Mark Hyman, MD.
Founder and Medical Director of The Ultra Wellness Center.
What can our government do in the face of the immense lobbying expenditures, beyond giving us the “food plate” and suggesting restricting certain foods in schools?
What should the government be doing and what can we insist that they do? We can engage politically: visit our congressman and senators, create petitions, use social media, and activate creative campaigns and movements that change things.
Vani Hari, the “Food Babe,” is singlehandedly disrupting the food industry. She is calling them to task for toxic products in their food such as yoga mat ingredients in Subway bread, and publicly embarrassing them and forcing them to change their products. Ultimately, we need changes in campaign finance and to take money out of politics, but that’s a bigger problem.
What can we learn from the successes from regulating tobacco?
Big food is acting very much like big tobacco did in the past. Big food spends tens of millions on lobbying Congress, they call in so called experts to refute and discredit the science that these addictive foods are bad for you. They blame the victims making it all about personal choice and responsibility. They make “better for you” products like low-sugar or low-fat, or lower calorie foods.
I believe if we can’t get them to voluntarily change then we need to regulate. If we can’t regulate, we need to legislate, and if we can’t legislate, we need to litigate.
Big food seems to have caught on to the emerging wave of health and well being, producing and promoting new products that many people perceive as healthy choices. In reality, these are still highly processed and addictive. How can consumers see through deceptive marketing?
First, get smart about reading ingredients.
Second, eat the rainbow of colors in an abundant amount of fruits and vegetables. At least 75 percent of your plate should be a wide diversity of real, whole, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. I had eggs and avocados for breakfast. There’s no nutrition label or ingredients I had to worry about. This is real food.
Third, if you’re looking at labels, definitely read the list of ingredients. And if there’s anything you can’t recognize, can’t pronounce, is in Latin, or has some chemical name like xanthan gum or maltodextrin or methylcellulose, it’s probably a poor-quality product and not fit for human consumption. If it has high-fructose corn syrup or trans fats or MSG (and there are 50 hidden names for MSG), it should not be consumed. Any food with health claims should be avoided – like it’s gluten-free, sugar free, fat free, low calorie, high fiber. They are usually engineered food like substances that promote disease. Gluten-free cookies and cake are still cookies and cake. We need to be very smart consumers and consume real food.
You talk about the seven steps to wellness, and the mind, body, and soul connection—is that how we break the addiction and change?
I think it’s personal experience that people need to connect with—having an experience of wellness is critical, not a theory about it. People don’t realize how close they are to feeling well. That’s why I created The 10-Day Detox Diet: in ten days, anybody can actually have the experience of what it feels like to thrive and feel good. It’s very powerful for people to change their experience of their own health and see what can happen in just a few short days.
What’s the one vice you will never give up?
One is really good tequila. I consume a little bit maybe every two weeks. Tequila is a real food and it has low allergen potential. Dark chocolate, even though it’s got a little sugar in it, is really a great phytochemical rich food. Dark chocolate with almonds is my favorite. I don’t eat that every day but I try to enjoy it a few times a week.
The more resilient you are, the more metabolic degrees of freedom you have. Health is fundamentally about creating biological and mental resilience, which gives you the ability to do the things that you want and are important in your life.
What superpower would you like to have for a day?
I would want the power to transport myself anywhere I want at any time. There are so many people I love all around the world who I don’t get to see enough of. So I’d like to beam myself over to the Seattle area to see my kids and take my daughter for dinner, then onto California or New York for a walk with a friend. I’ve made so many wonderful friendships all around the world and I don’t feel like I get to spend as much time as I would like with them. I would use teleportation to connect more with those I love.
Who or what inspires you?
Jeffrey Bland is a nutritional biochemist has been my biggest mentor and inspiration; he has synthesized a lot of the scientific literature about how the human body works. He’s the Isaac Newton of biology; he’s figured out what the laws of biology are, and communicates them in a way that allows practitioners to treat patients and heal diseases that were never treatable before.
And then there are other figures that are very inspiring to me, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi and Nelson Mandela who really were about standing up for what’s right and believing in and speaking the truth, creating fundamental change and advancing the world in significant ways.
Buddhism was my major in college and continues to inspire me. Buddhist psychology involves an understanding of the nature of the universe. The interconnection is fundamental to my thinking, and understanding the cause and the nature of suffering and the whole idea that we can be free of suffering and emerge into a greater state of love. That’s really what drives me.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for bringing more love into the world and for helping to bring awareness about the new paradigm of Functional Medicine and how our bodies’ ecosystems are connected to everything else, with everyone else. I want to be remembered for using the power of love and social connections to create change in individuals and communities.
What charity or cause is close to your heart?
The ones that I’m involved with are the ones that I feel most close to, like the Institute for Functional Medicine, a nonprofit involved in changing medical education to teach people about Functional Medicine. And the Environmental Working Group, advocates and educates about the role of environmental toxins on our health. I’m on the board of both of those organizations.
What words of wisdom do you have to offer?
Realize that most of us are only a few days away from health and happiness, and that it starts on the inside. Happiness is an inside job and it’s very connected to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
I would encourage people to improve their health through the science of food and a few other simple things that are in my book, including inner exercise or innercise, as well as exercise. It’s possible for people to experience a powerful awakening about their own health in only a few days.