Part I: Julia Feliz Brueck, Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary
Julia Feliz Brueck is the author and illustrator of the first ever vegan-themed board book for babies and toddlers, Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary. As an artist, non-human animals have always been her favorite subject to draw, and she hopes to continue to use her talents to give them a voice and spread compassion towards them. She has been an ethical vegan since 2008 and is also a mom, who enjoys creating art for her sons and coloring by their side.
Part II: Merrilee Jacobs (Co-Producer) and Paul David Kennamer Jr. (Director), Eating You Alive Documentary
Eating You Alive is a feature-length documentary revealing the truth behind why Americans are so sick and what we can do about it. Half of all adults in the U.S. struggle with chronic health conditions including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and erectile dysfunction. Despite countless dollars spent on medical research, new drugs and innovative technology to improve our health, more Americans are disabled and dying from chronic disease than ever before. Featuring leading medical experts and researchers, Eating You Alive takes a scientific look at the reasons we’re so sick, who’s responsible for feeding us the wrong information and how we can use whole-food, plant-based nutrition to take control of our health—one bite at a time.
Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dieticians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hi everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass and it’s time for Its All About Food! Thank you for joining me! Thank you for tuning in to this live show where we tune in love. That’s what I like most about this program. Tuning in love because I believe that love is the only answer. There’s a lot of hate going around and it is so much easier to hate, than it is to love. It takes energy, focus, mindfulness, and courage to work with those voices that we have going on in our heads all the time that are trying to control things when other people are doing things that aren’t what we like or want. Then those voices make us feel not as good as we want to and that really takes a lot of strength, effort, and focus to take in a good breath and turn those voices off! It’s amazing how powerful a little smile in someone else’s direction can be. I know that living here in New York City, just walking through the crowds, we’re always trying to ignore everybody because we’re all in our own little world rushing to get wherever we need to go. But, just that little connection can lighten someone else’s load. And it makes us feel good too… just something to think about because things are ugly these days! And I’m not going to fall into that ugly trap. I’m going to do whatever I can to make a positive difference on this planet while I am here, and that means tuning in love, all the time. Now, this tuning in love thing starts early. It starts… not I don’t want to say when we’re born, but it starts even before we’re in the womb. And that’s why I think what my next guest has to offer is so very important. My guest is: Julia Feliz and she’s the author and illustrator of the first ever vegan themed board book for babies and toddlers called: Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary. As an artist, non-human animals have always been her favorite subject to draw and she hopes to continue to use her talents to give them a voice and spread compassion. She has been an ethical vegan since 2008, is also a mom who enjoys creating art for her sons and coloring by their side. Julia, welcome! You’re here from Switzerland, correct?
Julia Feliz: Yes
Caryn Hartglass: There you are! So far away, and yet right here! Thank you for joining us.
Julia Feliz: Thank you for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! Anyway, what I was saying is that there really is a lot that is formed within us—I think even before those first few cells come together. And our culture forms a lot of our thoughts and what we think… and a lot of things happen when we’re so very young in the womb and as babies and toddlers. And I was thinking a lot about that when I was reading your book, Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary. Why did you write this book? Why did you draw this book?
Julia Feliz: About three years ago, my mom actually convinced the family to let this turkey go, and I remember she sent me a message that the family was going to let her go. It was around thanksgiving and they actually had her chained in their backyard and she called me, “what should I do?” “What should I do?” So I discovered a sanctuary, and I felt kind of guilty just leaving her at the sanctuary and you know, that was it. I kind of made it my mission to try to raise funds for her every year, and at the same time I came up with the idea for the book… I was taking an art course and my son was also eighteen months. I realized that there was nothing out there for his age group, and by his age group I mean a book that wouldn’t get completely destroyed. But also, a book that spoke a very simple language in a way that he could start understanding what our life style actually means. And why we choose to live this life. So, I decided that I really wanted to give Libby a voice and I could do that through my art. But at the same time, I could create a tool for parents to nourish their compassion that we basically are born with.
Caryn Hartglass: We are all born with it and unfortunately, in many ways we get blinded or numbed to that compassion. I was speaking with Raven a couple of weeks ago, she has a children’s book called Santa’s First Vegan Christmas, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. And we were talking about the notions that she was showing or exposing, and how there was actually these evil, exploited undertones in the classic stories that many of us know and love. Just the simple idea of Santa using a whip to drive the reindeers that are pulling his sled… and we don’t even see the whip because we’re so accustomed to this hierarchy that we have where humans dominate other non-human animals and it’s okay… but it’s not okay, and these images and beliefs starts… when life starts. So a BOARD book, I never even thought about it… but you just opened this whole concept to me—the images shown in a BOARD book!
Julia Feliz: Yeah, and that was another thing… Every time I went to the store to look for books for my baby or toddler, everything is farmed. It’s with a farmer and it’s so frustrating because the exploitation is so normalized and that’s not what I want for my kids. It’s not what I want them to learn. So, I thought I was going to try to do this, and I was fortunate enough to have support to be able to do it. So, I’m really grateful to have everyone who has been involved: my publishers, [8:16] and of course my kick starters and supporters.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, all good and important organizations, we love them all: vegan publishers, Well Fed Worlds… I’m so glad they’re out there and I wish there were more—there will be more as time goes on. But, you mentioned the images and the BOARD books that you were seeing and these farm images are in some ways is this big myth. That’s what our foundation of what the world is like as we see it as babies and toddlers is a myth. These farms don’t even exist anymore. And the story in this BOARD book that you’ve created is very simple, and the images are simple. I imagine that maybe some parents wouldn’t want to present the concepts, even though they’re presented in a very simple way to their baby…because they might say “I don’t want my child to see this violence.”
Julia Feliz: Yeah, I figured that if a non-vegan parent pick up the book. It would make them think as well. I think once a parent reads this book, I don’t think that they can stop thinking about what I’m representing. It’s very simple. It’s a very simple story with very simple images, but the part where the kids find Libby and they secretly don’t want to hurt this non-human and ask if there’s another way—the parents, the figures that the kids follow, have the choice. It’s up to them to lead by example. So, I purposely didn’t add anything violent. I know she’s chained, but I hope it would just make people think. Hopefully, people would be open to the message and not shy away from it once they start thinking about it themselves.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, absolutely! I’m just imagining that little baby or little toddler growing up and then seeing the Thanksgiving turkey on the table and speaking up about it.
Julia Feliz: Yeah, and the other thing as well is that I wanted to expose the normalization to farm exploitation, but I also wanted to give parents a tool to help explain sanctuaries. Because I don’t think that there is anything out there really available to be able to explain what sanctuaries are, and they’re such important places where most vegans will take their kids. And even non-vegans, so it’s all very centered about compassion, but also safety in sanctuaries.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you’re in Switzerland right now! May I ask what you’re doing there?
Julia Feliz: Yes! I’ve been in Europe for quite a long time. I fell in love with a German, and he asked me to move to Europe with him. So, I finished my schoolwork a long time ago and we decided to get married. So I’ve been here in Europe ever since.
Caryn Hartglass: And I know that there are sanctuaries in the United States, how about in Europe?
Julia Feliz: There’s not as many… if there are they’re very small and not very well-known. I just found out that there’s one about twenty minutes from where I live! They have alpacas, horses, and goats that they rescued. But, the concept isn’t as well-known as it would be in the U.S. But, I think it’s starting to grow, which is a good thing.
Caryn Hartglass: So, how old are your children?
Julia Feliz: My baby is five and a half months, and my toddler is two and a half.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh okay, so they haven’t entered the school system yet.
Julia Feliz: No
Caryn Hartglass: And do you plan on sending them to the local school when they’re old enough?
Julia Feliz: Yeah, my toddler he actually goes to [13:31] it’s a nursery, and they’ve been really accommodating. We told them that that we’re vegan and they said, “Okay! [13:42]” And it was really cool, they would confirm if something was okay. “Is this okay?” “No, it has eggs.” So, that was really great. But the only weird thing is that he can only go in the morning, and he does so because he’s really social and active. He always wants to be around other kids, so that’s where we decided that he’ only go a few times a week. But, with lunch they’re a little more unsure about it, so they won’t let him stay past 12 because they’re unsure of what to do. It’s really funny, but I’m sure I’ll have to deal with that when they go to school so we’ll see about that.
Caryn Hartglass: I used to live in the South of France in the early 90s and I was a vegan then. There were some wonderful pates in Switzerland that were in the local health food store. So there were some forward thinking folks back then.
Julia Feliz: Yeah! I’ve been here now for five and a half years and it’s amazing the amount of vegan items that are now in the stores, versus when I first moved here it was basically nonexistent. And now we even have a Vegan grocery store in Germany! They’re now selling their products in our local grocery store! And they’re big grocery stores so it’s really taking a hold and it’s great, because I can pretty much get anything I want… except for, of course it’s not the same. I still miss things like [15:21] and things like that. My aunt actually makes me mac n cheese as comfort food, and I love it because they don’t sell that kind of stuff here. But I mean I can pretty much get anything and everything. So it’s come a long way and it’s really exciting.
Caryn Hartglass: And where can people find your book, Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary
Julia Feliz: You can find it on Amazon and on the Vegan Publisher’s website, and on Facebook where you can follow for updates and events. I actually have a reading event in a bookstore in Florida coming up in January, which is really exciting.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, do you have another book on the horizon that you’re planning?
Julia Feliz: I have several. My dream is actually when I started with this book, I wanted to be able to use my abilities to create other books to tell the stories of other non-humans in other sanctuaries. So, hopefully I have some more ideas and I’ll be able to create more.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, Julia well thank you for joining me in It’s All About Food! I really enjoyed looking through your book, it opened up a whole bunch of new thoughts for me which I’m excited to start thinking more about. And that’s how we influence the really really young…the babies and the toddlers. This BOARD book is an excellent beginning, thank you for that. Thank you for joining me today!
Julia Feliz: Thank you so much!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, that was Julia Feliz all the way from Switzerland and if you have a baby or toddler, or someone that does… this is a lovely little book to put in a stocking this season. Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary. Okay let’s take a quick break and I’ve got my guest for the next part of the show in the studio, so I want to get started with them right away! Let’s take a quick break.
Transcribed by Victoria Nguyen, 1/3/2017
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass and here we are. It’s the second part of the show today, thanks for joining me. All right, this is very exciting because right here in the Progressive Radio Network studio in Manhattan I am joined by two people who’ve got a wonderful documentary that’s premiering here in New York City this week actually. I’m lucky to be able to have them here with me, Merrilee Jacobs is a co-producer and Paul David Kennamer Jr. is director and co-producer too. Yes and the documentary is called Eating You Alive. It’s exciting, it’s a feature-length documentary revealing the truth behind why American’s are so sick and what we can do about that, and I’m sure a lot of my listeners out there know what we can do about it, right? Half of all adults in the U. S. struggle with chronic health conditions including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, hyper-tension, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, on and on and on and on and despite countless dollars spent on medical research, new drugs, and innovative technology to improve our health, more Americans are disabled and dying from chronic disease than ever before. And Eating You Alive takes a scientific look at the reasons we’re so sick, who’s responsible for feeding us the wrong information, and how we can use whole-food, plant-based nutrition to take control of our health, one bite at a time. So Merrilee and Paul thanks for joining me here today, how are both of you?
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: We’re great, thank you for having us.
Merrilee Jacobs: We’re doing great, thanks for having us.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah and Paul you’re here in from California?
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Yes
Caryn Hartglass: Facing the chill, you haven’t even taken your coat off.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Ah well it’s chilly out, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Stay awhile! It’s cold outside. It’s actually not that bad thanks to global warming.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Haha, good answer.
Caryn Hartglass: It could be worse. Yeah well tell me about this film and your journey getting to making it. Now obviously, I know I’m going to let you talk, but I’m still talking.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Good!
Merrilee Jacobs: It’s your show!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! Obviously you learned a lot before wanting to make this movie so maybe we should start there.
Merrilee Jacobs: Well actually yes. I say first we made the change then we made the film. And I’ll let Paul take it from there because it was really his fault that we went down this path. So it was all him!
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Oh thank you for clarifying. Well honestly we had a doctor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is where we’re from; approach us about a vegan lifestyle, whole food plant-based lifestyle.
Caryn Hartglass: A doctor?
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: A doctor, yes, actually yes, kind of strange now being in retrospect, well that doesn’t happen.
Caryn Hartglass: Nobody does that!
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: So imagine that, a doctor looking out for our health, but yeah seriously, scratch that. We literally had a doctor there approach us and he said consider this lifestyle, consider living this lifestyle. He literally teaches a seminar the first of every month about 150 people in the area, literally in Tennessee, about eating this way. And so we talked to the doctor about that and we decided okay I think we’re going to do this, we are going to try this as a team, myself, Merrilee, our whole crew/production team decided we would go on this and do this sort of a trial. In 6 weeks I dropped 45 pounds, went back to my high school weight. Merrilee, I mean she didn’t have a lot of weight to lose but she feels better, she felt better.
Merrilee Jacobs: Yeah I dropped about 15 pounds. I’m 51 and I’ve had a couple of kids so you seem to pack on a little bit extra and I did as well. So I lost a little bit, but I think the really large stories, no pun intended, are from a lot of the rest of our crew because I think in total our team has lost about 500 pounds since we’ve made this change.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re making it sound like it was easy! So this doctor suggested you do this and you just said okay?
Merrilee Jacobs: See there is more to the story than that; he’s not giving you all the details
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Yeah I didn’t know if we had like a minute or so. But seriously, so for me my father had heart disease, had a heart attack, and had a stroke and so I was kind of at that point of 47 and I thought okay I’m kind of destined for this whole health thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Tick-tock, tick-tock…
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Exactly! Genetically I’m destined for that. My mom has a lot of cancers and diabetes on her side of the family so like it’s just going to happen. Then I thought, he gave me some information, told me to watch Forks Over Knives (documentary), we watched that and then of course when he unveiled that to us we sort of went through and watched all the other docs we could find on Netflix and it just sort of, we were like we’ve got to do this. And I’m not the type of person who sort of walks into the short end of the pool, I just kind of dive in the deep end so that’s what we did.
Merrilee Jacobs: Well and actually we, he’s got a mouse in his pocket because it was he that decided he wanted to do it and then he kind of enlisted some help.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Yeah well I can’t cook so, that’d be a problem for me, I can’t even boil water. I needed help so I asked Merrilee, I said, “Would you be willing to do this? And if you are you’d have to get the food.” And she said yeah. And so another lady that works with us she said okay I’ll learn how to cook this way. Merrilee you’ve been a vegetarian for a good portion of your life and Jodi the other lady who works with us she had been a vegetarian for a good portion of her life and so it was a change but not as radical as a change as it was for me because I grew up in Alabama eating meat you know at all three meals. So literally we decided we would all three do that and the changes that took place, not my weight loss but my health, rotator cuff issues and things I had going on, when those things changed for me like in three weeks to the day of changing the food going in my mouth I didn’t really want to give it credit. I didn’t want to give it to the diet, the lifestyle, the credit, but then after a few months I was like I don’t think I’ll ever have meat again. And then of course I learned about the animals, then I learned about the environment, so it’s like I just entered through the door of health. That it changed my life but it opened this whole world I didn’t know existed so it was very transformational for all of us, honestly.
Caryn Hartglass: Well what a wonderful thing that your doctor suggested that you do this and I really hope that the new doctors that are coming along will do this more and more because there are many doctors that think they know better on so many levels and think that you’re not going to want to change so they don’t even bother telling you.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Exactly, yeah.
Merrilee Jacobs: Well and I think that’s one of the things that’s so exciting for us because going through the transition for us we faced the same challenges as anybody else. You know saying, “Oh I’m going to cook this way,” well that’s great in theory but in practical application it definitely is a challenge because you’re having to rethink everything about food, not only what you’re eating but how to prepare it. And the biggest thing we get is, “How in the world do you sauté veggies with no oil?” That’s like one of the big ones. And so it was a change for us as well, had to do a lot of research and a lot of trial and error because there are millions of recipes out there but that doesn’t mean that they’re all great. So a lot of trial and error, and there’s the component I think of doing it as a team makes it so much easier obviously than somebody who’s trying to do it on their own because we had that internal support system and that was just amazing.
So once we start going through these changes and these challenges and we are watching every documentary that we can find out there on the subject matter, it’s like you know there’s some things that all these docs are so great about giving us information and we learn so much from all of them but there was a couple of components that we walk away from still needing to help us make the transition more successfully. And that was the how factor, it’s like great everything given to us makes us believe why we should do this, but how do we do this? So at that point we thought we’re a production team so it just makes sense, it’s like the perfect storm, why not tell our story but not make it so much about us as telling our story through the stories of everyone else. And in starting to acquire the cast, so to speak, for that we really wanted to interview physicians because our physicians are still who we go to and trust our health with. And that was what was so exciting when you talk about the number of doctors that are out there because there is a growing number amassing that are whole-food plant-based practicing physicians and our young ones coming up through medical school are more open to this now more than ever I think largely because that generation was kind of open to it from the vegan perspective, animal rights, and the environment anyway, so to add the health component just makes it really more exciting for a doctor coming up now-a-days because now they’re actually going to be able to do what they went into medical school to do and that was to heal people.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well that’s part of the story from our founding fathers as I like to call them. John McDougall’s story was how he wasn’t healing anybody and then he discovered healthy food made the difference. Isn’t that why doctors become doctors? Because they want to heal?
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Yeah, what a concept.
Merrilee Jacobs: I think that’s so, and so many of them that we interviewed talked about their disillusionment. They’d really gotten burned out in practice, and it wasn’t until they discovered this life approach and this health approach that it really changed things for them and they became passionate again about the field that they had gone in to.
Caryn Hartglass: Well it was exciting for me when I watched your film. I’ve been a vegan for almost thirty years and vegetarian for longer and I think the only film back in the day was John Robbins’ Diet for a New America that PBS had created after his 1987 best seller of the same name. There really wasn’t anything else. Doctor Michael Klaper had a few food videos back then on video tape, if anyone remembers what video tape is.
Merrilee Jacobs: I’m not going to admit to that.
Caryn Hartglass: And we really needed material, and in really a short amount of time, that’s a few decades which is like nothing, it seems like a very long time believe me but it’s really nothing, and what I was excited to see were all the new doctors, a diverse collection of doctors, not just our white, male, founding fathers. I love them all, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and Dr. Michael Klaper, and Dr. Michael Greger, a little younger but he’s still up there too, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell isn’t a medical doctor but he’s right up there as a nutrition expert, who else am I missing? Dr. Dean Ornish.
Merrilee Jacobs: Dr. Neal Barnard.
Caryn Hartglass: Dr. Neal Barnard of course, yes I mean they’ve all paved the way and done wonderful work, but now it’s time for everybody to get on board. Every size, shape, color, gender, all that stuff.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: And that’s on of the points that we really wanted to make was that this is not a California thing, this is not some crazy way of life, but it’s literally evidence-based science and it’s not just from a handful of doctors, it’s literally practicing physicians across the country and you’re never very far from someone that can heal you through food. And that was one of the bigger points that we wanted to make. You see in so many of the docs that are so great and convicting but we wanted to give this what I think is a realistic idea, the fact that there are doctors across the country and you can find these people that will help you. So that’s one of the points we wanted to make as well, we wanted to take it a step further after convincing you hopefully that you want to live this way that you can live this way and it’s not that difficult to do and we try to show you how easy it is to actually shop for the foods that you need to shop for, learn how to cook, and recipes within there, and then inspire you to go out and do it. And that was the objective of the film, that’s the goal of the film, and we hope it hits the mark.
Caryn Hartglass: Unfortunately there are many many people on the standard American diet who are not healthy and need this information. You showed personal stories and testimonials from people who had all kinds of illnesses and health compromises and then found the truth. Who are these people and how did you find them? There’s so many of them out there, but the ones that agreed to participate.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Merrilee first of all is responsible for bring them in so I’ll let her answer most of that, but I’ll say that the people that were a part of it, anybody that has gone through a transformation like this, that has changed their way of eating to this lifestyle, you don’t do it accidently. No one is sort of just, you know you drive to McDonald’s anybody can do that, you start living a whole-food plant-based life and changing your health you can’t help but become passionate about it. So as Merrilee reached out to these people to give us their stories, they’re excited to do that they’re passionate about it because they want the world to know that this little secret should not be a little secret that’s being kept from us and we should all know. So they were passionate about telling so. The stories were just amazing but Merrilee did all the work and made it happen.
Merrilee Jacobs: Actually I think a lot of it was just a gift, other-worldly honestly, in so many cases the people that we were connected with. People that have had such success, physicians that have had such success, like Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. Barnard, we had asked them early on do you have any patients that you have treated that have gone through amazing transformations, so that was a good source. One of the stories in which I think, a couple of stories which you would probably relate to and remember, was one about Dr. Ron Weiss the physician that opens the film, and I don’t want to be, this is a spoiler, I’m not going to spoil it for anybody who’s coming this week in New York, but his story was very compelling. And literally the Internet and Google search is a wonderful thing, and when you’re just new to this movement Googling things just provides a marvelous volume of information. One of the stories I was Googling about a whole-food plant-based expert in this area and ran across his story that had been buried in something I ran across, he wasn’t that well known at the time, and started reading up about how he had sold his practice and had purchased this 348-acre farm in Long Valley, New Jersey, and how he treats patients this way, from the farm and really incorporates all those whole-food, not just eating this way but growing things. He was a botanist undergraduate and so he really knows all about plants, so that was one really compelling story.
Another one I think we were traveling and I ran across Milan Ross’s story as well and said this is amazing and we absolutely just have to get him. So I called him up and said hey here’s what we’re doing, here’s who we are, here’s a little bit about our back-story, and we would love to interview you for the documentary that we are putting together, would you be interested, and he said yes, so we headed to Denver where he was living at the time and interviewed him. His story’s just so compelling and so inspirational; it’s the same for all of them. And then the physician’s themselves, I don’t think there’s anything more powerful, honestly, than hearing a physician, who’s trained in traditional medicine actually go through the very same thing that everybody else does with regards to chronic disease, discovers this message and turns their health around. And those stories are incredibly compelling and very inspiring as well.
Caryn Hartglass: I like to say that it takes a lot of courage as an adult, and especially as an older adult, to make this kind of change. As I mentioned before, I became a vegetarian, I started on the path at 15. And when you’re a teenager it’s not hard to be rebellious.
Merrilee Jacobs: True! I’m experiencing that all the time, I have teenagers, so I get that.
Caryn Hartglass: My dad used to call me Contrary Caryn, and I want to think that my choices were made from a profound understanding of right and wrong but I know that some of it was me just wanting to be different. So, okay, for adults that are changing their diet, especially older adults, and for doctors too, to take this stand it takes a lot of courage because that’s not what the mainstream is telling us.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Yeah, it’s not where the money is either.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh the money! Yeah, there’s that.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Yeah we don’t forget about that do we?
Merrilee Jacobs: Actually Paul has great stories because his family, his parents, are in their late 70s/early 80s and they actually made the change, but not until they finished watching him go through the transition. And the same way with my parents as well.
Caryn Hartglass: And your children?
Merrilee Jacobs: My children, no, Paul’s had a little more success. They’re vegetarian, yeah, they still mess with the dairy and that kind of thing. They eat when I’m at home cooking then they eat what I fix but that’s not to say that when they go out with their friends they don’t have a cheese pizza, but I have hope because often times they’ll go out with their friends, they’ll eat something that they really shouldn’t, and they’ll come back to me and they’ll go aw man I don’t feel so good I wish I hadn’t eaten that. So I just smile and tuck that away because they’re teenagers so I’m figuring at some point in time they’re going to make the conscious decision not to do that because of how it’s made them feel. And I keep reminding them when that happens, “Okay you know how you feel so pay attention to that.” And I’m thinking maybe next time they’re tempted, they’ll remember this moment and you’ll make that choice for yourself because at this age you need to be making your own decisions that way. So I think they’re starting to see that, but Paul’s really excited because he’s got three kids and they’ve all made the transition, which is very very cool.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Yeah I mean it’s really, again, being from Alabama, being raised on sugar, fat, and salt, and then for me to make the transition and to watch my mom and dad who as Merrilee said, my dad is 80 my mom is 78, and they thought that I had cancer when I first was on the diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Because you were so thin! “You’re too thin!”
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Because you start losing weight and everybody associates, oh my god you’re losing weight, you’re going to wither away, you can’t cast a shadow, what is wrong with you, and all this kind of thing because again I think our perception as Americans is so far skewed, we don’t actually realize just how overweight we are in this country because we are literally, no pun intended, we’re fed this ridiculous falseness, this information that makes us be this way and live this way and then again with the results of being obese with the way they are. So my mom and dad thought, they were so worried for me, but then my dad noticed my skin, you know he noticed things looking different just because of the food.
Caryn Hartglass: That pasty white powder went away, you got this colorful glow.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Yeah he noticed what health looks like, a little bit, and so he saw that in me and then my mom was not wishing to do it at all, but then she found she had 50% blockage in her Carotid Artery, over 50% blockage in her Carotid Artery, she said you know I think I’m going to try this. And so she did and three months to the day almost of making that transition to going to whole-foods plat-based no oil no sugar (no added sugar, no added oil) she literally went back and was well within the normal range, below 20% blockage. So it reversed it that quickly, and so at that point she never looked back, and she’ll never have meat again and she’s 78 and she’s doing great. My sister, at 8 years old she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and for 48 years she took medicines and they had told her that she wouldn’t be able to walk possibly when she was an adult, she was to a point where she would get up every morning it would take her 45 minutes to kind of warm her body up and all those kind of things, and now I think after roughly 9 months in this lifestyle we call it she was off all medications and no longer had any signs of arthritis, so it just changed her life.
Caryn Hartglass: But of course rheumatoid arthritis has no connection to diet (sarcastically), of course not, I mean they’ve been saying that forever.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: They say that right now.
Merrilee Jacobs: They say that about Lupus, and about type 2 diabetes, to a great extent. It’s changing though. But a lot of things they say that about cancers, several cancers we spend all this money in cancer research trying to find a cure for cancer and there’s so many of these cancers, I think I was reading a statistic just this morning that 85% of cancers can actually be reversed, treated and reversed, with diet alone. That’s huge!
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: And the main thing is just how can it hurt you? I mean regardless of what’s going on in your life with your health, just eat more plants, that’s the bottom line.
Caryn Hartglass: You know with respect to your mom, it’s a great story, and what I want to say is people who already have some sort of cardiovascular disease and they’ve got the blockage whether they know or not, this is where cold turkey is so important; making a transition to something that’s really really clean, because when you already have a disease, just eliminating a few foods, even if you go vegetarian, it’s not enough. I unfortunately know one person that I’m thinking about in particular who lost a lot of weight and his color was really good and now he’s going in for some heart surgery because he was eating eggs and a lot of oil, and it wasn’t enough.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: It’s just what’s more important than your health? What’s more important than your health for you, but what’s more important than your health for your children, for your family, for the ones who want you to be here and be a part of their lives? I mean there are so many reasons to put the right thing in your mouth all the time. There are just really limited excuses to put the wrong thing in your mouth and you’ve got to look at things in that fashion. I think we need to.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, what’s frustrating for me, I like to keep a positive outlook but there’s a lot of frustration too, and that is we’ve come a long way in our science and our knowledge and people today can benefit right away from that knowledge, and still people tend to take baby steps, other countries India and China are now doing what we did decades ago and haven’t learned from our current knowledge and so their heart disease and diabetes are increasing. But it is as you mentioned before there is that money factor. We haven’t quite figured out the way to make a good profit margin for broccoli and apples.
Merrilee Jacobs: Well not yet anyway, although we probably should stop looking at it from that perspective and just look at where we are with our debt load. You know people talk about all these ways to reduce our debt and to reduce our healthcare costs and everything, so if you’re not going to look at it from a profit margin standpoint as a consumer than look at it as a way of reducing your debt and even your personal debt. How much money do you spend in healthcare yourself? How much money do you spend on medications? You want to reduce that? Changing what you eat is obviously going to do that. But it’s so hard I think because of the addictive component and back when we made the change I would not have admitted this to you but good heavens I’m a recovering cheese-a-holic, you know? And Paul I used to be really concerned about the amount of sugar that he consumed, and I think if I had ever mentioned the word being a “sugar addict,” I said cheese I think, but a sugar addict he would have denied that because nobody likes to admit that you’re addicted to anything, that’s for something far more extreme like drugs and alcohol and whatever.
Caryn Hartglass: Well there is plenty of science that shows that sugar is more addicting than cocaine.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Exactly, and I think that’s sad that that’s not discussed openly for a good reason.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s white powder!
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: That’s right. And the people don’t want us to… again if they can keep us kind of dumbed down they can control us. And I think the more that we can do to get this information out to the masses, it’s just common sense but it’s very uncommon, and so the more we can do to get the message out, I don’t think people really want to die of these chronic diseases I think they just simply don’t know better because the information is so suppressed.
Caryn Hartglass: This information is so important and your film is important and I want to get to that in a moment. So those of us in the United States are kind of living through the election and this inauguration that is going to take place, maybe, in a few weeks it’s very frightening, but people who are discovering the lies that have been made about our food system and people who are discovering how they can regain their health and feel better have to connect the dots that, I like to say, it’s all about food and it’s connected to food but there are lots of messages that we’re getting that are not truthful and it kind of opens the door to really think about everything. So let’s start with putting healthy delicious food in people’s mouths and then they realize no we don’t need to kill animals for food, no we don’t need to consume junk food, what else should we not be doing and who else should we not be listening to?
Merrilee Jacobs: Exactly, and I think Dr. Greger and several of them that have made the link with the way we used to look at smoking back in the day. My mom’s an RN and she remembers being a young nurse, the advertisements that were on TV about the health benefits of oils where the doctor would have the bottle of corn oil sitting on the corner of his desk and would take a couple gulps, and now we think, “Oh horrors, that’s terrible!” We thought the same thing about smoking, we have gone through this whole change to where our food is really the same way but we’re not looking at it in that same way. And with respect to specifically the oils I know so much of the propaganda out there is that olive oil and coconut oil are healthy for you, okay going back to your point about thinking, right, starting to think, okay I had to go back and think, “Oh all right so I’m hearing this information so what makes olive oil and coconut oil healthy but like corn oil and safflower oil and soybean oil not healthy,” because that’s kind of where we are. Well when you stop to think about it logically they’re all the same so what is it that keeps is dumbed down and often times I think we’re just so gullible when it comes to advertising. And we don’t want to admit that we are but that in fact is what we are is gullible to the advertising.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah… okay so let’s talk about this film! When did it open?
Merrilee Jacobs: It opens tomorrow.
Caryn Hartglass: In New York, but it opened in other places… a few weeks…
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Opened in L.A., yes.
Merrilee Jacobs: Yeah the 2nd, all the dates are running together right now. Yeah December 2nd it opened in L.A. at the Sundance Sunset Cinema there, ran through the 8th, and then we hopped on the bus and drove our way across country and here we are it opens tomorrow in New York City. But we’ve had about 50+ pre-release screening events all across the country and into Canada and Australia as well. So it’s been really fun to hear people’s response and reaction to the film at this point.
Caryn Hartglass: Was there a party after the first Sundance?
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: We didn’t have time for a party we had to literally head to New York so we didn’t actually, I mean some of the evenings we were there we had some parties and things.
Merrilee Jacobs: Some special guests.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to know what was served at those parties!
Merrilee Jacobs: No, actually most of the food came out of our rolling mobile kitchen on the bus because I was doing a lot of the cooking so that’s what we’ve been eating.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: In California and here in New York City you can find restaurants to eat but obviously in between it’s more difficult, so part of the reason we do travel via bus is because we need that kitchen so we can eat healthy food on the road, it’s difficult that’s sad to say but it’s just difficult to find healthy food.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah the places that need the message most.
Merrilee Jacobs: Exactly, but it’s been fun!
Caryn Hartglass: And so what have people been saying?
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: The response, I guess no one’s going to walk up to us and say hey the film sucks but all along we’ve had good feedback, the reviews everything have been great, all the screenings people have stayed 45 minutes and asked questions afterwards, so it’s just been great.
Merrilee Jacobs: It feels a little weird to want to sit here and say specifically what they’ve been saying because it feels like you’re patting yourself on the back so that’s really not…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, please do!
Merrilee Jacobs: We’re really uncomfortable with that one, but I think what the biggest testament is to the film is when they walk out of the film with tears in their eyes and they say, “Okay how do I make this change? What are the next steps I need to take?” And to us that’s why we made the film, and that’s what is fulfilling about the film, and that’s what just continues to propel us forward and keep us passionate about getting the message out there because if we can see that kind of responses widespread then we really can the world, together. I kind of like to say we’re hopefully amassing an army, you’ve had all these various people and components out there, you have the vegan movement that this platform supports, you have a whole-food plant-based movement, and all of the physicians and everything that have done the research proving that this is an optimal approach to health. You have the environmental component and people like James Cameron, so many of the celebrities that have jumped on board too in their passion for the environment and hopefully this film kind of draws them all in together and gives us a very broad-based platform and allows us to amass an army of people who support this message and kind of get it out there, get it to the masses because that’s the kind of change we’d like to see.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I would like to see it all merge with Van Jones’s Love Army, right? Get that whole big broad message out there.
Merrilee Jacobs: Yeah, it’s really exciting to see and actually we’ve had some people that saw it early on when I think the film first was seen publically at just across the water here in New Jersey, in Morristown, New Jersey was its first opening if you will, at the VegFest there, Morristown’s very first VegFest there. Very well attended, very exciting for Morristown and all the people that hosted that, and some of those people from that time on have kind of kept us posted about their progress because they decided to make the change. And so we’re getting actually tracking them right now, and hearing about how much weight they’ve lost and how many medications they’re off now and those kind of exciting pieces of information and news that are very very fulfilling and very rewarding.
Caryn Hartglass: Just briefly, on the other side, have you heard any negative feedback? At the same time I really think the whole-food plant-based movement is building and growing and it should, there’s so much science behind it, but at the same time there’s that pushback from Paleo peeps and the ones that want us to eat, continue to eat animals.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: We do hear that. We have not heard very much of it at our pre-screenings, I would imagine that as the film gains more mainstream popularity we’ll hear more and more of that obviously but it’s not been bad so far but we know that’s going to exist. We’re going to hear it from the pharmaceutical communities, I hope we do because if we hear from them that means we’ve done our job and we’re kind of rattling the cages because I think to be responsible with the message it’s going to have an impact on those industries.
Caryn Hartglass: So unlike some people who have risen to power recently, you think you can handle some criticism, some negative tweets.
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: I think we knew when we kind of went into this we kind of had to grow thick skin pretty quickly. So we do expect to have a lot of criticism, a lot of people saying that this is just ridiculous, there’s no truth to this, you’ve got to have science, and we do have those questions from time to time, people will step up and say this is really great but is there really science to support this, as though there’s science to support the standard American diet, which you know again…
Caryn Hartglass: Which there isn’t!
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: There isn’t. And ultimately we try to answer the questions as best we can but ultimately science, that’s really difficult. You determine what you’re going to believe. I didn’t go out to see Colin Campbell, do the studies that he did, I just have to make the decision whether I’m going to believe it or not, whether it makes sense to me. And that’s all we can ask is that people read that information, look into it, and see what makes the most sense to them, and I think they’re all going to come to the same conclusion if people were actually aware of all the information.
Merrilee Jacobs: And I think it goes beyond to, I mean you can read one thing and believe it but you can’t argue with the results of actually doing it and trying it and no one can argue with your personal experience and I think that’s the beauty of this. We don’t necessarily go into it to be confrontational with anybody, somebody wants to be confrontational with us all we can say in response to them is, “I’ll tell you what, if you don’t believe it that’s okay, but you have to put yourself to the challenge, try it for two or three weeks then come back and talk to me and tell me it doesn’t work.”
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: I would have said this, to someone that says to me, which has happened before, and all I say to them is, “I understand what you’re saying. I was right there with you. I didn’t believe it. I thought this was ridiculous, but then when you try it, just 30 days, and you see the response that you get that your body tells you, shows you, it’s like that’s where the proof is.”
Caryn Hartglass: I like to say and I say it a lot, “You don’t know how good you can feel, you just don’t know until you try it,” and the wonderful thing is the food is fantastic. For those that have been to ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com my non-profit we’re constantly putting out new recipes, just this morning for example I have a friend who is coming over for dinner and I just ran around and I made some incredible food really fast just because I know how to do that and I’ve practiced…
Merrilee Jacobs: And you didn’t bring any today?
Caryn Hartglass: Haha, no… I have a daily blog called What Vegan’s Eat and tomorrow you’ll be able to see what I made today and what we’ll be eating tonight. It’s a couple of our new recipes that we’re really excited about, one is called a Tournedos de Riz and it’s based on a round steak recipe but it’s made from a mix of whole grains and spices and it comes with a sauce Dijonnaise, a cream Dijon sauce it’s really delicious.
Merrilee Jacobs: Sounds awesome, I can’t pronounce it but I bet I could eat it.
Caryn Hartglass: You absolutely could and you’d love it! So we’re out of time, and it’s been wonderful sitting here and listening to your stories and hearing about your wonderful film. Thank you for…
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Thank you for having us!
Caryn Hartglass: …walking this earth and doing this work.
Merrilee Jacobs: Thank you for doing what you do!
Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Thank you so much!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay I’ve been speaking with Merrilee Jacobs and Paul David Kennamer Jr. and they are creators of the Eating You Alive documentary. Just one more thing, where can people in New York see it this week?
Merrilee Jacobs: They can see it at the IFC Center starting tomorrow, Wednesday the 14th, running through the 20th.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, get your tickets now! And thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food; I’m Caryn Hartglass you’ve been listening to this program It’s All About Food because it is all about food. Join me at ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com and send me messages at info@REALmeals.org and remember, have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Lydia Dearie, 1/16/2017