I’m back from 7 glorious days on the MSC Poesia attending the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise to the Caribbean. It would be hard to isolate a highlight of this experience, because it was day after day of education, meeting fascinating people, eating exquisitely prepared vegetarian meals, and touring the islands of St. John’s, Puerto Rico and Nassau.
But if you absolutely insisted on the quintessential takeaway, I would have to say it was the inspiration I got from hearing the two amazing men pictured here talk about their experiences.
With the documentary film entitled Forks Over Knives, Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn are changing the way Americans eat. Both transformed themselves from early childhoods on dairy farms into becoming experts on plant-based nutrition through research (Campbell) and medical practice (Esselstyn). Their independent efforts via The China Study (Campbell) and the Cleveland Clinic (Esselstyn) prove with thousands of case studies and statistics that heart disease and cancer can be reversed through diet. Which, they both acknowledge, won’t get most people to make the necessary changes in their eating habits, but it has helped significant numbers improve and extend their lives after severe diagnoses.
It was Dr. Esselstyn’s personal story particularly that I found powerful. He shared his struggle of getting the invaluable information he’d been studying for years out to a very resistant public, including seven calls to a doctor at Harvard he wanted to reach.
“Never get upset with the secretary,” he advised us, even though his frustration level had clearly escalated during his period of prospecting this person.
Dr. Esselstyn and his wife Ann (who was on board throughout the cruise) personally taught his patients how to cook and eat a healing diet. They took an interest in each individual in their study, called them regularly. One memorable segment depicted a woman who shared a journal entry from the day she was in WalMart, determined to indulge in a meatball grinder when her cell phone rang, and it was Ann Esselstyn calling–at that very moment– to see how she was doing. Needless to say, she never had that sandwich and was strongly converted by the level of concern and interest shown by the Esselstyns.)
The China Study has garnered great media attention for these men, decades after the hard work they put in (and continue to put in). The bigger message I got from their talks and their presence was that when you’re living your passion and making a contribution to society, the material rewards may or may not come, but the lives you are changing will be gratifying beyond words.
In today’s NYTimes obituaries, the man who helped us understand the danger of aerosol sprays to our environment is remembered:
F. Sherwood Rowland, whose discovery in 1974 of the danger that aerosols posed to the ozone layer was initially met with disdain but who was ultimately vindicated with the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, died on Saturday at his home in Corona del Mar, Calif. He was 84.
I believe that Campbell and Esselstyn also deserve the Nobel Prize for their heroic work in proving that these human and economy killing diseases can be reversed through diet. Disdain–they’ve already confronted that. Vindication is occurring daily. They have my vote.