Mee Tracy McCormick, My Kitchen Cure!
Mee Tracy McCormick is a Real Food and Autoimmune Cooking Expert, a Community Food Advocate and the author of My Kitchen Cure: How I cooked My Way Out of Chronic Autoimmune Disease and Prevented Cancer with Whole Foods and Healing Recipes.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay we are back! Welcome back everybody, this is Caryn Hartglass and you are listening to It’s All About Food. And what are you thinking about? How are you at this very moment? Good? That’s good! You can always send me an email at email@example.com; we can have an online email conversation. Ask your questions, make your comments, tell me what you think, tell me how you’re feeling, what’s new, what’s old, what you’re grateful for, and something about food! I would love to hear from you. And of course, we were talking about my website on the last part of the program. I have a nonprofit, it’s called Responsible Eating and Living. Responsibleeatingandliving.com is the website, and we’re doing lots of fun things up there with food! Okay so, let’s move on… and my next guest is Mee Tracy McCormick. She’s a real food and autoimmune cooking expert, a community food advocate, and the author of My Kitchen Cure – How I Cooked My Way Out of Chronic Autoimmune Disease and Prevented Cancer with Whole Foods and Healing Recipes. That is one great mouthful and we’re going to be hearing a lot more about that in the next half hour. Welcome to It’s All About Food Mee Tracy McCormick!
Mee Tracy McCormick: Thank you for having me. How are you today?
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome! I want to know more about your first name Mee.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Mee. My name is Mee. When I was a little girl my name was actually Megan, and my mother would introduce me to people and she would say, ‘This is Mee-gan’, and people would say, ‘Hi Me-gan’! And I would say it’s not ‘Me-gan’ and so Mee stuck. It became my nickname and then it has followed me everywhere. And still today I’ll explain it to people and they’ll say ‘Oh, okay Me-gan’ and it’s like they didn’t hear me. It’s like saying your name is Chrissy and people call you Christy.. you know, its okay…
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny, I was asking my last guest how to pronounce his last name and I tried to be sensitive about it because we identify with the sound of our name and when it’s not pronounced correctly or written correctly… my name’s Caryn with a C and how often do I see it written with a K. I’m all about paying attention and being mindful so I was just kind of interested because I’d never seen that name before – Mee.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Yeah, and I guess it had a lot of… I didn’t know but it would be… there were times when I didn’t like that nickname but it just sort of stuck around and I guess it has relevance.
Caryn Hartglass: It works, it works in this book!
Mee Tracy McCormick: It’s about being authentic, that’s for sure!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, you have a very very compelling story and I want to touch on some of that in the next half hour, whet people’s appetite because they should know about it and read about it and learn from it. We’re in a very bizarre situation right now in the United States with ‘Healthcare’ or ‘Disease-care’ or whatever you want to call it, and shall we get it funded or not and those who have it and don’t. And there were interesting parts in your story about the medical profession, some of it good, some of it not so good. But one of my messages on this program that we can talk about is how we take responsibility for our own health and what we can do to do that.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Right, yeah, I mean that’s really what my story is about. We can point our fingers at the medical community and doctors and nurses and get upset with them when they don’t fix us, but it’s not really… what I think has happened is we have turned our doctors into gods, and we go to them and we expect them to fix us. There’s a lot of expectation on them. And now, they’ve become so accustomed with our expectation and our image of them being gods that they can only see one way of us fixing ourselves and that’s through them. Recently, I had someone who asked to review the book and they were a little snarky and they said, ‘How can a woman who is not a doctor, not a nutritionist, not a scientist, find a cure in her kitchen for a disease that scientists can’t? How is that possible?’ That statement is the problem in our society. We are told that unless we are uber-educated, that we’re professional chefs, or nutritionists, or doctors, or scientists, we cannot do anything for our wellness. We can’t participate in our wellness because we’re not educated enough or we don’t have the wealth for it. That statement that that man made is exactly the problem. So what’s happening is, as we take our power back, our personal power back, and we can do it via the kitchen, we’re shifting our total relationship with our lives. And it’s not just with our food and our health, but it’s with the world that we’re living in. The community that we live in, the way that we parent, and the way that we interact as a society.
Caryn Hartglass: I can understand to some degree how we got here. I talk about it all the time. We’re all very busy and involved in our jobs and our family and surviving, and convenience is a very attractive thing. And we’re made to believe things are convenient, that may or may not be convenient, but we’re convinced they are. And we are attracted to it and that means unhealthy food, fast food, restaurant food, food that we think is food that isn’t food, and then we get sick.
Mee Tracy McCormick: And we pay the price of time either now or later, because either we pay the price of taking our time, slowing down, cooking real food, planning out meals, budgeting our check books, organizing our lives, or we pay the price of time later, when our time is cut short or our time is lost in suffering in pain and discomfort, and chronic disease. So the time conversation and convenience, it’s sort of like – you may be okay right now but it’s going to catch up to you. I used to think, ‘Well, maybe you’ll get sick’. But now it’s not ‘maybe’ someone is going to get sick, it’s when. It’s not an if, it’s when. And it’s changeable. Chronic disease doesn’t have to exist.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s interesting. A lot of people are thinking that themselves, that they will get sick at some point. It’s just accepted. And that’s just so wrong!
Mee Tracy McCormick: It’s crazy right. And it’s a doomed saying, and I just agree on all comments – yeah well! But it’s a doomsday situation that is preventable but it takes a lot of personal responsibility. It takes a lot of commitment to owning your entire life and it’s not just the pill that we want from the doctor. We want everything easy, we want everything cheap. It’s just the phase that our society has been in and I really believe we’re coming through it.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about chronic diseases. We’ve got a long way to go in terms of people getting this message, but I personally think, in terms of heart disease and diabetes, we still have a long way to go but more people are speaking out about the power of nutrition to prevent and reverse these things. More and more people are getting it. Autoimmune diseases are next and they’re getting more press these days. People are starting to understand a little bit that so many different symptoms are related to autoimmune diseases and the mysterious bacteria – good bacteria, bad bacteria – sometimes good, sometimes bad, it’s a whole new bag of worms. And Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, are in there and you’ve had experience with this and I know other people who’ve had success in turning it around. It’s not information that’s out there enough.
Mee Tracy McCormick: No. First of all, with autoimmune disease, there are 75 million people with autoimmune disease. There are more than 100 autoimmune diseases, and once you have 1 autoimmune disease, you are susceptible to acquiring up to 100 of them. Those 100 diseases are everything from Type 2 diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, Crohn’s disease, celiac, psoriasis, vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis – those are all umbrella-ed under the autoimmune disease blanket. Once you have one of them, you can have many of them. So what it’s really about isn’t just – there can be a cure for one of these diseases. It’s really about bringing the body back into balance. There are a lot of doctors right now who are starting to look at it and they understand that there are some links to the autoimmune diseases. It’s environmental exposure, depending on where you were raised, where you live, where you work, where you spend a chunk of your time, and what was around you environmentally chemical-wise. It’s like a perfect storm that happens with people, and that will influence the type of autoimmune disease you get. Then your body’s constitution, the body that you inherited. In my family, I inherited a weak link in the intestines. So what was I exposed to – that was another pinhole in my immune system – what bacteria and viruses was I exposed to? That’s another big pinhole. So Crohn’s and colitis, and celiac disease, which is the allergy to wheat – and when people have celiac disease, by the time they find out about it, they’ve done a lot of damage to the lining of their intestines. So people stop eating gluten. What happens when you stop eating gluten, that doesn’t heal you. That stops the damage from continuing. But then you have to rebuild the lining of the intestines and you have to bring the body back into balance because now you have an autoimmune disease. And you have to look at preventing other autoimmune diseases. And keeping the immune system in balance. And how we do that is in the small intestine because the small intestine is where the root of our immune system is. Our intestines are the root of our body’s tree, that’s our root. Like a tree planted in the earth, if the roots get sick, then down goes the tree. That’s the same thing for us. Balancing the healthy bacteria, unhealthy bacteria, like you just said, keeping the balance there, supporting the body with a rotational diet, making sure the lining of the intestines is healthy and well, nothing is leaking, nothing is seeping, and that the villi are completely cleaned off and strong so that they can receive the nutrition from our food – that’s where our immune system is – those villi in our small intestine grab the nutrition. And when they’re not supported because they’re mowed down by too much wheat, too much dry crunchy food, covered in mucous from excess dairy, and then the bacteria level is out of balance in the small intestines, you have the unhealthy bacteria and if you eat a diet high in sugars and fats and hard to digest foods, then you have a major weak link. So then the perfect storm comes together, what were you exposed to, what bacteria and viruses, and what environment do you live in, and what is your stress. Because when our stress is elevated, it throws the gut flora off and causes gut inflammation. So that is key. And all that Crohn’s and colitis are is an imbalance of bacteria. You get a really unhealthy dose of harmful bacteria a couple of times, and once you have it a couple of times, you have some super bugs in the gut and gnaw off the lining of the intestines. And in my case, I didn’t know, and I just kept eating a food-rut diet. I love processed food, I grew up in a food desert, I grew up on food stamps, and I didn’t know any better. And when I made my way out of the food desert, went into the world, went to school, got a job, had enough money to buy food, I bought the food that I craved, the food that I lived on as a kid – processed chemical foods. And with autoimmune disease, the immune system is in overdrive. So it’s trying to fight all the things that the immune system is exposed to every single day. A hundred years ago, we went to sleep at night, we didn’t sleep on flame retardant beds, we didn’t sleep on carpeting, with chemicals. We didn’t have paints and all the varnishes and we didn’t sleep with our cell phones and our laptops on our bed, and we went to sleep and our immune systems rested. And in the morning, we ate a rotational diet because we had to eat seasonally. And we supported our bodies with real food. Well, now, we don’t eat much real food, and we eat lots of foods with additives and preservatives. That sends the immune system into hyper alert and it goes – woot woot what is that! So these warrior cells that are meant to work a very small percentage of the time are working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they never rest. That’s autoimmune disease.
Caryn Hartglass: Our bodies are pretty amazing in what they can do and they are designed to eliminate toxins. We’re just over-burdening them beyond what their capabilities are.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Absolutely, and we’re not supporting them in any way. We do not support our bodies. And in fact, the only way we think we’re supporting our bodies is extreme exercise. We do extreme exercise. We work out 2-3 hours a day. We go to the gym and we think that we’re going to be okay. But what’s happening is maybe we’re okay on the outside, but we’re not supporting the major muscle which is the intestines. No one is working out for their intestines, very few people. We also eat. We work out so we can eat as opposed to eating so you’re well enough to work out.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, if I work out a little longer, then I can have that piece of cake.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Yes, we view real food and healthy food as punishment! Because we’re like oh I ate cake yesterday and French fries, I better eat this today! We have a really warped relationship with eating supportive foods because we view them as punishment.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, until you’re on the other side, it’s really hard to understand.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Until you go down, or you watch somebody go down. And that’s where we are right now. We’re already hit the tipping point. You know, if 75 million people in this country have autoimmune disease, 2 out of 3 men are going to have cancer. It’s an absurd number. These numbers are so high; it means everyone has someone who’s not well. And children are growing up in a culture watching chronic disease. So when I was a little girl and my mother was very sick, she was the only one who was sick. I remember one person in my town being sick but her. And now, my girls, I sit with moms at the dance studio or at the park, and there’ll be 4 women, 3 of them including me and that 4, have something.
Caryn Hartglass: Yep, and they think it’s normal.
Mee Tracy McCormick: And now it’s becoming normal. And I was thinking about that today too, we’re just kind of like… like you said about cancer, ‘Oh well, we’re going to get it!’
Caryn Hartglass: Your story is very compelling and it’s … I want to say it’s fun to read. There’s romance involved and all kinds of different things that make a story good. But I’m thinking that your story is not unique and that many people are going through something similar and that’s the scary part of it because most people don’t find their kitchen. And with Crohn’s disease, with Irritable Bowel, most people are given cocktails of all of these pharmaceuticals that are going to do more damage than good.
Mee Tracy McCormick: They do. They really do more damage.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s one part in the book I wanted to mention, and again I want to say, I’m very grateful for the medical community. They saved my life. I had advanced ovarian cancer and I know that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the surgeons. They did what they did. But at the same point, they also tried to kill me, so you have to be so careful! And you talked about, at one point, you were living in Mexico, you came back to Los Angeles. You were on a mission to find out what was wrong with you; you went through a battery of tests. You told the doctors you weren’t going to leave the hospital until you found out what you had and then you got a second opinion and after they sent the camera down your intestines and really didn’t find a whole lot… later on, this other doctor was at a conference and saw the slide and told you that it was yours and everything was inflamed and I’m thinking how did the doctor miss it?
Mee Tracy McCormick: Yeah, I’ve never talked to that doctor since. I should give him my book. I went and found a second opinion and Dr. Leo is an amazing doctor. And the reason he’s such an amazing doctor is he listened to me. He didn’t jump to conclusions and ideas and throw things at me. He really listened to me, he really supported me, and he was looking to see what was wrong with me. And he did, he found a giant hole in my intestines. And had he not found it, I don’t know what would’ve happened. My intestines probably would have ruptured. Because when you have an alteration of the total circumference like I did, as large as I did, it was like a rubber band ready to break, or a thin thread. And changing my life, and changing my plate, and changing my fate, it’s been the greatest blessing ever. And yes, there are millions of ‘me’s out there. And when I wrote this book, I wrote it because I kept hearing this voice that said ‘you got to tell ‘em, you got to tell ‘em, there’s a million me’s, there’s a million me’s’. And I wasn’t able to help my mother. My mother had Crohn’s disease and she had a horrific experience with it in the 80’s and she died at 39 years old. And I watched her as a little girl. I stood in the corner and I watched her bleed to death.
And when I got sick, I thought, I’m not going out like that and what changed it was, my daughter was 5 years old and she was looking at me, and I couldn’t get off the floor, I couldn’t stand up. And I thought, ‘Oh no!’ I saw myself in her, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to find another way’. And I’m so glad that I did. I don’t know how long I’ll be well for. I don’t know how long we have to live on this earth. But I know that in the last 5 years, I’ve really done something grand as a parent. The thing I’m most proud of is taking responsibility for my health and done my best to work towards my own wellness and my children have seen that and I don’t think I could have taught them a better lesson.
Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned something that I think is really important, and that is this voice in our head – we need to listen to ourselves, because there’s so much that we know intuitively that we need to believe in.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Yeah, we have to listen to ourselves. People can call it God or whatever they want/ I’m comfortable with all of it. Put it all on the table. Name it what you want.
Caryn Hartglass: You don’t want to be intimidated by a doctor.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Never.
Caryn Hartglass: And if your doctor is intimidating you, you need to find another doctor. You need to be with a team of people that you trust, that you know are on your side, that you resonate with.
Mee Tracy McCormick: You really do. And the last doctor that I saw was great. I said to him, ‘Look, I’m doing the food, I’m feeling so much better. I’m seeing a Chinese doctor, I do acupuncture. I just did it today, I’ll still do it, I’ll do it forever. And he really wanted to do a final procedure that was super dangerous and he wanted to give me drugs. And I said, ‘I think that I’m going to do this food for a full year, and if it doesn’t work then I’ll know it didn’t work and then I’ll be back.’ And he said, ‘Here’s my card. If you need me, come see me.’ I said, ‘Thank you so much, and I hope I never see you again…’! And I’ve never seen him again! He was great because he didn’t intimidate me. He heard me out. And I moved forward. I think it’s so important to find a doctor that can hear you, support you, and you can find your voice, and you work with them. And if I ever get super sick and I can’t get up off the floor, of course I’ll go to the hospital and of course I’ll, with grace and gratitude, receive whatever medical care I need, but as long as it’s preventable, and I can do my part, I’m doing my part.
Caryn Hartglass: What the medical community is really good at these days is diagnostic testing.
Mee Tracy McCormick: It’s amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: Some of it we do a little too much of…but it’s good to find out what’s going on inside. Use whatever eyes that are out there, MRI and CAT scans and all kinds of different tools, colonoscopies. If you have a problem, you need to find out where it is, and then you can decide what to do about it. But diagnostic tools are really powerful. Now you‘ve dealt with a lot of doctors and dieticians in your quest to get well and some of them were not very respectful about your plan.
Mee Tracy McCormick: No, they weren’t at all. That’s another thing, when you decide to change your life pattern and you say – I’m going to do this food protocol, I’m going to try it – be prepared. Eating real food is kind of bizarre to most people and a lot of nutritionists and dieticians are not caught up into the modern thinking of food and how it works for the body. They’re still thinking about calories and fat content. I don’t think about calories ever!
Caryn Hartglass: Amen!
Mee Tracy McCormick: Never do I look at the calories because everything I’m cooking doesn’t come in a box that tells me about the calories. I don’t think about fat content at all. I think about healthy oils versus hard to digest oils. Because if it’s hard to digest, then it’s not absorbable and it’s going to block my absorption and I’m not going to be at my greatest potential. So I look at healthy oils and no calorie and I think all about nutrition. And oh yeah, I’ve had to spank a few nutritionists. I was like, ‘Listen…’ and their whole thing was about why I don’t understand. How can you get the right amount of calories if you don’t eat cheese burgers? I was like ‘what’? And I do eat burgers now y’all… I meant … grass fed burgers, once in a blue moon. But it’s like, ‘Are you serious’? Because I’m eating a plant based diet… We’re in the change. The tipping point already happened. If you go to a nutritionist and she doesn’t have a clue about sea vegetables and leafy greens and how they support the body, go find somebody else.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, another point that you mentioned, I don’t think you came out that specific about it but it was really clear in your descriptions of these people. If people you’re going to for health information and guidance do not look healthy themselves, run in the other direction.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Right, because you want to walk somebody who walks their talk. That was the whole deal. I hadn’t been to a gastroenterologist’s office where everybody in the office was bright and shiny and and healthy and happy, and I kept thinking, what are they eating? And that was the sign – they didn’t know. That was a mega woot woot!
Caryn Hartglass: Really really important. And not obvious to most people but you want to go to someone who walks the walk and looks healthy, in many ways. Not just in their weight, in their skin, in the clarity of their eyes, and also in their personality. Because I think unhealthy foods can make you an unpleasant person.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Oh sure. They shut down your ability to be expansive. You really want to find someone who’s got an expansive point of view. And that’s my food concept. I started out rigid macrobiotics, I moved…. I was completely vegan for some time. I just kept having to learn more and more and more and I kept finding that there are so many different diets and the red thread is the real food. And it’s eating in rotation and in balance, and being a mindful eater, and that’s the key component to wellness via food. And for me, there just isn’t one way, there’s many ways to get well. And when we start getting stuck and we think we have the way, look out, ‘coz you’re getting ready to trip. Because there’s just not one way, there’s many ways. And that has been the key to me remaining well. It’s expanding my point of view, taking everyone’s point of view, taking a look at it and integrating what works for me, shifting things around constantly, and changing my mind. Changing my mind – right now I have tofu recipes in my book. I’m not eating any tofu right now. Is tofu the evil devil? I don’t think so, but I also don’t do dairy. Do I think dairy is the evil culprit and that’s why we’re sick? No, it’s not one thing that’s made us sick.
Caryn Hartglass: I do, I think dairy is evil!
Mee Tracy McCormick: Well, I don’t eat it because I can’t digest it and my kids don’t eat it and we have more cows than anybody I know and nobody eats dairy on our farm. But that’s a conversation but to make dairy the villain will become a limited point of view and you’ve got to look at a bigger picture and you’ve got to look at your food excess and your food combination.
Caryn Hartglass: Likely, we all need to align on a few very key essential points that we need to be eating whole minimally processed foods, mostly plants. We have not scientifically proven what the ideal diet is at this point. But we do know that it should be primarily plants. I’m personally a vegan for ethical reasons, and environmental, and everything else. But if we all at least move to this place of primarily plants, then we could move further and get better at it.
Mee Tracy McCormick: I agree, everything 100%. Absolutely. And that’s the whole thing. So I’ve kind of been moving into this world of food advocates and food conversation and I think that we just have so much self judgment about our food, about what we eat, what we serve our families, how we eat it, and we get really rigid in our points of view. I just keep trying to expand. I keep trying to hear everything and learn as much as I can.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you give classes and help people learn about how to prepare food, which is crazy amusing to me because people don’t know how to prepare food, they don’t know where their kitchen is. They get all kinds of scary. And I laugh because I see this all the time in Manhattan, all these gorgeous kitchens with all the greatest stuff and never touched!
Mee Tracy McCormick: I live in Malibu, the kitchens are bigger than the house, and no one cooks.
Caryn Hartglass: No one cooks.
Mee Tracy McCormick: I do. I run community kitchens from Malibu all the way to the hood in Nashville, to Music Row in Nashville, into rural communities. And this year, we have intentioned to open 18 community kitchens across the country and I teach people how to cook real foods from scratch. Everybody comes in; we set up folding tables, butane burners. It’s all plant based. Chopping boards, cutting knives, aprons. I cook with upwards of 150 people for a dollar a person and we all break into stations and we cook. And I have food angels that cook with me and lead each recipe and then we sit down and we eat a meal that heals. It’s just fascinating because when I started out, I thought I only needed to go out into food deserts. But…
Caryn Hartglass: It’s everywhere.
Mee Tracy McCormick: It’s everywhere. I’ve been living part time in Malibu and I can’t tell you, I almost feel like, the wealthier the household, the harder it is. Because you have options. It’s really easy to go to a rural family, and the holler in Tennessee and say, ‘This is what you all got to eat’, and they’re down, because they have a limited amount of money, and they still have a relationship with farms. They still remember their grandmothers making black-eyed peas. In urban cities, you have a lot of sort of know-it-all mentality, ‘I’m already doing it’, and it’s a little more complicated.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, Mee, thank you! Mee, you, Mee Tracy McCormick! My Kitchen Cure is a great book. Lots of wonderful information, you’ve really done your homework here and I’m so glad that you’re well.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Aw, thank you. And thank you so much for letting me share. Your platform is amazing and I’m glad to be a part of it.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! Do you have a website?
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food!
Mee Tracy McCormick: Have a fantastic day! Bye!
Caryn Hartglass: You too, bye-bye! I’m Caryn Hartglass and this has been It’s All About Food. Have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Jyothi Parimi, 12/10/2013