J. Morris Hicks, 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health


J. Morris HicksJ. Morris Hicks is the author of Healthy Eating, Healthy
and the creator of the 4Leaf concept. Shortly after learning all about the many alarming truths regarding our food choices in 2003, Jim realized that there needed to be a better way to explain healthy eating to the world. The “V” words, at best, convey more information about what you’re avoiding than what you ARE eating. He began developing the 4Leaf concept in 2009 and introduced it to the public in his 2001 book, co-authored with his son Jason.

Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made them his #1 priority- exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural, plant-based diet for our species – in the interest of promoting health, hope and harmony on the planet Earth.


Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody, how are you doing today? I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Good show today, really good show today. I’m looking forward to both of my guests that are going to be on the program. Before we do that, sometimes I like to announce things that I’m grateful for. It feels good to do that and I recommend that everyone thinks about things that they are grateful for especially if you are in a moment where you’re feeling a little down, think about what you’re grateful for. I guarantee you, you will feel better instantly. That’s not why I’m doing this right now, it’s just because I really am grateful and I just want to say it. I’ve said this before but I can’t say it enough and that is, I am so grateful for my volunteer transcribers. You know we do this program every week and I usually have one or two guests and I have these wonderful volunteers from all over the world. Young and not as young as the young ones, older. They volunteer and they transcribe my programs and so it’s a great resource. We have them archived on my program here on my Responsible Eating and Living website. You can access them anytime, in fact, I use them myself and volunteers, they get something out of it too. I love when I get the feedback from them saying oh, this program was so interesting and I learned a lot. It’s just a win-win all around and I hope that you are taking advantage of it too. Since I am using volunteers, the transcriptions don’t come up as soon as the program is archived but they do show up a few weeks after. I put them up as soon as I can and in fact, I just realized that we had my next guest on about a year ago, Jim Hicks, J. Morris Hicks. We had him on last year in July and we talked about a book he had written, Healthy Eating, Healthy World, and I always like to review the last program I had with a guest before I speak to them again just to refresh my mind what we spoke about. You know what, I just need to – I got too many tools up here and I need to text my guest. Please bear with me here because he just texted me and doesn’t realize that it’s the studio that’s going to be calling. Please bear with me. Anyway, I just posted – I’m going to text and talk at the same time. I just posted the old transcript from last year because somehow it dropped off. I thought I posted it and I didn’t post it and I just realized that I didn’t. I just posted it and you got to read it. It’s there. So it’s there for you to look at and I recommend that you do. Okay, let me just text my guest here. Okay, now we’re all together, that’s great. Anyway, so that’s what I’m grateful for, I’m grateful for my volunteers that are just awesome and transcribing away. And even when I drop one and don’t remember to post it, I do get to it eventually and they really are very useful. In fact, somebody made a comment recently about butter and how saturated fat was good and how butter was good and they were responding to an interview I did with Dr. Neal Barnard. In responding to that post, I went to my interview with Brenda Davis, a wonderful dietician and she and Vesanto Melina write terrific books together. My favorites are the comprehensive Becoming Vegan. And I went to my interview with her and grabbed the transcript from a section of it where we talk just about butter and saturated fat and how they aren’t healthy and how the research shows that they’re not healthy. She talked about this particular new study that came out about butter that said it was healthy and she talked about how even one of the researchers on the article admitted that saturated fat wasn’t healthy, butter wasn’t healthy but they had to redesign this meta study that they did so that it could get published. Anyway, I’m grateful for the transcriptions that I have. I use them and I hope you do too. Now let’s bring on my guest and friend, J. Morris Hicks and he’s the author of, as I mentioned before of Healthy Eating, Healthy World and the creator of the 4Leaf concept and he has a new book, the 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health. He’s got over 900 posts and articles on his website and he’s been on the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies Board of Directors since 2012. His new book just was published two weeks ago. Jim, how are you doing?

J. Morris Hicks: I’m great Caryn, thanks for having me.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I’m glad that we’re able to connect. I kind of had to multitask there and it’s interesting when your texting and trying to talk at the same time what happens. That’s all passed us now. You’re a busy guy, aren’t you?

J. Morris Hicks: Yes and before we get started, I wanted to give you a little thank you – a big thank you. I don’t know if you recall but you have made a big difference in my life and my career. Back in 2005, you arranged and hosted three separate venues at the same location, Zen Palate restaurant and Union Square and through those meetings I met Colin Campbell and his wife, Caldwell Esselstyn and his wife, and Joel Fuhrman. I ended up working closely with all three of those gentlemen and those wonderful scientists and doctors. Hadn’t it been for you and arranging those events, who knows where I would be today and if I would have indeed written a book by myself so I thank you for that.

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. I will never forget when I first met you, this tall, slim, handsome, well dressed man walking into my event. We didn’t have a lot of those kinds of people, we had all kinds of people but you stood out of the crowd and it was really lovely meeting you and I really appreciate you sharing that little story. I’m kind of getting a little emotional here. We never know who we touch and what’s going to happen as a result and I’m really enamored with all the work that you’ve been doing. I’m glad you found your path and that you’re working very vigorously – I’m stuttering a lot here – and passionately on that path. Alight, let’s get started now and talk about your newest venture, the 4Leaf guide to healthy eating. You want to tell us about it?

J. Morris Hicks: Sure do. 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health, it began I guess a little over a year ago, a year and a half ago when a medical doctor in the Finger Lakes region, Dr. Kerry Graff, had recently seen Forks Over Knives and had become enlightened and passionate about whole food plant-based nutrition and wanting to introduce her 800 patients to that way of eating and her medical practice. So she was looking for ways and tools that would help her to communicate that message because let’s face it, doctors only have about 10 minutes with patients these days. So she found my 4Leaf program website and my 4Leaf survey and at that time, the only way to take the survey was to print it off and fill it out with a pencil. So she did that and she really liked the concept of 4Leaf and she wrote me an email and said I would like to find out if I can get your permission to use this stuff in my practice, this 4Leaf materials. So we got on the phone and talked about it and I said absolutely. I created that 4Leaf survey about 4 years ago and no one has ever really used it very much and that’s the beginning. So one thing led to another. She’s now the chief medical Officer for 4Leaf Global LLC, her assistant Kristin is our Administration Manger, my son and his wife are involved as is my fiancée, Justine Robertson, is our CFO. About last October, we decided to write a book together because she had a lot of stuff she wanted to put in the book that would save her a lot of time in communicating it to her patients. So we decided to make it a 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health, using the power of food to heal ourselves and our planet and make it about a 50/50 book concentrating on health for humans and also health for the environment. It was published two weeks ago today. It’s now available on Amazon worldwide, Kindle and paperback.

Caryn Hartglass: Congratulations and thank you for writing the 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health. Let’s talk a little bit about the survey. I took the survey a few minutes ago and I am in level 4, the 4Leaf.

J. Morris Hicks: Well I would be very surprised if you weren’t.

Caryn Hartglass: I was very surprised to get that response!

J. Morris Hicks: But first of all, to define the survey, the 4Leaf concept is basically a concept of eating based on maximizing the percent of your daily calories from whole plants and that means it’s not necessarily vegan or vegetarian, but it more than likely is vegan for most people that do it. So what it is, it implies some wiggle room. In other words, you can eat 95% whole plants and have a piece of cheese on a cracker or something and you would still be a 4Leaf eater is what we’re talking about here. As we know, in a world of vegetarians and vegans, where you and I spend a lot of time, a lot of us don’t eat a very healthy diet and that’s because vegan and vegetarian pretty much define what people don’t eat but doesn’t define what they do eat because you could eat nothing but diet coke and potato chips and be a vegan and it wouldn’t be very healthy. So we felt like we needed a new way to communicate healthy eating in a simple, non judgmental kind of format which wasn’t all or nothing, which was attractive, which was based on the positive being maximizing the positive foods instead of eliminating all the other foods. If you maximize on the positive foods, something got to go and it’s got to be those animal based foods. So we deiced to use the definition that Dr. Colin Campbell came up with, he said the closer we get to eating a diet of whole plant-based foods, the better off we will be. When I heard that definition, I said that is it. All of this debate about what’s the best diet style, even the veggie doctors have a lot of debates about it but I think that they all agree with that statement and we should have a way of communicating that people and maybe setup some levels. So we setup 6 levels, the lowest level is the typical western diet or standard American diet under 10% of calories from whole plants. The next level is better than most, which is better than most people eating the typical western diet and that’s from 10% to 20% whole plants. And then from 20% to 40% is the 1Leaf level. 1Leaf sounds low on the 4Leaf scale but it’s 5 to 10 times as many whole plants as the typical standard American diet. So 40% to 60% is 2Leaf, 60% to 80% is 3Leaf and over 80% of the calories is at the 4Leaf level. So we devised a simple survey, very simple, with 12 multiple choice questions. You can take it at www.4leafsurvey.com online and you get an extensive report if you ask for it via email but you immediately find out what we have to eat to make the 4leaf level for one of those levels just by answering 12 multiple choice questions. We have the first 3 questions are all about fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and potatoes, and that’s where you get the positive points and then anything other than whole plants that you’re eating, you actually get negative points. The scores can range from minus 44 to plus 44; we put a lot of 4s in there. The 4Leaf level starts at 30 points and goes to 44. If you take it online, you don’t really know how many points you got but you can tell immediately what level you are. If you go to www.4leafprogram.com, you can learn a lot more about all of those levels. So we kind of have a system here, we have a book, we have a 4Leaf survey and then when you go to your doctor and he cautions you about not eating cheese, dairy and meat and that kind of thing, we have a letter that Dr. Kerry Graff wrote. It’s in chapter 37 of our book and it’s also a printer friendly book version at www.4leafprogram.com. That’s another tool that we have that you can give to your doctor easily, just print it out or you can give it to friends who are thinking you’ve lost your mind for not eating meat any more.

Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s great and we definitely need more doctors on board because most people rely on their doctors for nutrition information and we know that that’s not what they study in medical school and there’s only a handful that know about nutrition. I want to think that the younger doctors today are picking up a little bit more on good nutrition so that’s good. Having a 4Leaf system, people like data, people like numbers and people like to know where they are so I think that’s good. I agree about making this lifestyle not what we don’t do, but what we do do and I found that every time I’ve eliminated certain foods from my diet, my choices have expanded. There are so many wonderful foods to eat in the plant kingdom and unless you stop depending on and stop eating some of these other animal based foods, processed foods and junk foods, you don’t have the opportunity to experience everything that you’re missing. It’s a big wonderful, delicious world of plant foods out there.

J. Morris Hicks: Certainly is. You mentioned the younger doctors. My fantasy would be to have some of these younger doctors like Dr. Kerry Graff. Kerry is a Cornell undergrad, summa cum laude. She went to med school and has been practicing medicine now for 20 years. There’s another one, Michelle McMacken who endorsed our book. Her endorsement is on the back of the book. She’s an assistant professor of medicine and NYU School of Medicine. She is the director of Bellevue Hospital Weight Management Clinic in New York City. Also, there are some others but those two in particular, my fantasy would be to have the two of them appear on Ellen DeGeneres and talk about the future of medicine. Two young women who have sterling educational credentials. I think Michelle went to Yale undergrad and studied the humanities and then she went to med school at Columbia and now she’s an assistant professor and she’s in her mid thirties I think, a young woman. These people have gotten the best educations and all of a sudden they realize that their profession has some incredible failures and it’s costing people their lives. For example, when Kerry first saw Forks Over Knives she told me she wished that all of those people in the movie, Esselstyn, Campbell, etc., she wished that they were a bunch of veggie loving quacks and she could just go about business as usual but she realized when she did her studies that everything was based on science and clinical evidence in that movie and she said well I have to change my practice. So without that understanding how she was going to make a living teaching people how to get well, she just started making changes. I think Michelle McMacken probably did the same thing. Kaiser Permanente has 17,000 physicians and I’m estimating that less than 1% of those are basically promoting health with plant based nutrition but I do know of one of them and we have communicated and he has been featured on Forks Over Knives, his name is Dr. Steve Lawenda and he operates in Lancaster, California. So it’s happening but it’s happening way too slow for my taste. I want to be around to see the ecosystem start healing and if we don’t change what we eat in the western world, our ecosystem is going to make it impossible for our civilization to continue and things can get pretty rough on this planet for my grandchildren.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I wanted to ask you since we last spoke which was July of 2014, your impressions were pretty bleak about what was going on with the environment. You had some ideas about how to change things in terms of getting some really wealthy people together to promote what we feel needs to be done. Anything good happened since that time other than work and focusing on the 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health?

J. Morris Hicks: Yes, a lot of good things are happening. A lot more people are getting on board, The Plantrician Project, my good friend Susan Benigas at www.plantricianproject.org and the Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. There are a lot of great things happening. A lot of young doctors are picking this up but there’s still not enough communication about the overall impact of what we’re eating. I kind of narrowed it down and said we really have four things that we’re doing that are totally, grossly unsustainable for very much longer. One is overpopulation, we got too many people on this planet and 7.3 billion and that’s going to take decades if not centuries to get that under control. Then we have the way we consume, overconsumption. Our entire global economy is based on maximization of stuff and the consumption of stuff in a world of finite resources. And then we have those first two kinds of driving the third one which is basically our dependence on fossil fuels for most of our energy and we still depend on it for most of our energy. We haven’t made much progress there. So all three of those are going to require decades if not centuries to fix but the fourth one is the way we eat and conveniently, the fourth one, the way we eat, causes more environmental problems than the other three. It’s the leading cause of most of our environmental problems, including climate change. So my feeling is that if we can get that word out, we have – I suggest we need some wealthy leaders. We need people that are credible, have well known names, are respected and have integrity and they’re going to need a big budget in order to really create the kind of communication effort needed to get to everyone. We don’t have time to go through countries and bureaucrats and leaders and organizations, it’s a worldwide system of feeding humans the wrong food and what we eat determines how the whole world is used. It’s just not working…

Caryn Hartglass: It’s so frustrating as you know and I know.

J. Morris Hicks: It can change tomorrow, it can change tonight. Totally eliminating the meat and dairy in just a few weeks but if enough change, we can make a huge difference in this world.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I know that you are just as frustrated as I am sometimes because we have solutions. We have solutions and they’re really not expensive to put into place, people can just do it on their own, it’s just the expense and getting the word out and educating people and having them believe it but the answers are there that make you want to scream. Screaming is not really a good marketing tool because that only pushed people away when you start screaming at them but it really is very frustrating. I experience it on so many levels, including in my private coaching where I’m helping people move to a healthier diet. There’s only so much you can convey in a 45 minute session and people have their own beliefs and you have to be very careful transmitting the information. It’s not like we can use that Vulcan mind meld technique and have people understand everything all in one second although I really wish we could do something like that because we have the answers. So frustrating.

J. Morris Hicks: Well you don’t have to reach all people to have a revolution. I think if we were to have the budget to have a huge global communications effort to communicate the truth about nutrition from credible sources, from people who are respected on a global basis and people will start changing when they start hearing that message four, five, or six times a day from people they trust. Gradually, people start changing their diet and at a certain point you hit a tipping point in terms of change and I’m thinking that point is going to be around 20% to 25% of the population that is understanding we have to eat more whole plants and less meat, dairy, eggs and fish. When we get to that point, I think we will gain a lot of momentum and all of a sudden it becomes like smoking, it isn’t the thing to do anymore, it’s just not cool.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I don’t think we’re far from that.

J. Morris Hicks: A global leader or two or three with maybe a 100 billion dollar marketing budget. That sounds like a big budget, right?

Caryn Hartglass: Yes.

J. Morris Hicks: Well some stupid app was just sold for 40 billion dollars, some smart phone app. I mean, 100 billion is nothing compared to the collapse of our civilization and there’s two people in the world that have that much wealth between them. I can visualize a solution and I’m working toward it but I’m going to need a lot of help.

Caryn Hartglass: So I agree with you on the big picture and the big picture about eliminating animal foods and having people concentrate on whole plant food. Such an important message. There are some fine points that not all of us agree on and I don’t think it’s that critical but I want to bring up one little point because it’s really important to me. You talk about how fruit and vegetable juice are not good choices and I want to just clarify that because I really believe that green juice, green juice that is made from kale and collards and mixed with maybe celery and lemon and ginger, it’s something that saved my life and I don’t want to tell people that that’s not a healthy thing to do. I spoke with Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell about this a little bit and I think what they’re trying to do is have people understand that having fruit juice which is primarily sugar is not a healthy thing but green juicing can be very effective especially if you’re in a crisis mode to get immune system boosting nutrients into your body quickly.

J. Morris Hicks: Yes, I totally agree with that and I’m no scientist or physician but Kerry, I think, wanted to make sure we had in the book that we pointed out that if you are loading up on getting a lot of your calories from juice that you’re missing the fiber, number one, and you get a sugar spike and that sort of thing. I juiced everyday for the first 7 years and I was an extremely healthy man and I am now. I finally got tired of throwing away perfect pile of fiber and I just said you know what, this is hard for me to do and I just don’t do it but I certainly don’t – I’m not against it.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay good. There are things that you can do with the fiber if you have access to composting. I like to recycle my juice fiber as much as I can to get as much juice out of it but it’s not a bad thing nutritionally and that’s what I wanted to say. So we just have like a minute or two left so let’s just say about your 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health once again and where people can find it and how they can take the survey and find out more.

J. Morris Hicks: Okay, well go to Amazon, 4Leaf Guide and it will come right up. When you get to the page it shows it available in Kindle and Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime it’s free. Kindle I think it’s under $8.00, I think it’s $7.44 or something like that. If you buy the paperback, you get to buy the Kindle for $2.99. Our website www.4leafprogram.com has lots of things out there. Kristine Keys is our webmaster and she’s adding recipes and cookbooks and we’re adding different tools people can print off. We’ve got one that’s the top 10 list of why and the top 10 list of how on the same sheet of paper you can put on your refrigerator. Under the toolkit on www.4leafprogram.com, you can print off some of these helpful tools that you can use in your home.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, sounds pretty good.

J. Morris Hicks: All of the stuff on our website is available for free to the international public. We’re also looking to license the trademark at some point maybe for restaurants, maybe for grocery stores.

Caryn Hartglass: That will be good.

J. Morris Hicks: But different ways to leverage the brand 4Leaf once it becomes more recognized.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, that sounds great. Okay, so everybody take your 4Leaf survey and find out where you’re at and then we can talk about how you can move up to being 4Leaf or even 4Leaf plus. Ok thank you, thank you Jim for everything you’re doing, it’s really amazing. You’re helping changing the world and I hope you get to see every change that you want to see before you move on to your next role in the universe. Alright thank you so much for joining me. J. Morris Hicks, 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health. Let’s take a quick break.

Transcribed by Stefan Pavlović, 10/15/2015

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