change yourself, but you get to impact everything. I mean, imagine if everybody in the world for one day hadn’t eaten. Where they only ate real, whole, fresh food, and they didn’t shop or buy anything in a package, that’s processed in any way, and didn’t go to any fast food restaurants and just ate at home and cooked a meal together.
Lewis Howes: It would be a game changer.
Dr Mark Hyman: Totally! Just for one day. Imagine if we did that for a week, or for a month. The whole system would change.
Lewis Howes: Wow. Now, as a functional medicine doctor, I believe that you’re more of like a therapist for some people, too. They come to you with all their junk. They feel pain in one thing but there’s something else that affecting them, right? What do you think is the main thing that they’re feeding themselves, maybe, that’s not food, that affects them on the pain or their body?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah. I think people are feeding their feelings a lot of the time. Food has such an effect on mood. It’s so connected to how we think and feel. And so, when we’re feeling sad or depressed, we can stimulate our biology through food. Whether it’s caffeine or alcohol or sugar or other chemicals in food that actually stimulate our brain to feel better for a minute.
And so, we do that, and we’re human and we don’t understand the difference, and we don’t understand what’s going on, we don’t see we’re in this vicious cycle. And it’s tough, and people have hard lives and hard situations. But I believe, in the power of community. I believe in the power of each other to help support the change. It’s got to happen that way.
And that’s what we do. We work with communities, we work in churches, we help people become empowered in schools to actually start to do this together, and it’s so much more fun, it holds people accountable, it inspires people to change, and it works.
And if we look at behaviour change, which is the biggest thing we’re talking about here, the hardest thing to do is on your own. I would say, friend power is far more powerful than willpower.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. It’s way easier to stay consistent with something with someone else supporting you, an accountability partner or a coach, rather than trying to do it on your own. It’s almost impossible to do it on your own.
Dr Mark Hyman: Absolutely, right! And that’s why people listen to your podcast and seek out these things, because they’re looking for something that they can hold onto that inspires them, that’ll push them, that gives them an idea of how they can be better.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What’s the biggest challenge you face in your life right now? That you could improve on or get better at?
Dr Mark Hyman: Healthwise?
Lewis Howes: Anything. You know, you’re this top expert, super-credible doctor, Cleveland clinic, seems like you’ve got it all figured out, but what’s the thing, either personal, or fitness, or emotional that you can improve on?
Dr Mark Hyman: Well, I recently got married, and I have the most amazing wife, and I’m just growing and growing and learning, and how do I be the best version of myself? How do I be fully expressed and honest and in integrity and like, value what’s actually happening. And I think that’s my most important work. A lot of my career I just focussed on my work, work, work, and I’m like, “Wait a minute, there’s something else here going on.”
Lewis Howes: Right. So what’s the biggest challenge you face with this new chapter?
Dr Mark Hyman: I think my phone. So, I actually, I’m giving her, for an anniversary present, a box, which is a little sealed box that I’m going to put my phone in, when we’re together.
Lewis Howes: For, what, an hour?
Dr Mark Hyman: No, for a weekend, or longer.
Lewis Howes: Wow! Okay!
Dr Mark Hyman: And I’m going to tell my assistant, if she needs anything, to call her phone. If it’s an emergency. But I’m like, it’s symbolic, but it’s invasive, and nothing is really that important that it should interfere with our human connections.
There’s one other thing that I’m working on. It’s struggling, it’s a struggle for me, because I feel like I’ve been lucky enough to see the emerging patterns that are changing in medicine and how we’ve come to think about disease quite differently based on the science called functional medicine, but it’s taking a long time to get it up to running in scale. And that’s a challenge to find out how to do that well.
And it’s the food system. Because I feel like, if we can all get how powerful we are, as individuals, as communities, when we band together to do something around the food system, it’s bigger than anything we could ever do. For example, civil rights, that affects one group of people. Women’s rights, that a large group of people. Gay rights, a large group of people, but small.
Food effects everybody, and people don’t understand how our food system is keeping them down, and it’s limiting our ability to thrive and succeed as individuals or as a society. That’s really, I think, the next phase of my work, is figuring out how do we empower people around the food system to understand these connections, to understand how to become empowered, how to activate movements in communities to change the way we do things and to then inspire policy change.
Because it all has to come to that. Right now our food policies, I mean, just the farm bill alone, which is every ten years, it’s about a trillion dollar bill, there’s 600 lobbyists that spend half a billion dollars funding and lobbying congressmen on this farm bill.
And you know, I remember when I went to Washington during the Obamacare era, and I was advocating for funding for lifestyle interventions so we could incentivise doctors to do the right thing, not just to give medicine or surgery. And everybody said, “This is the greatest idea! Greatest idea!” And they would say, “What lobby group are you from? Like, who are you from?” I’m like, “Nobody. I’m here for the patients and the science,” like, I’m lobbying for the science.
And they were flabbergasted, all these staffers and the congressmen and the senators we met with, they were, like, they didn’t understand it, because they don’t experience individuals advocating, not as part of some big massive lobby group.
Lewis Howes: That’s interesting. I’m curious now, when did you become a doctor?
Dr Mark Hyman: When did I got to medical school? I graduated medical school thirty-one years ago.
Lewis Howes: But you got into it forty years ago?
Dr Mark Hyman: Well, I got into nutrition when I went to college.
Lewis Howes: So, for thirty-one years you’ve been a licenced doctor, or what do you call it, surgeon.
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah. I got my MD degree 1987.
Lewis Howes: Your degree? Okay, thirty-one years ago. I’m curious, what were the beliefs that you had going in, thirty-one years ago, that was industry standard, that was like, “This is the belief of medicine, or food, or the body,” that you believed in so wholeheartedly, but now you’ve realised thirty-one years later, is completely false?
Dr Mark Hyman: Well, actually, I have ODD, you know what that is?
Lewis Howes: What’s that?
Dr Mark Hyman: I’m odd. And I was weird from the beginning. So, I was a vegetarian in college, I was a yoga teacher before I was a doctor. I studied systems thinking in college, I studied alternative systems of healing and medicine from around the world. My thinking was already there.
And I was studying herbal medicine, I wanted to go to China, I spoke Chinese, I was going to go to China and study Chinese medicine, but I didn’t want to grow up in a communist dictatorship, so I basically said, “Ah, I’ll try medical school and see if I like it,” and I was fascinated with the body.
And I really never went away from it, although I really did take it all in, I had to suspend all my criticism and disbelief and just learn it, as a system and then I could unpack it. And so then I began to sort of unpack it and discovered functional medicine early on and since then I’ve just been focussed on that as the new model for thinking about the body as a whole dynamic system.
Lewis Howes: Was there any belief that you had after you learned everything from medical school where you realised you believed in something that became debunked over the last thirty-one years?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah, I mean, I believe that there were these diseases that we lable and name and that they were real things, you know, just like when you get a TB bacteria, that’s a real thing that you get tuberculosis when you have TB bacteria exposure. But chronic disease isn’t like that.
So we’ve created these categories of disease, like dementia or diabetes, or cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, or irritable bowel, or whatever it is, and we group people according to symptoms, not according to causes.
You know, I was just with Thomas Insel who was the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, and I’d asked him before, “What do you think of the DSM5?” which is the diagnostic category for psychiatric illness. He says, “I think it has 100% accuracy, meaning it groups people according to depression or anxiety, it’s very good, but it has zero percent validity,” meaning it’s not valid because it doesn’t describe the why, only the what.
And that was a big Aha for me, to understand that all these diseases I learned about in medical school as these finite things, they weren’t something you “get”. You don’t “get” heart disease, you don’t “get” diabetes, you don’t “get” dementia, you can “get” a cold, but you don’t “get” these things.
And it’s a very different way of thinking about disease. It’s a systems problem. It’s how the body is out of balance. It’s a way of working with the body that looks at the body as a whole dynamic, this interacting ecosystem that you can change by taking out the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff.
Lewis Howes: But that was a belief you had early on through medical school, because that’s what was taught, right? Now is there anything now, that you believe in, that you think will eventually be debunked in thirty years or ten years, or five years. That you’re like, “This is the truth, this is the facts,” but who knows, maybe there’s not enough research or science or proof in that?
Dr Mark Hyman: I think it’s going to turn out that our genes aren’t as important as we think.
Lewis Howes: Because that’s where a lot of this stuff is coming from, the genes, it’s all about your genes. Your father, your grandfather, yeah.
Dr Mark Hyman: Because we’re in the genomics era, in the omics era, and paleomics and metabolomics, and all this stuff.
Lewis Howes: In terms of, genes aren’t important in terms of disease?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah, I think for a lot of the diseases we’re seeing. So you have Huntington’s Chorea or you have Down’s Syndrome or you have some horrible inherited genetic condition that’s a dominant disease, which is what we call autosomal dominants, a type of genetic, single gene mutation that’s kind of fixed, although you can modify how those people do.
I’m talking about the rest of the chronic diseases we have, and I think it turns out, looking at the research, that your zip code turns out to be more important as a determinate of your health than your genetic code. That your friends and your social network is a bigger determinate of your health than your family.
So, we know from Chris Stocks’ work at Harvard, looking at obesity, that people who are obese, they’re more likely to be obese if they have obese friends, than if they have obese parents or siblings. Because it’s our social connections that drive our behaviour. If you’re eating fries and soda and burgers and watching TV all day and all your friends are doing that, you’re more likely to be overweight.
If you’re going to yoga and drinking green juices, you’re going to probably be healthier if all your friends are doing that, right? So, if your friends are modelling healthy behaviours, and we live in a totally peer, socially driven world. I mean, look what happened with the “Me-too” environment. All of a sudden it was okay to say the truth, and then you had millions of women speaking up, because it was okay, it was socially acceptable. The peer group said yes. That’s how powerful. And I think, I’m hoping for that kind of change around food.
Lewis Howes: Right. So you think genetics don’t play as much of a role as we think?
Dr Mark Hyman: No, I think we’re going to be disappointed by the human genome project. It’s already failed to give us a lot of what we hoped it would give us.
Lewis Howes: Really? Powerful!
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah. I mean, there’s something called the exposome, which is how our genes are exposed to different factors, right? So, we call the exposome what you eat, what you think, what you feel, your stress level, exercise, sleep, environmental toxins, your microbiome, all that is the world you’re exposed to. It’s what your genes are being washed over with every day. It turns out 90% of chronic diseases are determined by the exposome, not the genome.
Lewis Howes: Fascinating.
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah! It’s pretty amazing stuff. Which is very empowering, because you’re going, “Oh, it’s my genes, my dad had Alzheimers, my dad had heart disease, my dad had diabetes, my mom was this,” then you’re like, “Okay, well, what can I do?” But the truth is, it’s a very empowering message because people can change, they can change their gene expression. You can’t change your genes, but you can change which ones are turned on or off, and how they work.
Lewis Howes: Now, did you believe at one point that the genes did play a big role?
Dr Mark Hyman: Oh, yeah. For sure. All of us did.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, powerful. I love it. A couple of questions left. Make sure you guys get the book before we finish up: Food – What The Heck Should I Eat? The no-nonsense guide to achieving optimal weight and life-long health. Make sure you guys pick it up, New York Times bestseller. It’s crushing already.
This is called, The Three Truths. I don’t know if I asked you this last time.
Dr Mark Hyman: You might have.
Lewis Howes: Maybe. But we’ll do it again, and see what comes up. So, imagine your final day, you lived till you’re three hundred years old, because you have the fountain of youth right now, almost sixty, right?
Dr Mark Hyman: Almost sixty, yes, I’ll be sixty next year.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, you look like you’re twenty five on the book, I love it! Sixty next year?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah. 2019 I’ll be sixty.
Lewis Howes: Wow! I hope I look like you when I’m sixty. But you can live for as long as you want, and imagine, it’s your final day and you choose the day, you’ve done everything you want to do, you’ve done it all and you say, “You know what? It’s time for me, I’m ready to go.” And you go on your terms. You’ve written 75 New York Times bestsellers.
Dr Mark Hyman: God forbid!
Lewis Howes: You know, every topic you could imagine, there’s a book out there that you’ve come out with. You’ve done everything that you want to do, but for whatever reason, you have to take it all with you. So no one has access to any of it, you’ve got to take it all with you. It goes with you in the grave.
But you’ve got a piece of paper and a pen to share your final Three Truths with the world, your final lessons and truths, and that’s what would stay behind, but everything else you take with you, so they don’t have access to anything else, but these Three Truths that you would write down. What would you say are yours?
Dr Mark Hyman: I would say the first thing is, don’t take yourself seriously, show up with love in every interaction, and everything you do. And have fun.
Lewis Howes: Those are powerful! I like it! That should be in a book. But no more books, that’s it! I want to acknowledge you for constantly showing up. Four decades of the work you’ve been doing to help humanity live a better life. And I just acknowledge you for constantly showing up with love, with humility, with fun and passion.
You make it easier for us to understand the complicated and scary things because this stuff is really scary for a lot of people to understand, “What’s happening to me? Why am I feeling this way? Why do I have this pain? Am I going to die?” And so, to have someone of your level of credibility and authority who’s doing the work, researching the science and giving us simple ways to make better decisions, it’s a powerful thing, so I acknowledge you for that.
Dr Mark Hyman: Thanks, Lewis. Thanks a lot.
Lewis Howes: Of course, of course. Now, where can we follow you the most online, and the book?
Dr Mark Hyman: Well, you can look at the book, lots of great, free information, at foodthebook.com, or you can check me out at drhyman.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, I’m everywhere.
Lewis Howes: @drhyman everywhere pretty much?
Dr Mark Hyman: It’s @markhymanmd on Instagram, and on Twitter, and it’s Dr. Mark Hyman, MD on Facebook. It’s not hard to find.
Lewis Howes: All over the place. Awesome! Is there anywhere you hang out personally the most, that you like to check in on, on social media?
Dr Mark Hyman: I don’t really like it that much, I think it’s distracting.
Lewis Howes: It is distracting.
Dr Mark Hyman: I like Facebook because I keep in touch with my friends, and I like to see what they’re doing and my son and what he made last night for dinner.
Lewis Howes: Cool! Awesome! Make sure you guys get the book. Awesome book! Awesome man! And the final question is: What is your definition of greatness?
Dr Mark Hyman: My definition of greatness is showing up, being present and love in everything you do.
Lewis Howes: Dr Mark Hyman. Thank you, sir.
Dr Mark Hyman: Thanks, appreciate it.
Lewis Howes: And there you have it, my friends, I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please leave us a review over on iTunes, and share this with your friends, lewishowes.com/616. The full video interview, the resources, the notes, the book that you can get of Mark Hyman is back at that link as well, lewishowes.com/616. Make sure to check it all out and tag Dr Mark Hyman over on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and all the places, and let me know what you thought of this one as well over on Instagram.
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