Part I: Jasmin Singer, Always Too Much and Never Enough
Jasmin Singer is the co-host of the award-winning weekly Our Hen House podcast and had a two-year stint co-hosting the Our Hen House TV show. Jasmin is the co-founder and Executive Director of Our Hen House, a nonprofit multimedia hub working to change the world for animals. Also with Our Hen House, she produces an online magazine (as the editor as well as a regular contributor) and a video production unit. She is a regular public speaker on the subjects of veganism and activism, and travels throughout the country (and beyond) to give workshops and keynotes at venues such as conferences, Vegetarian Food Fests, law schools, and universities. Her work has been featured in various mainstream media outlets, and she has extensive experiences on both sides of the microphone. Jasmin has a Masters in Experiential Health and Healing (The Graduate Institute), and a Holistic Health Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and a BFA in Acting from Pace University.
Part II: Howard Jacobson, Plant Yourself
Howard Jacobson, PhD, runs TriangleBeWell.com, a health consulting service that empowers people to go from managing conditions to achieving true wellness. As a researcher, educator, and coach, Howard helps clients make informed decisions and take control of their health destiny. Howard is also the host of the Plant Yourself Podcast, and contributing author to WHOLE: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Proteinaholic, by Garth Davis, MD. Howard lives with his family in Pittsboro, North Carolina, where he likes to garden, practice Russian Martial Arts, play Ultimate Frisbee, and run the “No Soup For You” chicken sanctuary.
Transcription Part I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everybody. Hi. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’re listening to All About Food. It’s All About Food. Yay. Man, I’m looking forward to today. I can’t even believe it’s Tuesday already. Just seemed like I was doing this last week just a moment ago. But we’re back, and this is always a fun time for me. Talking about my favorite subject: food. And connecting with so many wonderful people on this planet who have great messages to share.
And this is an opportunity where we get to do what, everybody? We get to tune in love. We’re live; we’re tuning in live, and we’re tuning in love. So thanks for tuning in.
I am very comfortable here. I’m in the studio. It’s warm and dry. It’s all sloshy and wet with snow melting outside –fortunately, it’s not too cold– and I’m going to sit back and relax. I hope you do too.
I have brought with me my Takeya glass bottle, and in it, it has jasmine tea which I chose in honor of my first guest: Jasmin Singer. She’s the co-host of the weekly Our Hen House podcast, and she’s the co-founder and executive director of Our Hen House: a non-profit multimedia hub working to change the world for animals. She has a new book out called Always Too Much and Never Enough, and we’re going to be talking quite a bit about that today. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Jasmin.
Jasmin Singer: Hi, Caryn. It’s so exciting to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. Well, I’m going to sit my jasmine tea…
Jasmin Singer: I’ll get some caryn tea.
Caryn Hartglass: Caryn tea! Very good. What does that taste like?
Jasmin Singer: I’m sure it’s sugary sweet like you. Without the sugar, of course. It would be like mildly sweet but-
Caryn Hartglass: Of course. Naturally sweet.
Jasmin Singer: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Like date sugar. Little caramelized vanilla. Yum. Okay, I’m going to have to come up with a caryn tea –there you go– because I’m a big tea drinker.
Jasmin Singer: I am as well, and I appreciate the jasmine tea of the hour. I think it should be mandated that whenever I’m interviewed the host is drinking it. Or at least having jasmine rice.
Caryn Hartglass: Jasmine tea and jasmine rice! There you go. I love tea; I talk about tea a lot. I know we’re getting a little distracted, and we haven’t even gotten started. But that’s okay. I buy my teas in bulk, and they’re organic. And it’s a very beautiful process. My listeners know I don’t like teabags! I don’t like brewing tea in little panyhose sacks. Well, they’re things we don’t think about that I like people to think about. And make every-
Jasmin Singer: Well, you have those silver kind of aluminum tea grabber things, and then you brew it in that. ‘Cause I feel like the tea always falls through the hole.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I think mine are stainless.
Jasmin Singer: Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: And the mesh is quite small. And you can use bamboo. There are all different kinds of ways to strain it. Or you don’t even have to strain it. You can just have the tea sitting in the bottom of the pot, and then carefully decant it or pour off. There’s lots of options.
Jasmin Singer: I’ve never done anything carefully in my life. I’m not sure I should start with a hot liquid.
Caryn Hartglass: And the last thing I want to say about tea is after reading Dr. Greger’s How Not to Die… He talks about cold brewing tea and how there are so many more nutrients in the tea when you cold brew it. I’m looking forward to this summer to doing that. I’m not quite ready in the wintertime to cold brew my tea. I like my tea hot.
Jasmin Singer: I didn’t know there was such a thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh my goodness, there’s just so many things going on out there. And it’s All About Food. On your story: you wrote about a very brave, courageous book sharing a lot about your life.
Jasmin Singer: Thank you for calling it brave and courageous. I get a little nervous because all of the interviews I’ve done recently they’re like, “Wow! You told everything!” And I’m all like, “Oh my god! What did I do?”
Caryn Hartglass: Well, people like that. People like to be voyeurs and like to hear kinds of intimate things about people. I want to think that they can relate to some of that. So my first question is: did you write this for any particular person in mind? Did you have someone in mind when you wrote this?
Jasmin Singer: I think that my book, Always Too Much and Never Enough, is really written for anybody who ever felt that they didn’t quite belong or that they were on some kind of quest to become a better, more authentic version of themselves. Hopefully, most of us listening to this network –certainly on your show– would fall into that category. It’s not written for people who necessarily want to lose weight. Though I’m sure a lot of people will think that because they will think it’s just a weight loss memoir. But rather my book is a story of finding personal authenticity.
For me, that was a roundabout journey that started with discovering animal agriculture. Picking apart all the ways that it had been betraying me. And once I realized that, was I able to look further into the ways I was portraying myself as well. That began with food. So it’s appropriate that I’m on your show today because it reminds-
Caryn Hartglass: ‘Cause It’s All About Food.
Jasmin Singer: It is all about food.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Even though this book is so much more than weight, let’s get weight off the plate.
Jasmin Singer: Nice one.
Caryn Hartglass: I just made that up! Okay, let’s talk about weight for just a moment. Because I think people that have issues with food, and I think most people have food issues, unfortunately, on this planet. It’s a reflection of so many things going on now in our lives. As a result, some people are weighing more; some people are weighing less. Not only is it a reflection of our own emotional issues, but it’s also a reflection of our food system today –which is a disaster nightmare.
Jasmin Singer: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: You had a number of different things going on. So you had your mom who was always dieting. Even though you described her as the thin mom who was always slim and fashionable.
Jasmin Singer: Yeah, she’s still definitely is that way.
Caryn Hartglass: Slim and fashionable.
Jasmin Singer: Yeah, I was always trying to squeeze my chubby self into my mother’s very thin, beautiful and glamorous shadow. She would always try to shed those extra few pounds through means that were very popular in the 1980s when I was growing up. I would trail behind her as she would go to her Weight Watchers meetings, her Jenny Craig meetings, and her Nutrisystem meetings.
I was always playing Tetris on my Game Boy behind her. The kind of fat kid, wondering when we could go leave the meeting and go stuff our faces at the pizza place down the street. Because that was always the routine after she would weigh-in.
That really started me on this path of wondering why my very stereotypically beautiful and very healthy mother saw herself as so flawed. Wouldn’t she see me as that way? Of course, she didn’t. She thought I was lovely.
But it ran much deeper than that. And I began to be very, very bullied at school. Eventually, I was not just playing Tetris at these meetings. I started my own cycle of starting to lose weight and then going to Luigi’s to stuff my face with pizza. It was a trajectory I’m sure a lot of your listeners can identify with.
Caryn Hartglass: The voices we start to hear in our head started probably before we were born. The things that are said around us by our parents and then everyone else. It takes a tremendous amount of work –a strategy almost– to rescript those voices.
Jasmin Singer: That’s really beautifully said. I think that if we’re lucky and honest with ourselves, we’re always rescripting them.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Jasmin Singer: We’re on a constant evolution. I was just being interviewed this morning, and the reporter of this paper said, “So you know now. You can retrain yourself. You don’t go to those things you went to as a kid ‘cause you know better now.” What she was referring to was, do I use food now to try to fix all of my life’s problems? Do I use it as my best friend? As my lover and my confidant?
I said to her it’s not like it’s gone. It’s still a part of my story. It’s an ongoing evolution. But I do feel like through the process of becoming vegan –a healthy vegan, and, of course, always being based in ethical veganism– and ultimately finding my own truths and authenticity only after I shed nearly a hundred pounds have I been able to retrain myself.
But that doesn’t mean suddenly I’m a new person. I’m still the same fat kid, on a certain level, that I was in 1984. Trailing behind my mom, playing my Game Boy.
Caryn Hartglass: I was going to ask you about this later, but you just brought it up. So I’ll stick with it. And that is: how do you see yourself today? Do you still feel inside that there’s extra weight?
Jasmin Singer: Wow.
Jasmin Singer: I think I’m constantly questioning what it is that I actually look like. On some level, I’ll always be that fat kid that I just mentioned. And on some level, I don’t have body dysmorphia at all; and I understand that I’m just a very average sized person. I am healthy which is what matters more to me than my actual size.
But because I was treated so differently by the world once I lost the weight –which is something I write about a lot in my book, Always Too Much and Never Enough, and it’s something I’ve written about in other articles as well– it really changed my perception not only of myself, but of the world. I began to realize how arbitrarily celebrated thinner people are and, on the flip side of that, how unfortunately we treat people and other beings who don’t necessarily conform to what we think is acceptable.
For me, I feel very comfortable in my skin. But there’s always a piece of me that will identify as the fat kid.
Caryn Hartglass: Humans are pretty screwed up. There’s no question about it. We treat everybody, for the most part this global generically, pretty horribly for one reason or another. If they’re not like us, if they’re overweight, if they’re different color, if they have hair jewelry or whatever that we don’t like. It’s really a pretty cruel world.
I’m thinking too it’s not just people who are overweight. You hear all these stories about these top models who are super thin, and they never think that they’re beautiful enough. And yet they’re stunning. It’s just amazing how we can choose to hear voices that are going to knock us down or hold us up. Then again, it’s all about rescripting and hearing what you want to hear.
Jasmin Singer: I talk about finding a safe space in yourself and in your home. That was something that came apparent to me when I stopped stuffing my face and my heart with Oreos, rows of Saltines, Cheez-its, and everything cheese that you could possibly imagine.
As I replaced that with the more authentic self that was just begging to come out, I realized that I had the resources inside myself. And I didn’t need to look for it in false places. Like in the wrong lovers or in the wrong foods. It was an interesting journey.
Caryn Hartglass: This authenticity, I want to get to that. But I want to touch on a couple more things. One is it was sad and funny how you talked about going to Weight Watchers, and you lost enough weight that you could work for Weight Watchers. But then you needed to go on Jenny Craig.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s like the ultimate in not being authentic.
Jasmin Singer: Oh my god. Yeah, when I was in my early twenties, I was an aspiring actress, we’ll say, in New York City. I did not really get many roles; there weren’t many roles for me. I became a little bit enamored with this casting director who was teaching a class that I took on monologues.
She told me I needed to lose a lot of weight, which of course shattered me. But she was right. That was a big reason, so to speak, why I wasn’t getting roles. So she asked me if I wanted to join Weight Watchers with her, and I very nonchalantly said, “Yeah, sure.” Of course, inside I was petrified ‘cause I had grown up on Weight Watchers going up and down, up and down. But I joined, partly because I was still closeted to myself at the time and didn’t realize that a big impetus for me was that I was trying to impress her. ‘Cause I was hugely crushing on her.
I lost enough weight that I was able to get a job there, but I kind of finagled my way through that because I still weighed too much for the Under 25 category that I was in. That they considered a normal weight. I was 150 and I’m 5’4”. It was okay to be a senior citizen and weigh that at the age that I was, which was 24.
So I got a job, and I was weighing people in. I was suddenly that person who held these women’s lives in their hands. Or so they felt. They would take off their hat, their scarf, their earrings –anything that they could– as I told them that they had gained or lost .2 ounces.
In order to keep my job, I needed to go to regular weigh-ins for the staff. But I was gaining weight again, so I kept skipping my staff weigh-ins. Finally, I was cornered. “Jasmin, you haven’t done your weigh-in in a few months.” And I said, “Oh, yeah. You’re right. I’ll go.”
But I knew that I was screwed. Partly because I was eating lots of candy. I was binging on Tuesday nights. Tuesday night was my binge night. It was all very disordered. I had not yet gotten to the systemic reason behind my over-consumption and my inappropriate relationship with eating. So I did what I figured my mother would do and joined Jenny Craig to lose the weight.
Jasmin Singer: You know, it’s so sad. I was just about vegan; I went vegan later that year but I wasn’t a vegan yet. I was a vegetarian. At the time Jenny Craig, which gives you all of these foods that are already prepared, only had one vegetarian option. Maybe two. So that was all I ate while I was on Jenny Craig, while I was working for Weight Watchers. Like if you opened my cabinets, that would be it.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s not cheap either.
Jasmin Singer: No, no. I think my mother paid because she was really excited that I chuckling] wanted to lose weight.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. And then there’s a happy –I don’t want to say ending, but maybe– a happy new beginning where you found plants, and all these wonderful things happened for you.
Jasmin Singer: Right. I became a vegetarian when I was about 19. When I was a theatre student living in Philadelphia. I did it mainly because I was seeking an identity. I used to introduce myself as “vegetarian, but not the mean kind” which I think I was referring to vegans. Little did I know that my career would be as a professional vegan basically.
When I was 24, right after that whole Weight Watchers incident happened, a friend of mine showed me some incidents of factory farming. I didn’t yet realize how utterly oppressed these animals that we exploited for their byproducts were. Namely in the egg industry and the dairy industry. I connected with –as I heard that you do, Caryn– a lot to my own personal feminism and my own experience feeling violated. Feeling as though my own female reproductive parts had been violated. It was something I didn’t feel like I could take part of anymore. So I went vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: Yay!
Jasmin Singer: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: And you’ve done a lot more than that. Ha! You haven’t just gone vegan. You’ve gone healthy vegan and you’re sharing this message with many, many people.
Jasmin Singer: I appreciate that. I didn’t go healthy vegan immediately. In fact, I gained a lot of weight when I went vegan because I once again simply replaced my negative body shaming, my disordered eating mentality with the vegan version. I almost felt it was my moral imperative to go try every vegan cupcake, vegan pizza, vegan brownie that New York City had to offer.
Jasmin Singer: I was also working as an animal rights activist. I almost had a kind of “this is what I do to take care of myself” attitude about it. But that was wrong.
Because what I really should have been doing –and I came to learn when I was 30 and I finally did it– was feeding myself first. Taking care of my own animal rights in order to most effectively advocate for non-human animals.
So when I was 30, I was told I was on my way to heart disease. I was a vegan at the time, of course, and I was shocked. I weighed in at the 220s, and I was very achy all the time. I had adult onset acne. Had depression frequently. I was just tired, lethargic, never really felt well. I would get boils. It was bad. I just couldn’t believe it. I never expected the words “heart disease” to come out of my doctor’s mouth to me. Ever.
That was around the time somebody showed me another documentary that changed my life which was Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It was about a man who restored himself to health from the power of juicing. I began juice fasting while I was eating. In between juice fasting, I went back to a very wholesome, unprocessed diet.
I was following a lot of the eat to live literature at the time, and my pounds melted off. The impetus was not weight loss; it was physical and mental health.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm. Well, you said something important and I’m going to repeat it in my own words which is: if you want to make a difference and be an activist, you have to take care of yourself first. You cannot do the work, you really can’t even live successfully with your own life unless you are number one.
People talk about being selfish, and I think it’s really important to be selfish when you take care of yourself. Because then you can live your life to the fullest, and you can make a positive difference in any direction you want to go. You can’t do it if you’re fat, sick and nearly dead.
Jasmin Singer: I have a friend. I was talking to her about something and I said, “I probably sound really self-centered.” And she said, “Isn’t that a funny expression? Self-centered. Shouldn’t we be centered around ourself?” It was kind of another way of saying what you’re saying now. I was like, “Yeah!”
Of course, you want to be a kind, generous person. But we should have a degree of self-care that supersedes all of that. Because we’re not going to be anything for anyone else unless we are paying attention to our body’s needs and our heart’s needs. To me, the best way to do that is through a healthy vegan diet. That to me is the most ethically sound. That to me is an extension of my worldview. But it’s not only an extension of my worldview about the treatment of other animals; it’s extension of my worldview of kindness to my own self as well.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to go talk about a moment about juicing. I’m a big proponent of juicing. I know that green juice was a part of saving my life when I went through advanced ovarian cancer almost ten years ago. Whoo-hoo-hoo!
Jasmin Singer: Wow. Congrats.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. And, you know, it’s all about being selfish.
Jasmin Singer: It’s All About Food.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s All About Food! I’ve been a vegan for almost twenty-eight years, so I had already been a pretty healthy vegan. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. But juicing is a really important thing and fasting can be important too. That reminds me of something in your book where you’re talking about directing West Side Story at a camp for one summer. You decided after being so bullied to actually… It sounded like a water fast almost, but it wasn’t. It was actually pretty dangerous. I would like just to kind of clarify the difference between healthy fasting and not healthy fasting.
Jasmin Singer: You know you’re so funny. You’re so good at asking questions.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you.
Jasmin Singer: You’re just going through all of the hard parts.
Jasmin Singer: That was a very painful moment in my life. Yeah, I was not fasting. Later in my life, ten years later, I was fasting. But at the time that was much more of an anorexic mentality, and it didn’t last for that long.
That was indeed one summer, but I had a terrible attitude about the whole thing. It was coming from a place of sickness, physically and mentally. It was because –like I said at the beginning of this interview– I tend to not be too careful about these things. I tend to be always too much and never enough.
At that moment in time, I was directing West Side Story at a sleep away camp, and I was being so bullied by my peers that I felt this was the only bit of control that I had. Of course, it’s not control at all.
I stopped eating. But I was still having a lot of coffee with creamer ‘cause I wasn’t vegan yet. I was really falling apart. My periods stopped, my hair fell out –I had really long hair at the time and this huge chunk of it fell out right in the front. I really want to make the distinction between that –which was anorexia– and healthy fasting.
I’m also a very strong proponent for fasting. I think it’s a great way to heal our bodies. Not just juicing but water fasting, which I have done as well. And I don’t think that everyone who comes from a background of disordered eating as I had should go the fasting route or even the juicing route. I’m not sure it’s always appropriate for people.
But, for me, I had come around so much mentally and physically that I went in with my eyes opened. I had not only shed the weight, but I had shed the previous misconceptions of health. I went into it from a place of healing. Not a place of disorder.
Caryn Hartglass: So just for clarification on healthy water fasting. I did one for about three weeks in 2000. There are some critical things. If you are ever considering a water fast –I know I’ve talked about this on this program before– it’s not for everyone. It shouldn’t be used for weight loss really. You should be on a healthy diet before you start your fast.
Jasmin Singer: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: And you really need to rest. You can’t be directing West Side Story when you’re not eating food.
Jasmin Singer: No. I’m really glad you said that. By the time I did a water fast in my thirties, I was not doing it for weight loss at all. In fact, I was already at a pretty good weight. Of course, you lose weight but you put it back once you start re-incorporating solid foods. But that’s a really good point. I think it can be an important tool, which frequently should be medically supervised.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Okay, we have a few minutes left. Let’s talk about the joyfulness of being vegans. I want to know: what are your favorite foods?
Jasmin Singer: Hmm… my favorite foods… It’s funny. Whenever anyone asks me that, the first thing that comes to mind is chickpeas.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah.
Jasmin Singer: But I don’t even eat them that much! So I need to incorporate more joy back into my life! I just love them. I love the kind of meatiness in them –if I’ll just use that word there.
And I am a sucker for macro plate, which is pretty much what I ate for lunch although I made it for myself. Steamed tofu, veggies and brown rice with some tahini drizzled on top and nutritional yeast. Another food of mine are really, lovely, sweet grapes.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm.
Jasmin Singer: I like concord grapes when they’re in season. That’s such a treat. The season lasts like eight minutes so you get it, it’s like, “Ha! I struck gold!”
Caryn Hartglass: Concord grapes taste like Welch’s. I remember when I was a kid and I had Welch’s grape jelly. I never had a concord grape until years later. I went, “Oh! This is like Welch’s! Yummy! I’m there!”
Jasmin Singer: Right, yeah. My partner and I used to live in Brooklyn about a year ago. We had a small backyard while we were living in Brooklyn. We didn’t even know until they came up, but we had grapes there.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Jasmin Singer: It was really good.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s amazing. Okay. Do you have a sweet treat from time to time? Is there any that you prefer?
Jasmin Singer: I do! Yeah. I really like to make black bean brownies with spinach in them, sweetened by dates. I’ll add fair trade, slavery-free cocoa as the chocolate. I really like making those. People often make fun of me when I talk about it. Then they eat it and they’re like, “This is really good!”
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. It’s really good. There are so many great things that we can make. From sweets to savory, from whole foods. We’ve kind of gotten on this path as a society of using low-quality ingredients. Salt, sugar and fat. When we get back to whole foods, you can have your cake and eat it too. Put some black beans in it. You don’t even know! It’s just yummy.
Jasmin Singer: You can throw spinach into desserts, and you can just not be able to taste it. It’s similar to making smoothies. You can put so many pieces of spinach in it and not taste it. That is the same with desserts.
Especially with kids. I don’t have kids, but I have a niece who I’m fairly obsessed with. I love to sneak greens into her food without her knowing.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, at some point, she should find out because she should know how wonderful greens are for her.
Jasmin Singer: You’re right.
Caryn Hartglass: And for all of us. Well, Jasmin, thank you for joining us on It’s All About Food.
Jasmin Singer: Yeah, and thank you so much for all that you’re doing. And for talking loudly and clearly.
Caryn Hartglass: Not me!
Jasmin Singer: We need more voices like yours.
Caryn Hartglass: Turn the volume up, everybody! Let’s talk about food. Okay, all the best to you and your book, Always Too Much and Never Enough. I’m going to take a break with my jasmine tea. Take care.
Transcribed by Heather T 1/31/2016
Caryn Hartglass: Hello Everybody, I’m back! I’m Caryn Hartglass and this is the second part of Its All About Food. Thank you for joining me. And were you enjoying that break? I was. I was just like rocking and moving to the music and grooving. Right, okay I’m having a good time here and I hope you are too. And now we’re going to have an even better time because I am really looking forward to my next guest. I have a bunch of listeners over, I don’t know how long it’s been, but have been recommending people I should have on the program. And my next guest is actually one of them that some of my listeners have thought that we would really do well together so I am going to bring him on. Howard Jacobson runs trianglebewell.com a health consulting service that empowers people to go from managing conditions to achieving true wellness. As a researcher, educator, and coach, Howard helps clients make informed decisions and take control of their health destiny. He is the host of Plant Yourself podcast and contributing author to Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Proteinaholic by Garth Davis M.D. And he lives with his family in North Carolina where he likes to garden, practice Russian martial arts, play ultimate Frisbee and run the “No Soup For You” chicken sanctuary. Howard, welcome to It’s All About Food.
Howard Jacobson: Thank you Caryn, it’s great to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah so I want you to just relax, chill a little bit and we’re going to have a nice conversation about what I think we’re both very passionate about, plant food.
Howard Jacobson: Right on, I had some for lunch.
Caryn Hartglass: Plant food, you did? What did you have?
Howard Jacobson: It was last night’s bok choy soup.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, can we just give our praise to leftovers for a moment?
Howard Jacobson: They’re 90 percent of my diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Leftovers. What’s wonderful is when you make a lot of food, a lot of great food and then you can eat it as a gift the next day, and the following day and it’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Howard Jacobson: Right, if you do it on purpose you can call it planning, it sounds better than leftovers.
Caryn Hartglass: I think I may have to do that, planning. I call them leftovers a lot and leftovers, they have such a bad rep and I don’t know why. I think they’re lovely. All right, Howard Jacobson, I just finished reading Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. I can’t believe, I’ve had like five copies of it on my shelf because I went to the book launch party in Brooklyn. It was in a bowling ally and T. Colin Campbell was there and we got a bunch of extra books and I just never got around to reading it and I just read it, so I wanted to thank you for being a part of that because it’s a phenomenal book.
Howard Jacobson: Well, everyday I wake up and I’m thankful for having been allowed to be a part of it because I learned a ton and it was really my introduction to the plant-based community group in a professional sense. So I’m thrilled to have my name on the cover and to have contributed.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s a phenomenal book. I want to know, you are the master of metaphors and were you brought up with metaphors all around your life? You just seem to be very gifted with creating metaphors.
Howard Jacobson: That’s just kind of how I think. I’ve tried to make a metaphor out of it, but nothing comes to mind. Yeah, one of my advantages in this field is that I’m really interested in lots of things. So one way to look at it is that sort of Jack-of-all-trades, master of none, but the other way is that I’m sort of a synthesist. So I take ideas that I’ve gotten from other places and say, hey that sounds familiar, that looks right and I find that when you kind of explain something in a way that relates to something somebody already understands, not only to they get it but they remember it because the metaphors are actually just little stories that are encapsulated in a few words.
Caryn Hartglass: I love metaphors so I love that you do that really well and there were a bunch of good ones in Whole and I have Proteinaholic on my shelf and I am going to have Garth Davis on my program in a few weeks so I will definitely be reading and digesting that book soon and I’m sure it’s another wonderful one that you got to contribute to.
Howard Jacobson: Yeah Garth and I were talking the other day and neither of us can remember what we wrote and what the other person wrote.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s sweet! Hah!
Howard Jacobson: That’s when you can tell it’s a good synergy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, okay, so you became a vegan about 11-12 years ago?
Howard Jacobson: I’ve had a sort of rollercoaster approach to diet. I became a vegan in 1990 after I read John Robbin’s Diet for a New America and that lasted for a couple of years and then I swear I just sort of forgot. It wasn’t like a conscious decision; it wasn’t like a lapse or anything. It was just like it hadn’t happened. Like one day I sort of just found myself eating like a regular American again. And that’s happened to me a lot of times in my life and when I started working on Whole I went back to a very rigorous plant based diet and that’s where I’ve been since. So that was sort of 2011 was my last incarnation as pretty much 100% whole foods plant-based. And that’s where I’ve been since.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well I hope you stay with us.
Howard Jacobson: As long as people keep having me on radio shows and asking me to write books, I remember. Because you know, one day…I get these crusades in my head so one day I came home and I threw out like $300 worth of non-stick cookware because I had read something. And then like 18 months later this package arrives from Amazon and it’s a nonstick griddle. And my wife’s like “Where’d this come from?” I said, “Oh, I ordered it, it looked great. We can do no fat cooking with it”. She looks at me like
Caryn Hartglass: Who are you?
Howard Jacobson: I said “What?” And she said “Well, don’t you remember you threw out all…” “Oh, yeah that sounds vaguely familiar.” So I need reminders.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you still have that piece of cookware?
Howard Jacobson: We do.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well there’s different kinds of nonstick cookware so I think by now the message is out about how evil Teflon is and there are different companies that have been coming up with different coatings and treatments to cookware where it’s not out yet entirely whether some of these are any better.
Howard Jacobson: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: It takes awhile to learn about how awful the next new technology is for us, but in the meanwhile we can be happy using them.
Howard Jacobson: Right and in the mean time use them quickly until the studies come out, Right?
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. Hmm, yeah well I just stick to stainless and cast iron. Stick to stainless. I didn’t mean to do that I just made a little pun there. Okay so, very good so Diet for a New America was a beginning for you. It was a beginning for many people. I love John Robbins. Fortunately, he’s a good friend of mine and he’s just a wonderful person and he has impacted so many people who have then gone on to be a big influence on many more people and I love that, the way that happens.
Howard Jacobson: Yep, he’s a definite elder of the movement. He graciously agreed to be on my podcast when no one was listening to my podcast. I feel like I had like seven people including most of my family members and I asked him and he was so generous with his time. He even emailed me and said, “Hey, I forgot a couple things. Can we do another show?” And that really gave me such a huge boost so I am forever in his debt for many reasons.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, generous is definitely one word that describes him. He has always been very generous with his time and his heart and his love. Good man. I’m choking up just thinking about it. You have a Ph.D. in stress management and yet you were an expert I suppose in stress and you were stressed out.
Howard Jacobson: Well, we all end up studying what we need to learn.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s an important point and for those of you that are in therapy that are going to a psychiatrist or psychologist, you have to know that most of them need therapy themselves. Anyway, how did you get out of or how did you ultimately apply your knowledge of resolving you issues with stress? Or have you actually? Are you calmer now?
Howard Jacobson: I’m certainly calmer now. I don’t know if you know compare me to placebo, I look pretty good. If you compare me to normal people, I might still seem a little agitated, but I did move from New York to North Carolina, which has helped a lot. Actually what it turns out what I really got out of my studies on stress was not so much the details of stress, but my frustration and inability to make institutional changes. So I did all these interventions at schools. And I really wanted to teach the teachers and teach the kids so that when I went away the results would last and it turned out that I had no idea how to institutionalize change. I knew from my years of studying health education, I have a doctorate in health education and a masters in public health. I knew what to tell people, but I didn’t know how to get them to change behavior. So that realization that yeah, I got some good results, I was able to publish, I had charts and stuff in my dissertation, but I knew in my heart, I did not know how to make a meaningful long-term impact. So that’s what I then spent the next 10 years of my life studying.
Caryn Hartglass: And my understanding is, which is genius, is that you used your marketing know-how to help make behavioral changes.
Howard Jacobson: Yeah that’s well, I figured who’s good at helping people change behavior. Well, probably the people who are spending billions of dollars to…
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly, use the same techniques those evil people do.
Howard Jacobson: So now I do a combination. I actually went into marketing for 15 years and I had a digital marketing practice and I coached entrepreneurs and slowly the dream that I was going for, this health dream was receding into the golden handcuffs of helping people make money on the internet, until T. Colin Campbell roused me from it in 2011, but partly it was about teaching people these techniques. But partly, and actually more importantly, it was about inoculating people. So now, when I work with clients, one of the things I do is that I teach them how to become their own marketing agency so they can market to themselves much louder than mainstream America can market to them.
Caryn Hartglass: We were talking about this in a different way in the first part of the show, and that is about the voices that you hear in your head and it can affect all aspects of your life and for many people it effects their health and their weight and I always love to hear about different strategies to rescript those voices and a marketing strategy is a good one.
Howard Jacobson: Yeah when you think about it if you dropped an alien from outer space onto any block in the United States and had them try to find food, assuming that ate the same sorts of things we do, what would be the things that they would be able to find? You know, and how hard would it be for them, not knowing, not knowing our culture, how hard would it be for them to eat like you and I do? Compared to eating hot dogs and pretzels and cheese fries and root beers and cokes?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I don’t see it as hard and yet for so many people it is hard.
Howard Jacobson: Well you, well think about all the nuances and all the tricks you’ve learned. Where to shop, how to pick an avocado. It takes someone that doesn’t have those years of experience and training. You know, I’m not talking about the actual difficulty, but the perceived, the default. What’s the default in this culture? You go to a restaurant and you’re going to eat meat. You know, just think about the terms that we use. My son was talking about this with me the other day. He was like, “Why is it called health food in this teeny little section? Why don’t we just call that food and everything else like dangerous crap? Why don’t we say organic as conventional? Why don’t we say produce and poison-laced crap?”
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, because the healthy food people don’t have a good marketing team and a good marketing budget behind them.
Howard Jacobson: Right, but one-to-one marketing is very effective. It’s much more effective than mass advertising. So knowing that, if you can learn a few of the tricks of the trade, you can market to yourself; you can drown out almost everything else by just reconceptualizing the way you think about the products in our world.
Caryn Hartglass: I know for me, it was a long time ago, I became vegan in 1988. And I know what I did in my mind. I love to cook, and back then cheese and butter were big parts of my repertoire and I kept thinking, “I know I have to give up dairy because it’s not good for me and I can’t stand what I read about what is happening to the cows. How am I going to do this?” And I just focus on those things that bothered me. I looked at the dairy and the cheese and I thought, “That’s cancer.” And “That’s exploitation.” And rescripted in my head that the foods that once tasted good I finally could associate with something really unpleasant and negative and it wasn’t food anymore.
Howard Jacobson: Right, and another thing is that all of us are different in how we motivate ourselves and how we conceptualize the world and how we process information. For some people, that approach backfires because it goes negative and it’s not how their minds work and they need to find a different way to do it. So another part of becoming your own marketing agency is understanding yourself. Doing experiments. Studying how you respond. Looking back over your history and determining what have you change in your life and what was hard. So you can craft the message that works precisely for you.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good. Now, you made this transition and it took some time and you brought your family along?
Howard Jacobson: Yeah to a certain extent kicking and screaming. My kids were youngish. I also, I didn’t mention, I also had a stint around 2004-2006 and that kind of flamed out as well. When they were much younger, my son likes to remind me about the time I think it was his sixth birthday party and we invited all of his friends over and I made what he describes as like a carrot, avocado, kale cake. Which I believe is an exaggeration.
Caryn Hartglass: It was a big hit?
Howard Jacobson: Yeah, this is one of those things that tens of thousands of dollars of therapy later he might forgive me.
Caryn Hartglass: And, what does he eat? Does he eat a similar diet?
Howard Jacobson: He eats a similar diet. He, I would say he is about 80-85% whole food plant-based and I think it’s real important to as a parent or as anyone, to let people find their own path. So that’s what we’re doing. He’s certainly eating healthier than any of his peers.
Caryn Hartglass: I also missed when The Low-Carb Fraud came out. And that’s also on my list of reading material. One of the very frustrating things in this food system that we’re all a part of is the marketing that markets lies and fraud. And the government, how it supports all of that. The Low Carb Fraud, can you give us a little summary of what came out of that book?
Howard Jacobson: Sure, it’s basically, you know we have sort of main stream nutrition that’s just ridiculous, it’s just you know, you eat vitamins. You eat oranges for vitamin C, you eat milk for calcium, carrots for Vitamin A. And that’s how America thinks about nutrition. And it’s ridiculous and it’s disempowering and it leads people to eat crappy diets and try to make up the difference with supplements. But then this other story came along that was very compelling, very interesting, and very holistic. And it was sort of the paleo story. And the story is that basically human beings evolved as hunter-gatherers and we should go back to the way things were and get out of this sort of Western sissified society and go back to being real cave men and women wearing our skins and clubbing animals and going back to our origins. And that’s a really powerful story for a lot of people. You know, anyone who saw Fight Club and felt their blood stir at the idea of, we are being commoditized, we are being domesticated by this society. And paleo managed to wrap diet around that longing for agency, for importance. To not just be some cog in a wheel to sit in some Dilbert cubicle your whole life doing meaningless things, shuffling papers. Paleo is now cross fit. It was reclaim your ancestry, become a real human and so it’s a great story. And the only problem with the story is that it’s wrong.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh.
Howard Jacobson: Right, so then if you eat that way you will end up much sicker, and less virile, and less capable and less caveman-y than if you ate the way that actual cave people probably ate, which was mostly plants and you know, the animals were sort of for fun, when you could catch them, when you had enough plant food in you to sustain a risky hunt then you might go do a hunt. But otherwise you were living on plants. And so the paleo story is the equal of the plant-based story in terms of it makes sense. It’s a holistic worldview. It just happens not to be based on evidence. And so that’s kind of why we wrote this book that you know, showing how the marketing works. Showing the difference between the marketing and the actual research and saying this is, certainly paleo is better than standard American because you’ve already cut out about half the crap, but why not go all the way? Why not eat a really healthy diet?
Caryn Hartglass: Why not? My understanding as you’ve mentioned is that the way our Paleolithic ancestors were eating was much closer to a high fiber plant-based diet than a paleo diet today as much as paleo people would not like to hear that.
Howard Jacobson: Right, as hard as this may be for you to believe, cavemen and women were not grinding up coconuts into sugar and flour. They were not making cookies out of almonds. And they were not eating three bison a day. When you look at, there’s a great book by Don Matesz called Powered by Plants. And he does kind of an anthropological look at the argument for the paleo diet and it’s simply from a caloric perspective, simply doesn’t add up. If you weren’t 95% powered by plants there’s no way you could sustain a hunting society.
Caryn Hartglass: Right on, it’s plants! It’s all about plants and plant foods are delicious. So let me ask you, what are your favorite plant foods?
Howard Jacobson: Whatever’s in the fridge for leftovers.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, plant leftovers, that again!
Howard Jacobson: So gosh, I mean, I did an interview with Alan Goldhamer the other day, from True North and I was asking him, like, I did a water fast many years ago, 7 day water fast. And then after it ended I took their advice and I ended it with some steamed zucchini, like two little pieces. It tasted so good. It was amazing!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, sweet.
Howard Jacobson: And I thought, is it my taste buds or something. He said, no that’s how zucchinis taste. That’s what happens when you clear, so the answer is like, there’s no plant food…when the cleaner my palate gets the better I like everything.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny that you brought up water fast because we were talking a little bit about it earlier and I did a three-week water fast supervised by Dr. Fuhrman back in 2000, I think. And I was refed on zucchini and it’s such an unforgettable experience how sweet that steamed zucchini was! Unforgettable.
Howard Jacobson: Yeah, maybe we should talk to the zucchini marketing agencies and tell them to promote it after, you know, weeklong water fast.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah it’s a sweet food. Okay well, it was great getting to know you and great speaking to you and I look forward to reading the other books that you’ve contributed to and the ones that you’ll probably contribute to in the future.
Howard Jacobson: Right on, well thanks so much Caryn for having me on, I really appreciate it, and a shout out to whatever of your fans recommended me because it’s been an honor and a pleasure to talk to you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you! We just have a few minutes left and I wanted to talk about a number of things going on. Number one, for those of you who are in New York and you are looking for a fun thing to do tonight, Miyoko Schinner who has a wonderful line of vegan cheeses, if you haven’t tried them yet, she is having a book signing and tasting at VSPOT. It’s sponsored by the vegan travel club and she’s part of one of these greener travel vegano-tours. We talked to Donna Zeigfinger a few weeks ago about it and you can go to that event. The information is, it’s an evite event so if you go there you can find out more about it and it’s at VSPOT tonight! Then if you’re really into vegan travel at blissedoutretreats.com I just wanted to mention my friends Allison Rivers Samson and Christy Morgan are having a week April 3rd-10th in Bali, Indonesia. It’s an authentic self-expression experience with nia dance, yoga, self-care, wonderful. It’s for women only and if you’re interested in that go to blissedoutretreats.com. I also wanted to mention there’s a really fun commercial to watch, Wendy’s now has a black bean burger which can be made vegan upon request by removing the cheese and parmesan ranch sauce and if you google Wendy’s Black Bean burger commercial you can watch the commercial. The black bean burger is made from brown and wild rice, faro, onions, carrots, corn, green and red bell peppers and it’s grilled separately from the meat which is really good news. Right now they are expanding their test markets and maybe you can check out a black bean burger at Wendy’s near you. You know, not that I’m encouraging fast food, but I certainly like the idea of upgrading fast food and including more vegan options. And the other thing I wanted to mention is that we talked with Aubry Walch last week just before the opening of The Herbivorous Butcher, which opened on Saturday. It was a huge success. I’m so excited for them. They had a line around the block for the opening and this is just the beginning. And I know that there are meat businesses that are not liking this idea of a vegan butcher, but the world is changing and I really like the way some vegan food companies are now changing the game, making foods that people like to eat. Meat foods, dairy foods, egg foods, but making them with plants. Starting with plant ingredients and ending up with the same end product. Better, cheaper, healthier, kinder on the planet. All good. And just one minute left. Visit me at responsibleeatingandliving.com. That’s where I live. I have the What Vegans Eat blog. We’re on day 348. I can’t believe we’re almost coming up to one year of what this vegan eats every day along with my partner, Gary, and there are recipes and it’s fun. And it’s real because that’s where I live at REAL: responsibleeatingandliving.com. Okay thanks for joining me, thanks for tuning in. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Randi Amstadt, 2/18/2016