Taking Charge of Your Health

Welcome to another episode of
the WellBe show and podcast. I am very excited to have Seamus Mullen
with me today. Chef and wellness pioneer and activist I think based on
a pretty incredible and grueling health recovery from rheumatoid arthritis
which he will tell us about today. Without further ado, please share everything
that you went through from start to finish. Wow. Well, everything.
Where should we start? Should we start in the womb? No, when you started to realize you were sick
and experiencing symptoms. What’s funny, I say that jokingly but actually
when I was really, really sick, I started seeing – I was very fortunate
I met Dr. Frank Lipman who practices functional medicine and one of the things
that he asked was, “I want to know your health history.
Tell me your medical story.” And I said I was diagnosed with rheumatoid
arthritis like eight years ago. He was like, “No, no, no.
I want to know everything. Tell me your earliest memories
of ever getting sick.” What was curious about that is that he actually was able to eventually connect
all these dots throughout the whole course of my life that led to a critical moment when
I actually got to the point of being in the hospital and diagnosed with RA. I often, when I talk to other people
who are living with autoimmune dysfunction, particularly people that are quite new to it, we have this real fixation on causation
and wanting to know, okay, if we identify,
what is the trigger, what’s the cause, what’s the thing that caused this illness
and then we can go in and like plug that hole,
we can fix everything. The reality is that the body is a system and there’s so many different areas
that can slowly erode that system and then wherever the weakest point is,
that’s where the body breaks down. For a lot of people with autoimmune dysfunction,
it starts in the gut. For me, I didn’t really realize
that for a very long time, I was slowly getting sick
but it’s like you suddenly look outside and the sun is set and it’s dark
but you didn’t realize how it happened. It just kind of slowly transitioned.
I was slowly going from being relatively healthy to being quite sick. When it is this kind of very slow,
insidious march towards illness, you don’t really realize
that your new normal is constantly changing. I’ve been a professional chef my whole life
and I was cooking in the professional kitchen which is not an easy place to work. Everybody’s seen the reality TV shows,
you know that it’s a 90-hour work weeks and chefs are prone to screaming
and quite a stressful environment. I just started feeling crappy in my late 20s
and I just wrote it off to being part and parcel being a chef, but eventually it became clear that there was
something seriously wrong with my body. I started getting really bad acute attacks
in my right shoulder. I just also just felt like crap all the time.
I just felt like I was exhausted, my body felt swollen and sore. I had headaches all the time, then I started getting these acute attacks
where I wouldn’t be able to even move my arm. It was so painful. It felt like
somebody was stabbing me in the shoulder. I didn’t know what to do because I kind of – as guys, we’re conditioned to just put your head
down and pretend it’s fine. Don’t show it. If you admit that you don’t feel well,
it’s a sign of weakness. I just tried to soldier through it
but it got to the point where I really had to – obviously there’s a major problem and I started going to the ER.
I didn’t know what else to do. They’d x-ray my shoulder
and ask if I’d had an injury which I hadn’t and then they’d send me home
with the pain killers and that was that. That happened time and time again until
it started going over to my other shoulder. That’s when I was like,
“There’s something wrong here.” It’s going on both shoulders
and then it happened in my hip. When it happened in my hip,
that’s when I was admitted to the hospital and I ended up being– I was in the hospital
for 10 days I think and I was under observation. I was in so much pain.
I could barely speak because I was in so much pain. They finally did an MRI of my hip
and saw it was full of fluids. The pain was from my sciatic nerve
being stretched from all the fluid in the hip. They thought I had
an infection which I didn’t. Eventually they had sent emails to all
the departments in the hospital to see if there was anyone who could understand
why I would have so much – such a high white blood cell count,
so much fluid in my hip with no infection and that’s when
the chair of Rheumatology came back and diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis.
That was my diagnosis story and that’s kind of where the story begins,
but yeah, I was in my early 30s. Since you mentioned the womb,
of course I’m thinking about that and… were there – I know some people talk about
gut trouble coming from a C-section perhaps or not being breastfed or things like that.
Were any of these things kind of part of it? No, I was a natural, vaginal birth. I was breastfed but I did, what I know now
in hindsight looking back is that a lot of the foods that we ate growing up
were considered health foods at the time, really were quite inflammatory for me.
I didn’t feel very well afterwards. I was constantly
bloated after every meal. I was exhausted. I had headaches and then
I started developing a lot of infections. I’d get strep throat all the time
so I was put on antibiotics quite frequently from an early age. I think that for me, the beginning of it was –
and there was probably a genetic component to it to a degree as well, maybe not
but a huge genetic component, my grandmother, I suspect had RA as well. I think more than anything it was just that
I was gluten-sensitive, definitely sensitive to legumes
and those were two things that were really big in our family when I was growing up.
Dairy as well. We ate a lot of dairy, a lot of legumes,
a lot of gluten and I would feel pretty crappy after eating. And then that coupled with–
that kind of led to eroding my immune system, to lots of infections
that led to more antibiotics and then as I got older,
I started having like more serious infections. I got salmonella when I was in high school
and then I got parasites later. I think all of those things kind of
combined with then the stress of the work life that I was experiencing.
It was like a perfect storm that eventually my immune system
just started going bonkers. We’ve only found one other RA story at WellBe
but she had a very stressful work situation or life experience as well
and also had put on a lot of weight from it, and it was like that combination
of this stressful trigger and then the weight
and then it just exploded into RA but I don’t know if that was also
part of the restaurant life. I’m sure it’s like a little unhealthy
and therefore you probably eat and overeat. Drugs and partying and too much alcohol
and staying up really late and not looking after the body
and eventually- it’s all doable when you’re 23 years old
but you pay the price 10 years later. Tell me sort of what post-diagnosis,
pre-Frank Lipman transpired. I mean, it was kind of like a slow
and steady decline after that. When I was diagnosed,
I had no idea what RA was. I didn’t know there was a difference
between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. I didn’t even know
what autoimmune dysfunction was. I mean, these were all very new things to me
and I certainly thought that arthritis was a disease of the elderly,
not with somebody in their early 30s. I went down the conventional path
of Western medicine and to a degree, I was very relieved to get a diagnosis
because now I kind of made sense of the fact that I felt like crap all the time. The downside of it was that I also put so much
trust and faith in the medical community. They said, “Listen, you’re going to have
this disease for the rest of your life but there are great meds.
We can manage the disease. You’re going to be okay but you’re going to be
on these meds for the rest of your life.” And there was a part of that that I was like,
“Hmm, I’m not sure if I’m okay with that,” but then there’s another part of me that’s
also like, “Well, I guess that’s just the… the hand I was dealt
and I’m going to deal with it.” What I didn’t know and then I started to realize over the course
of the next several years is that the actual meds that I was on
were leaving me exposed to infection and they were deteriorating my health
even more than just – they’re basically just suppressing the symptoms
and were doing absolutely nothing to address what the root cause was. That in turn also created
another layer of stress as well. I went from having acute flare ups frequently
to no longer having as many acute flare ups, but just being in
a constant state of chronic inflammation and illness and also being
very vulnerable to infection. In fact, I almost died from bacterial meningitis
because I was not able – my immune system was not able to combat it. When I came out of that is when
I realized I got to change. I mean, I can’t continue to live my life
the way I’m living it. And that’s when I met Frank Lipman.
That was a real turning point for me. Meeting him was incredible.
Working with him over the next couple of years was amazing
but I didn’t see any progress for at least six months.
It was not an easy road. Having also worked with a functional
or integrative medicine practitioner trying to solve a health issue,
I remember her saying, “If you do this program,
then all the components of it, which is a lot,
it’s a whole lifestyle change for six months –“ like mine was amenorrhea situation
which is like a loss of menstrual cycle. She said it will come back
and six months and day later it did, but I remember like
month four or five being like, “Is this woman like a total quack?” I’ve been doing all the things like,
“Can I start to let up a little bit, you know?” When it all kind of worked out, I was like,
“Oh, six months, it’s a slower road but it’s obviously longer-lasting in its impact
because you actually begin to heal the body.” Totally. Yeah. I mean, it’s amazing. If I hadn’t had Frank there
as a cheerleader saying, “You’re going to feel better,”
I would’ve quit and there’s no way – after like two months of seeing him,
I don’t feel any better. What’s the point? At least if I go out and eat a pint of ice cream
and drink a bottle of wine, I feel good for a little while, for a minute. Instead, doing everything right
and still feeling terrible, it’s pretty hard to have
the discipline to stick to it and it really does require having a team. That’s why I was really fortunate to have –
there were so many important people in my life that helped me get through
that period of my life, but definitely Frank was there giving me,
as a coach and saying. “Trust me, you’re going to feel better. You’re going to feel better.
You’re going to feel better. It’s going to take time
but you will feel better.” That was something that sort of the allopathic
world could never really have said to me. They never were willing to put their reputation
on the line and say, “You’re going to feel better.”
It was more like, “We’ll, try this drug and if that doesn’t work,
we’ll try this drug. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try this drug.” And also like, we can’t promise anything.
– Yeah, exactly. And then if that doesn’t work,
when all else fails, you’ll try this and your body will get used to it
and we’ll try this and eventually, maybe you’ll get into a clinical trial. That’s sort of like the trajectory
and it’s not really – obviously that’s not a recipe
for rectifying your health crisis. What was sort of the craziest thing
that you heard pre-diagnosis about what might be going on? One of the things that I was told
right away was I’d probably be in a wheelchair by the time I was 45. I’m 45 and I’m not in a wheelchair. As a chef, I’m sure that was like –
– Yeah. I thought I was going to lose
the use of my hands, that they would be disfigured,
I wouldn’t be able to hold a knife and like, everything that my livelihood
was going to be stripped away from me and that there wasn’t really anything
that I could do about it. In all likelihood,
I would have to have multiple surgeries and have joint fusions in my hands
and my feet and all these things. I was kind of bracing myself for that. What actually brought you to
the functional medicine world and Dr. Frank Lipman because it’s not – I mean this sounds like a few years ago
at least that you first saw him and it’s much more popular now
and much more accepted but certainly when I was younger
and going through my own health issues, it was very much like those are quacks
and these are real doctors. How did you both emotionally
and culturally bridge that gap? I mean, it seems like you
were sort of at “I’ll try anything.” Yeah. I was at the “I’ll try anything,”
but at the same time I was also half-assing it, like I’ll try anything
but I’m not really going to do it. In a weird way, I mean, Frank found me. We were introduced to each other through
a mutual friend and I didn’t even tell him anything about what was going on with me
and he just took one look at me and knew that I was not well. He literally said,
“What the f is going on with you?” I was like,
“What are you talking about? I’m fine.” He said, “No, there is something
wrong with you. What is going on?” He could see the inflammation on my face.
He could see the pain, he could see the anger that I was holding on to for experiencing pain
and he badgered me. He was like, “I want you to come to my office.
I want you to see me.” Okay. All right. I don’t want to see another doctor but fine. Everything about his approach was so different
from anything I’d ever experienced before where there was genuine care and concern.
He really wanted to see his patients get better. I think that that to me,
I felt like I had an ally in him in a way that I hadn’t felt before and then I was like, “Okay, I’ll give
this a try since this guy is so nice and willing to work with me.”
but it wasn’t like I was at… I mean, I was at my end
and I’ve said this before. There was a great Buddhist teaching that says that when the student is ready,
the teacher appears. I think I had to get to that rock bottom
and bounce off rock bottom and there was Frank kind of catch me
as I bounced off of rock bottom and then kind of get me on my feet
and help me go from there. Once he started working with you,
I mean it seems like you were mostly – diet was the biggest thing for you.
– Yeah. I mean, diet was a big thing. The parasites was a big thing too
and that was probably one of the key components in leaky gut syndrome
so clearing up the parasites– I went to see a parasitologist
and we through the treatment for parasites and then changed the diet, supplementation. We actually did use some antibiotics as well,
very low level antibiotics, but the idea was to try to get the gut back into
a healthy balance and then from there, that’s when exercise became really important,
the lifestyle changes, yoga practice, moderating my stress as best as I could. Sounds a little woo but we do know
that stress is literally one of the key drivers in autoimmune dysfunction
and it’s a very difficult thing to quantify. We’re all stressed.
I was just driving through New York City today. That’s stressful. There’s so many things that create
I think of them as the papercuts of life. Sometimes you really have to take
an assessment and step back and say, “How can I become immune to these papercuts?”
or at least defend against them because they are slowly eroding your ability
to maintain a state of homeostasis. As a founder and entrepreneur,
thinking a lot about stress and how you handle things
and I’ve realized it’s really not about… having the stressors in your life
but rather how you just deal with them and handle them as they come up
and how certain things really can kick a low chronic health problem
into an autoimmune condition. I’ve seen it happen over and over
but that certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be reversed
if you can figure out how to deal with those stressors as they come up and I think it’s very cool that
that was part of the healing process for you. It wasn’t just diet or just supplements
or some of the knocks on functional integrative health is
that certain practitioners or doctors just throw the kitchen sink of herbs and stuff at you
and you have to take all these collagen this and that
and it can be quite overwhelming, but bringing it back to like no,
that’s one piece of it. You’ve also got to work on this. I think we have something that I call
transactional health or transactional medicine which is this idea that if you go to
the doctor and the doctor gives you a pill, you’ve done your job.
Okay, I don’t feel well. I’ll go to the doctor,
the doctor gives me a pill, I go home, I go back to my day,
I go through my daily business. If you take that model
and you just apply it to integrative medicine, it’s no better than the allopathic process because all you’re doing is swapping
the medicine for the so-called superfood or for the supplement or whatever it is. It’s not about understanding that
there are so many factors that impact our body’s ability to be healthy
or that impact our body’s ability to defend against pathogens or to defend against itself. The supplementation can be a piece of it
but throwing the kitchen sink at everything is not –
and plenty of people will not do well with a lot of those supplements as well. It’s not like bulletproof coffee
is a panacea for everyone because I know plenty of people that drink
bulletproof coffee and they go crap their pants. It’s not like it’s good for everyone. I think it’s really important to understand
that you have to look at the entire picture and lifestyle, whatever you want to call it,
stress management is super important. Yeah. You mentioned parasites
which is a really interesting thing that I’m not sure enough people talk about because it seems to be present
in a lot of situations with autoimmunity or just obviously gut problems
and brain problems as well, now that we understand so much about
the gut-brain connection. Why isn’t the understanding of
fungus and parasites and these sorts of things more present in not just
conventional but all kinds of medicine? Because it feels like you said,
you can put a lot on top of that but if you’ve never gotten rid of this thing
that’s using you as a host, unlikely you’re really going to cure
those chronic health issues, right? How can you get control of your gut
when that’s in there? Yeah. It’s tough
because parasites is not something that- you can’t easily test for parasites
and many, many people – I mean, I don’t remember what the stats are but I feel like 30% of Americans
actually have parasites. I could be wrong on that number
but some outrageously high number of people are walking around with parasites
and have no idea and most of them are probably not even that big of a deal. But if you… whether it’s from food
or from water, somehow end up with
a significant colony of parasites in your gut and you can have it for a long period of time. They obviously are producing
bacteria as well which can be inflammatory. They can deteriorate
the integrity of the gut lining over time and it’s not something that – it’s so subtle that I think a lot of
conventional doctors have kind of – if it’s making you violently ill
then obviously there’s – it’s like, “Oh, this is a huge problem.
Let’s get rid of it.” But when it’s something that’s really slow
and subtle and chronic, it’s very difficult to say,
“Okay, this could be part of the problem.” Usually I think that’s an
important distinction to make, that it’s not the problem,
it’s part of the problem because that usually ends up
leading to other things that lead to greater deterioration of the gut. Take me through where you were
first seeing Frank and just physically and what you were doing for work
and just the whole experience of finally getting to the end of that six months
and how did you know you were getting better? Was it a lack of pain? What happened? Well, when I first started
working with Frank, it was – as I said before, I was really angry. I was very much “Woe is me. I’ve got this horrible disease.
I didn’t deserve this. Why this is going on?”
There’s a lot of the victim-blame game where I was just taking
responsibility off myself and saying, “It’s not my fault.
This has happened to me.” I had to kind of reframe my perspective
on well-being on my own health. I had to stop thinking of myself
as a sick person. That was a major,
major cataclysmic shift for me. I started thinking of myself as
somebody who was dealing with a sickness but I wasn’t a sick person. There’s a distinction there. I had to start to let go of some of
the anger and take some of the responsibility. The good news is once I started to feel better,
that responsibility, I also could be proud of it
and I could share in the spoils of it. I was like, “I’m feeling better
because of the work I’m doing, not because of some pill I’m taking.” What’s the obvious thing
that you’re going to do? Do more of the work because it’s going to
make you feel even – you take a pill and you feel a little bit better,
and you’re now like, “I’m going to take more pills now.” You’re like, “This worked.
I’ll take whatever I need to take.” But if you actually are starting to
see the fruits of your labor, there’s a real empowerment
that comes along with that But it took a long time. I kept going back to Frank and saying,
“I don’t know. I’m not feeling any better. I still feel like crap.
In fact, I feel worse now,” and he kept saying, “Trust me, you’re going
to feel better, it’s going to take six months. You’re going to feel better.
It’s going to take six months.” And just like you, six months to the day,
I woke up, I got out of bed,
started walking down the stairs and suddenly I realized, “Wait a second. I’m not walking down the stairs
one step at a time.” And as I took another step I was like,
“Wait a second, my feet aren’t swollen.” It was the first time in probably 11 years
that I’d gotten out of bed without my feet killing me. It used to be sometimes
even to just touch the floor was like somebody hit my foot with a hammer, so I’d have to like put my legs over the bed
and then sit there for 10 minutes and then kind of get up
and walk like an old man. I could barely move until my moving
for like an hour and a half in the morning. But I was like walking down
the stairs like a normal person and suddenly I realized,
it was like this eureka moment, I said “Oh my god,
this is what it feels like not to feel pain.” I had become so accustomed to just
feeling pain that that was my normal and I needed to reframe that to a new normal
that was a non-pain normal and that was a remarkable moment
and I walked down the stairs and the first thing I did,
I was super excited, I used to be a cyclist.
I had been a cyclist when I was younger. I hadn’t ridden my bike in years. I took my bike,
I pumped up the tires and I went for a bike ride
and rode like maybe six miles. That was incredible
and I was so happy just to be on a bicycle and to be moving.
It felt good to be moving. The next day I did it again
and then I rode 12 miles and then 20 miles and then 40 miles
and within three months I had worked up to 80 miles in my bike rides. To believe that was never going to
ride my bicycle again to then being able to ride 80 miles
it was a huge, huge accomplishment. Besides a wheelchair, would you be working now? Would you be able do to anything
that you’re doing now if you’d kind of stayed on the path you were on
or have you been able to ever talk to some of those doctors
and say like, “Look at me now.
Maybe you should tell your other patients to pursue this road or –“
– Yeah. I think it’s funny. I actually just got an email
a couple of days ago from one of my doctors. He was like, “I’ve been following you
and so happy to see that you’re so well.” He was just like, “I’m really interested
in what your approach has been. I’d love to integrate more of that into
how we’re treating patients.” Change is afoot and also with
the younger generation of the medical community, they’re going the path of conventional medicine
but with a very open mind and they’re seeing that
there’s countless anecdotal stories, anecdotal evidence of people reversing
and certainly preventing autoimmune dysfunction. I mean that’s one that
we don’t really talk about, that a healthy lifestyle can keep you healthy. We talk a lot about the notion of health care
is really sick care in this country. It’s not something we don’t really
focus on staying healthy when we’re healthy. You know Dr. Jeffrey Bland
who’s like one of the– they call him one of the founding fathers,
whatever that means, of functional medicine, but I had a quote on my Instagram
a couple of months ago or weeks ago about him just saying,
“Prevention is fluffy.” We can measure disease and recovery
but we’re not measuring and we can’t seem to measuring
the current system preventing this stuff and how much money and time
and illness and life – – Can be avoided.
– can be avoided and is being saved and until we do that, this will always
just be seen as a little bit fluffy stuff, this lifestyle, diet stuff because of course
when you can save somebody’s life in an ER, that just seems so much more
valuable and dramatic and your services are worth more than
somebody teaching you how to not be a victim or to remove gluten and let your gut heal. Where are you today with your health
and just also, what are you up to as far as I know,
you obviously are a trained chef, but how is that in your life now?
– I’m great. My health is really good. I feel very fortunate.
– No drugs, no – No, no drugs.
I haven’t been on any drugs for eight years. All my inflammatory markers, my biomarkers
are normal and negative for RA. That’s awesome.
– Yeah. I mean, so I don’t… I think if you were to consider
the conventional diagnosis process for RA, you’d say that I am in remission.
When I think of it, I don’t think of myself as being on remission.
I was out of balance and my immune system reacted
through this presentation of symptoms that we classify as rheumatoid arthritis
but realistically, they’re not that different from the symptoms that go along with Crohn’s
or that go along with MS or that go along with countless
other autoimmune dysfunctions. It’s easy for us to silo them into
the group of symptoms and say that that’s what this disease is because it also
makes it easier for the pharmaceutical industry to funnel drugs specifically to that disease. There’s a lot of money in people being sick. Restless leg syndrome?
– Yeah, exactly. You have to put a label on everything.
How about my favorite, OIC? Opioid-Induced Constipation. Oh my god, I hadn’t even heard of that one.
– I know, exactly. There’s a new medicine that you can take
because the one medicine makes you constipated. There’s new medicine specifically for
constipation caused by the medicine that you’re taking which we call medicine. In reality they’re just poisons. Even fibromyalgia is just like
a term for joint pain. Yeah, it’s a garbage field.
I mean, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s syndrome, on and on and on.
So where am I today? Well, I’m healthy, I’m doing well. I don’t cook professionally
in a restaurant any longer. I do a lot of consulting,
I do a lot of media work and I try to do as much as I can, share my story and other stories like my story
so that folks who are in similar paths that I was in can hopefully gleam
a little bit of hope more than anything. I think that the content of
what I have to share is important but what’s much more important is the context,
the understanding of that. It is entirely possible to take control
and autonomy over your own well-being but you have to be focused
and you have to make it a priority. And if you do that, you will see results. I always say that food is a zero-risk
approach to treating illness. There’s no downside to having
a positive relationship with food, to having a healthy relationship with food. There is no illness that will not
benefit from a healthy diet and that’s what I think everyone can take away. As a chef, it’s important to me that food tastes
really good and you’re inspired to eat it and that it involves community
because that’s another thing that we don’t focus on enough,
is the importance of our community, the community that we create
and food is at the center of that. That actually leads me to a question
I had for you, which is I did an elimination diet in January
because I have a thyroid condition and the stress of my business
actually kicked it into Hashimoto’s which is amazing how that happens. Writing my first book was one of the
most unhealthy things that I ever did. Right, and of course I dealt with this low-level
hypothyroidism for like over a decade. There was more support and community
and I think when you go out and try to do something on your own,
you feel a lack of support and that’s what really created
this autoimmune response in my body. But eating out or the lack of
being able to eat out in New York City for a month was really kind of sad
and I realized how much a part of it is, unfortunately, we’re not doing a lot of
home hosting and cooking anymore. A lot of people–
– There’s really not in the city as much. – not to the extent that I think
civilizations did even 100 years ago. I mean, that was normal and eating out
in a restaurant was a really rare occasion. Experiencing fun with my husband
or my friends or whatever, that was always around food
but always around restaurants, unfortunately and I was trying to make it work
and going to these places and asking what cooking oils they were using
and this and that and it was like almost impossible
except at a handful of places. You know this restaurant world very well,
how do you make it either healthier for people or bring the home cooking environment
and hosting environment back into the culture? What do we do because it is really,
really challenging to keep on autoimmune-restriction kind of diet and
still eat in restaurants? I think that it really depends on
where you are in your journey. When I was really in the thick of it
and I was very, very conscientious about everything that went in my body. As I got a little bit better
and my health was more stable, then I was like, “Oh, can I have a little bit of dairy
every once in a while?” Sure, see how I feel. Can I have a bite of some really good bread
and see how I feel?” Generally speaking,
I didn’t feel like an acute response necessarily but as long as I wasn’t doing it all the time,
so I was sort of following the 80-20 rule, but it’s really tough
because nearly every restaurant uses canola oil. Nearly every restaurant uses all sorts of-
you don’t necessarily know the quality of the produce,
the protein where it’s coming from. That’s why I think it certainly is hard
at the beginning but if you can… try to, as best as you can, to be… to cook at home and control
your food environment as best as you can and then as you start to feel better
and as you start to make progress, maybe you can start to dabble
and finding those restaurants that you can trust where they’re allies,
where if you ask them, “Is there any way I can have this
cooked in olive oil or can I have, you know…?” I mean, I come from the restaurant world.
I owned restaurants for years and I think a lot of times people are really
scared to modify dishes in the restaurant. Oftentimes you’ll see a lot of menus say,
“We politely decline any modifications”, things like that and that’s fine. If that’s their shtick
then I’m just not going to go that restaurant, and I totally get it but… as a diner, you’re going out,
you’re paying money to have an experience, and generally speaking,
the people that are in the world of hospitality, they’re in that world
because they want to make you feel good. They really derive pleasure
from hosting people and cooking for you. It’s certainly why I became a chef
because I love cooking for other people. I mean, I can tell you that most restaurants
would be more than happy to make modifications and I do it. I modified things at restaurants all the time and I try to be as gracious as I can. Like “I’m so sorry to be a pain
in the ass but is there any way that you can do that without potatoes? Maybe I can get some
steamed greens on the side?” something like that and,
“or maybe I’ll just go back in the kitchen and cook them for you”, but generally speaking, I find that restaurants are really,
really accommodating. Yeah. I did have one meal,
I’ll give them shout out at Forger’s, you know, in 22nd and 8th during that time
and they couldn’t have been nicer. Even as I finished the nightmare
that was ordering there, they came back and said,
“Wait, actually that one thing that you ordered, we forgot that’s actually cooked in butter.
Is that okay?” and I said,
“Actually, no. Thank you.” Like, “Is there any way
to do it without or whatever,” and I was able to switch something around
but the fact that even – because I wouldn’t have known at that point. Right. You might not have felt so well
and you would’ve been like, “Well, I guess I just can’t eat there.” Right, but he was so concerned to make sure
that if I was making these other alterations that I could get what I needed
and they had such high-quality grass-fed meat and stuff like that. I mean, there were very few restaurants
in the city of restaurants that I think had even
the basics of what they had or were willing to do all of that for me. So, it almost made it not pleasurable anymore
because I’m watching the friends that we’re with and they’re just kind of like rolling their eyes
and it’s taking forever. Yeah, and you don’t want to be like
the person that’s like, “Oh, I can’t have that and I can’t have that.
I can’t have this.” Right. They’re like,
why are you even eating out? Because I want to hang out with you guys, but that’s all what it comes back
to what you’re talking about. Really it’s all about food being the center
of this greater need for community. Then maybe part of
the elimination diet needs to be eliminating the people that are not supportive.
– Right, who are really the… Exactly.
– Exactly. I really wanted to ask you about the restaurant stuff
because I think the more people say like, “Oh, you know, it’s really important that
I don’t have canola oil,” “Oh, does that fryer use something with gluten?” all these things,
I hope it starts to make restauranteurs, not people who’ve had to go through
what you went through, slowly make these changes
or do you think that’s not realistic? I mean, I think
some of the changes are happening and there certainly are
plenty of restaurants now that are following better food protocols
and making changes within how they operate. Getting rid of canola oil, it’s difficult
because it’s such a cheap and plentiful oil and it’s also difficult for the diner
to recognize that there’s also a cost associated with using better quality ingredients
because the margins are so small in the restaurant world.
Let’s say you’re using excellent quality, grass-fed beef,
it’s going to be very expensive which means you’re going to pay
a premium for that. I think that’s the way it should be, too. You should also pay a premium for it,
appreciate it and not eat it all the time. Unfortunately, we live in a world –
in the United States, we… spend less per capita on food than any–
or disposable income on food than any other nation in the developed world. We just don’t put a premium on food
because we’re so used to cheap food being readily available.
We’re conditioned to think that food should be cheap and that’s part
of the health crisis that we’re in, is that for 50 years, more than that, for like 60 years since the end of World War II,
with huge government subsidies going into industrial agriculture,
we’ve brought the price of meat and vegetables down so low that we’re conditioned
to think that everything should be cheap and in reality,
really good ingredients, really good food it requires a tremendous amount
of resources to grow, to produce, to package, to ship.
There’s going to be a cost associated with it. I heard a woman at the farmers’ market
a few years ago, a farmer, and I overheard her. She said, “You can either pay a farmer today
or a doctor tomorrow. The choice is yours.” We deprioritized really good quality food
because there’s so many things that we want to be spending our money on.
– Yeah. Pretty sure I read… 100 years ago,
about 80% of your disposable income was spent on food
and it’s 6% today for Americans which just blows my mind.
– Not just your food but also time. 100 years ago, someone in the family
spent 100% of her time thinking about food and then 50 years ago,
someone spent 40% of her time and now, we spend almost
none of our time thinking about food because food just appears.
“Oh yeah, we need to order some food. What do we do?”
or “Oh yeah, I’m at the grocery store. I’m at the checkout.
There’s some food-like product right there.” We don’t really think about how-
We used to consider food so much more than we do. As we evolved as humans,
it was one of the only things we needed and so we spent-
and if you look at most other animals, they spend their entire lives either eating,
sleeping or having sex and that’s it. They’re concerned with food throughout the
entirety of their conscious time and we aren’t. We’ve kind of desensitized ourselves
from that relationship with food because it’s ever present in these really
toxic food-like substances. There’s a direct correlation between
the foods that we eat and how our body behaves. Besides food, we do something
for all of our WellBe interviews, especially with people
who have had these health recoveries through integrative or functional medicine
and it’s the How I Get WellBe series. These are your can’t miss,
not like your occasional things but like if a day goes by
and I don’t do these one, two or three things, I know I’m going to maybe send myself back
into a place I don’t want to go. I get WellBe by exercising every day. Cycling, hiking, yoga,
lifting weights, kettle bells, I do a lot of stuff with kettle bells. Yeah, anything just to move my body. I mean, the past four days
I’ve been doing construction so that’s been like lifting–
I mean, it’s just been physical labor but to me that’s still exercise. That’s using my body as nature intended
my body to be used. Awesome. Well, thank you so much
for sharing everything that you went through, Everything that you’re doing now,
I think it’s… an inspiration always to hear these stories
of what people came from and their rock bottom and how they were
able to recover for the WellBe audience, but especially, we don’t have a lot of guys
talking about it and I think it’s awesome because women
are just known to be sharers I think and like you said,
it’s sort of this staple of masculinity like we cover up when we’re in pain,
when we’re going through stuff, we should soldier on,
and for you to not only take the time to find somebody or I guess Frank found you –
– He found me. – but who could turn that around for you
and then also say, “Well, this is something I kind of need
other people to know because it’s not like
there are other men out there with RA.” Or any other issue.
– Lots of issues. We were conditioned from a very young age
not to be vulnerable because to show vulnerability
is to show weakness and to show weakness means that
on the playground, you’re going to get the crap kicked out of you. We need to change the way that we are
teaching our boys to become men so they can understand that
if they’re not feeling well or their health is not well,
it’s not manly to pretend you don’t feel well. It’s manly to fix the problem
and to get healthy so that you can be a provider,
so that you can be a strong man, because it’s too easy to just to say,
“No, I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.” Next thing you know,
you keel over and die of a heart attack. Usually, the number one symptom of
a heart attack is a heart attack. As guys, we wait until we fall over or suddenly
we have cancer or whatever it might be. We don’t really understand that see these
warning signs that life is presenting us with and how do we process that information.
Do we ignore it? Do we put it under the bed
and pretend that we don’t have all this clutter? Or do you organize it, take care of it
and address the problem head on. I think women are much better at that
and hopefully men can get better at that. I was also just going to say not just death,
but the self-medicating that comes with pain or just shoving stuff under the bed. With today’s age especially,
the opioids and the alcohol and everything else, that’s I think
also being weak, right? Oh, yeah. I mean, any addiction
is usually just a band aid for trauma. It’s the brave, courageous thing
to actually hit that head on and kind of get to the root of that pain
or whatever might be behind it that you want to medicate
or eventually have a heart attack. Thank you for doing that. Thank you for inspiring others to do that
and thanks for sharing your story again.

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