Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Giving it all away

A few months ago, I started giving away nearly everything I own.

It’s not the first time. I’ve actually gone through this “purification exercise” every five to ten years since first seeing George Carlin’s “stuff” routine in high school.

A portion of this spiritually-lightening endeavor includes giving away furniture, electronics, books, CDs, and other accumulated possessions that actually weigh you down. (Imagine—as my Mom often does—dragging a sled, tethered around your neck, behind you, with everything you own piled high on top of it.) Sure, these items have value; they could easily be sold on Craigslist. But it’s much more rewarding to give them away. (If you don’t believe me, try it.)

Another key part of the periodic purification includes paying off debts, as well as recommitting to your closest friends (and letting go of others).

Do you have a specific time in your life where you felt most balanced? Most happy? Most connected to others, and to the world? I do.

In 1995 and 1996, I was living in the Peace Corps without a car, microwave (or any oven), television, cell phone, computer, Internet connection, or e-mail account. Life was better than good; it was great. I spent a lot time with neighbors, wrote letters, read for hours at a time, and took a lot of long, brisk walks, including at night and in the dead of winter.

I also drank and ate heartily, hosted and attended parties and bonfires, camped, cooked, listened to the radio, visited with elderly neighbors, and learned the contours of my community and the people in it. I took train trips with friends on the weekend and stayed in other friends’ homes, drank a lot of tea, and argued and laughed with all of them about just about everything. (They remain among my closest friends today.)

A few days ago, I realized that this particular season’s cycle of purification is a kind of return to that time in my life. I’m walking and reading a lot more, and have reduced computing and social networking to almost zero. (Closing the Facebook account, you will soon learn, has the added advantage of letting go of the obligatory “friends-of-friends” and “work mates” you almost never actually speak to or meet with.)

Without the stuff and the distractions back in 1996, everything seemed possible, and I spent the next ten years growing in exciting and unexpected new ways. Now, again, without all of the extra stuff and without those burdensome distractions, everyday life is enjoyable, and everything again seems possible. No matter where the economy is headed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Interview: James Howard Kunstler

It probably hasn't been hard to notice and be directly affected by these turbulent times we live in, and to wonder if the luxuries and resources we've become accustomed to voraciously consuming for the last few decades won't always be ours to take for granted.

Although a good number of modern thinkers offer analyses of how we got to this point, of what exactly it means to live in a society where men "wear baseball caps designed to make their heads look flat" and have flames tattooed on their necks, and where all of this might be headed, one of my favorites is James Howard Kunstler.

Jim's not vegan, but his ongoing and pointed criticism of how we squander our vast resources in this society in "retail" establishments, on junk food, and with electronic gadgetry is extremely challenging to vegans who seek a deeper understanding of how we can be better stewards of our beautiful earth.

In fact, on more than one occasion, Jim's writing has exposed me as a hypocrite, and in many ways he's challenged me to stop buying plastic junk and start planning for a future where we are productive, responsible citizens instead of mindless consumers.

New Vegan Age: Thanks for answering a few questions today. How are you? And how's the reception been of Duncan Crary's new book of conversations with you, The KunstlerCast?

James Howard Kunstler: Well, it’s Duncan’s project, though I am the featured blabber in it. He will receive the royalties, if there are any. We’ve gotten some very cordial reviews and I know some people who bought it as a stocking stuffer. I never check my sales figures, though. I just don’t.

NVA: In your work, you describe in detail (often, with biting humor) the ways our modern civilization has become unsustainable, as well as what our lives are likely to look like in the next few years and decades: Radically simpler, more local, and reliant on actual skill and human relationships. Who introduced you to some of these ideas, and when? Did you arrive at some of these conclusions on your own?

JHK: I don’t live in a vacuum but there was no particular mentor or authority who propelled me in this direction. I hugely admire Wendell Berry’s books but I encountered him when I was already well into writing The Geography of Nowhere, my first book about the fiasco of suburbia. My career trajectory and place in the literature of human ecology goes something like this: I was a young newspaper reporter in the 1970s. I covered the OPEC oil crisis of 1973. It made a big impression on me. My newspaper had just relocated its offices to a new building on a giant suburban commercial strip outside the state capital, Albany (which had very effectively killed the city’s old downtown, by the way); and as the crisis proceeded you could see how hopelessly fragile the suburban pattern really was. For a few weeks there, nothing worked. The whole system shuddered.

Unfortunately, it didn't last long – if it had, we might have adapted earlier to the changes that are going to crush us now. Anyway, after that, I spent a decade writing novels, indifferently received. An opportunity to write some pieces for The New York Times Sunday Magazine eventually turned into a series of books about the suburban fiasco, the New Urbanism, and city planning. This led to the recognition that we were pretty screwed in terms of our primary energy resources – oil especially – which led to me write The Long Emergency. After that, I wanted to depict the post-oil future dramatically, so I wrote two novels in that vein, World Made By Hand and The Witch of Hebron. I’ve just finished another non-fiction book that will come out in July, Too Much Magic, which is about wishful thinking and technology.

NVA: In your 2005 book, The Long Emergency, before you get into some advice on how we might be able to eventually flourish in a new reality that is not based on fossil fuels, you assert that you "retain confidence in human resilience, courage, ingenuity, and even fairness." What events and observations in your life have helped you to maintain that confidence?

JHK: The 20th century was a long cavalcade of gigantic geopolitical disasters and the resilience of people all over the world was manifest, self-evident. Berlin was reduced to gravel in 1945; you go back there today and it’s in much better shape than Cleveland or St. Louis. Japan was back on its feet 15 years after Hiroshima – I remember vividly their pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair, with all its sparkling electronic marvels, the ranks of the SONY color television sets and big stereo systems. Vietnam has become a leading tourist destination after we trashed the place. Ditto the coastal nations of the former Yugoslavia after their self-inflicted terrors of the 1990s.

This set of predicaments I call the long emergency will require us to live differently and re-set our economy. There will be plenty of losses and hardships – nobody can predict the geopolitical fall-out – but I think the human race will endure quite a while longer. However, I do think we’re heading into a “time-out” from what we call “technological progress.” It may be a very long time-out, and I’m not sure we’ll ever get back again to the level we’re at now.

NVA: In a recent podcast, you mentioned that you're "basically vegetarian, with occasional lapses." If society reorganizes on a much more local scale—meaning that people are living in towns, engaging in meaningful work, and reliant on local agriculture—are there any ways in which vegetarianism might benefit such a society?

JHK: Well, the current American industrial diet of things like pepperoni jerky, Doritos, Buffalo wings, Pepsi Cola, and Little Debbie Snack Cakes is obviously a catastrophe. Any visit to a public place in America will show you the effects of that, for instance the galumphing brutes I see waddling down the airport concourses. Even in a post-oil future, though (at least as I imagined it in my novels) the American diet is still based on a lot of animal products besides meat itself.

I like to cook and I enjoyed creating their cuisine which, given the setting in upstate New York, contained a lot of milk, cheese, sausage and other things that I personally don’t eat much anymore. That said, I doubt we are culturally disposed to turn to a more Asian-like plant based, non-dairy, diet. It’s just not there in our heritage. The characters in my novels work hard, because they have to – the future economy I describe revolves around farming – but I imagine they’re laying on the arterial plaques with all the cream and butter they eat, too.

NVA: Are the reasons for being vegetarian strictly economic and otherwise practical? Or, do you also believe that we maintain an ethical obligation to the proper treatment of farm, companion, and wild animals?

JHK: The abuse of animals is an issue that drives me nuts, and if we have to live with more working animals in the future I’m sure that there will be plenty of cruelty. However, we are capable of constructing an ethic, social conventions, and a body of law to mitigate some of that.

My own food behavior evolved from the point where I learned my cholesterol was too high—the doctor read me the riot act—and I just veered sharply down another path. I read the Ornish and Esselstyn books about diet and disease, and especially The China Study by Colin Campbell, which made the interesting argument that many of our cancer and heart disease problems could be attributed to over-consumption of animal protein, not just fat. I don’t know the exact molecular mechanism (I’m not sure Campbell does, either), but the statistics indicate that human beings do better without animal protein. Casein found in dairy products is a particular trouble-maker. Campbell therefore promotes Asian-style non-dairy vegetarian practice, in essence, a vegan diet.

As I said, I’m a capable cook (having worked in many a restaurant kitchen during my bohemian years), and I don’t feel deprived. I’ve lost thirty pounds the past four years, since giving up butter, roast duck, and most cheese (except the scant spoonful of Parma on my whole-grain rigatoni). I’m the same size I was in high school these days.

NVA: Could you give us a sneak peek at some of the ideas and projects we might see coming from you in the next few months?

JHK: Too Much Magic will soon be out. I intend to write two more World Made By Hand novels so that the series eventually covers all four seasons of the year. (I’ve done summer and fall so far). I have some chapters of a book about the troubles of adolescence, sort of an advice-to-young-men book, which I think is useful and entertaining. On the other hand, the publishing industry itself is in a state of deep perturbation. While I believe that electronic media will prove to be ephemeral (Kindles and iPads basically run on coal), I begin to think that the book as a cultural format may be in danger. I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do, but for some reason I keep thinking that puppet shows are coming back big-time. It’s inexpensive to mount that kind of theater, and enchanting when done well.

NVA: In addition to your refreshingly blunt views and the extensive subject matter expertise you share, you're pretty forthcoming with the public about your life, including where you've chosen to live and why. Is there anything many of your readers and listeners might not yet know about you?

JHK: I’m licensed by the State of New York to carry a handgun.

NVA: Aha. Well, we'll trust you'll never need to use it! But please keep shooting your searing social commentary our way. Anything else you'd like to mention, promote, or describe?

JHK: My weekly blog, Clusterfuck Nation, is published without fail every Monday morning. The KunstlerCast podcast generally comes out every Friday.

NVA: Excellent. Well, many thanks for your time and your important work, Jim. All the best to you.

August 2012 UPDATE: A few months after this interview, in March 2012, Jim spoke at length with Duncan Crary about his (at the time) mostly vegan diet. In a blog post a few weeks later, Jim explained that he was abandoning veganism due to health concerns. Last month, Jim revealed that his health concerns were related to cobalt poisoning from a hip replacement, and he successful underwent surgery to have it replaced with a safer one earlier this month. We wish Jim a full return to abundant health in the very near future!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dirt from my grave

Morbid? Nope.
Is there any substance that better represents the ongoing cycle of life—past, present, and future—than soil?

Think about it. The richest soil is fed by—and offers—abundant, living nutrients appropriated from living organisms that have died.

Indeed, our most delicious, nutritious, and colorful fruits and vegetables seem to spring from gardens of the darkest soil. Darkness and the spectre of death, then, are not to be feared; if anything, they remind us of our imperative to live, and of the short time we have to do so fully.

For several years, on top of my refrigerator, I've kept a Snapple jar filled with dirt from my presumed burial spot. I collected it from the family plot in Central Pennsylvania where four generations of my Dad's side are already buried. The cemetery is a hillside, a patch of land owned by the local Mennonite church.

Every week or so, my eye will fall upon the jar, which seems to say: "Here I am—the soil to which you'll return. Your time is short, and unknown. You may have traveled, studied, and lived in different parts the world—made mistakes, found love, hurt, and been hurt—but your bones will ultimately come to commingle with me, and with those of your neighbors and the family from whom you were formed."

To date, the dirt has helped give me the courage to remind friends I love them; to improve my career situation; to give as much as I can to charity; to dedicate my life to sharing the beauty and benefits of veganism with others; and to pursue a meaningful relationship with an incredible person, regardless of the risk of getting hurt. Not a bad deal!

So, no. The subject's not at all morbid; it's not at all something to fear. The jar and its contents are a very present reminder to make the most of every minute, month, year, or decade I'm blessed with.

(Business idea: If I can somehow get a formaldehyde exception, mine could be a very vegan funeral. Vegan weddings seem to be taking off. Why not funerals?)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Interview: Andrea Adams

Andrea Adams came to the United States from Germany in 1980, first working as a nurse and later branching out into the promotion of health and wellness using natural remedies and natural bath and body products.

Adams sold her business and returned to nursing in 2008, then launched her popular website and growing Facebook page last year. Now, in addition to studying toward a Master's degree in nutrition, she volunteers with a local non-profit group that aids families of children with cancer and teaches about nutrition through both private counseling and wellness presentations for groups. If that's not enough, she's also currently writing a book combining an explanation of the power of a plant-based diet with healthy recipes.

For me, Adams embodies the busy, responsive, high-energy vegan who spends much of her time helping and educating others, and I'm grateful that she recently found some time to answer a few questions about her life and work.

New Vegan Age: How did you become vegan?

The Vegan Nurse: It is really more about why I became a vegan. Five of my very good friends died within a two-and-a-half year span, and they all died of cancer. I have always had a love affair with food and nutrition and its healing powers, so I looked toward nutrition for an answer. A friend recommended that I read The China Study. I read it in just two days, and then I read it again, and when I was done the next day I turned to a plant-based diet. It just made absolute sense to me, that going vegan is the right thing to do.

NVA: Almost overnight! Wow. And how did you become a nurse?

TVN: When I was growing up in Germany, my grandmother had a certain touch. She could put herbal tinctures together and mix up potions and herbal teas that made people feel well. I wanted to do the same, and I believe that is why I chose to become a nurse.

NVA: Have you ever encountered criticism of your veganism from patients? From doctors? From other nurses?

TVN: For the most part, I have encountered very little criticism from patients and co-workers. Perhaps more of a disbelief. Most people have been told what and how to eat since their birth, and then someone says: "Listen, if you want to stop your heart disease and diabetes, stop eating meat, dairy and eggs." It can be shocking for some.

There is very little time for the bedside nurse to actually sit down with the patient and explain the why and how of eating a plant-based diet. I, however, work from my own office and do have the time. I work with my clients; I acknowledge and recognize their culture, belief, background, and their current situation. Some clients just cut out one food and deal with that; others eat one vegan meal per day, and still others change over to a plant-based diet in an instant. Everyone is different, and we need to recognize that.

However, if I may be permitted, I would like to also point out that often the criticism can go into the other direction, as well. Vegetarians and vegans are often very insulting to omnivores. I know that many vegans are coming from their heart and are defending the animals, and I totally understand their point. Then are those who are raising awareness for health reasons, and I am totally for that, as well. However, let's try to do it without being self-righteous. Let's educate and present the facts as we know them and allow everyone to make their own decisions and choices in their own time.

NVA: Do you think that plant-based nutrition will ever be a required part of all medical training in the United States? When?

TVN: There really is no easy answer to this question. However, I certainly hope that we will get to this point. I believe that, with well-known doctors and researchers such as Doctors Campbell, Esselstyn, Ornish and McDougall, as well as politicians like former President Clinton bringing awareness to the masses, and those masses demanding a change, we will get there one day. It will not be easy to change a whole nation with an ingrained belief that has been passed down for generations.

For right now, sadly, it is each person's own responsibility to seek the truth. We live in a society that treats sickness instead of promoting health. We need to understand that not only our health is at stake, but also the health of our planet and the animals. Many of those who are in charge are driven by monetary reasons and power, and I think Dr. Campbell described it best in The China Study when he wrote:

The entire system—government, science, medicine, industry and media—promotes profits over health, technology over food and confusion over clarity ... it is a silent enemy that few people see and understand.

NVA: And yet, with websites like yours and the increasing popularity of documentaries like Forks Over Knives, let's hope it is now 'less silent' and 'more understood.' But back to you for a moment. How does your German heritage influence and inform your experience and work as The Vegan Nurse?

TVN: I was raised with the belief that the right food can hold body and soul together. I remember my grandmother telling me that too much butter or too many eggs would "cut off the heart." Just listen to this phrase: "Cut off the heart."

She may have not known the proper terms, as she had no formal medical education and her knowledge was passed down to her by her mother. Years later, I realized she was talking about how bad animal fats are and how it could raise your cholesterol. My parents had the same belief, and made always sure that we ate good, home-grown fruits and vegetables. We were not vegans when I grew up back then, but I certainly believe that my parents and my grandmother laid that foundation that the right foods can prevent illness.

NVA: How does living in Northeastern Pennsylvania play a role in your work?

TVN: I certainly love living here. I moved to NEPA about 20 years ago. I feel connected to the people of this area, partially because there is a lot of German heritage in this area, and also because the lay of the land reminds me of my homeland. I also enjoy the laid-back lifestyle. Regarding my work as one that promotes plant-based eating, I think I am exactly where I need to be. Although we have clusters of vegan lifestyles here and there, I believe that there is a lot of work to be done here in NEPA just as there is in other parts of the country. However, as a wonderful add-on, I feel that people of this area are not shy about approaching and welcoming something new.

NVA: Your facebook page is very active: Several posts every day, with lots of people liking and commenting on each one. That's a lot to keep up with! Is it ever hard to stay committed to The Vegan Nurse project? If so, what rewards keep you engaged?

TVN: I am very passionate about promoting 'health through nutrition' and I feel that we, meaning those that believe the same way as I do, have only scratched the surface of what needs to be done. Most times I do not have a hard time staying committed to this endeavor, but for extra motivation should I ever need it, I will just think about my friends that I lost to cancer and that could be alive if I only knew back then what I know now.

NVA: I like that, that we've 'only scratched the surface of what needs to be done.' It's almost like we need to every day be asking ourselves, "What else can I do? To that point, what else are you working on these days?

TVN: Currently I am working on a new website. My son is the brain behind this project. We are hoping to be able to launch our new website very soon. The site will be user-friendly and easy to navigate and will be interactive. Those who subscribe to the blog will be able to post some of their own favorite recipes.

I am also writing a book. It will be an accumulation of the whys and hows of veganism, but there will also be lots of information in easy-to-read and understandable language. The second part of the book will be composed of great, kitchen-tested, plant-based recipes that I hope everyone will enjoy.

NVA: Thank you so much, Andrea. Please keep us posted about your new site and upcoming book. We'll be sure to spread the word!

TVN: Thank you! It's been a pleasure.

08-26-2012 UPDATE: Adams recently wrote that she is no longer fully vegan, but that she continues to do nutritional counseling and has started a new website. We were sorry to learn that she has had some health struggles during the past year, but we're grateful to know she is now feeling better! All the best, Andrea.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Interview: Vegan health coach Rochelle Blank-Zimmer

Your Natural Choice owner Rochelle Blank-Zimmer is a health coach and counselor who's maintained a private practice in Central New Jersey for the last five and a half years. She earned her degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2006 and completed an additional certification in health coaching from Columbia University Teachers College in New York City the following year. Most recently, she completed the first of three courses for the T. Colin Campbell Foundation's Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition certificate offered through eCornell.

Earlier this year, I met Rochelle through my girlfriend Nicole, who'd attended one of her plant-based cooking classes at the Princeton, NJ Whole Foods and later signed up for private nutritional counseling sessions. I recently had the opportunity to find out more about her very important work.

New Vegan Age: Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions! How are you doing?

Rochelle Blank-Zimmer: I'm doing great.

NVA: While I'd already heard much about your knowledge and sincere desire to help people, I knew you were really cool when I found out you're a fellow dog person.

RB-Z: Yes! I'm a total dog person. I have a remarkable doggie daughter, a Cavalier King Charles named Samantha, who has really been my champion in so many respects.

NVA: How and why did you get into this field?

RB-Z: Because people are suffering, and overloaded with "facts" from popular fad diets, which have left them confused, frustrated, and sick. I wanted to help because I know that most of what ails folks are nutritionally-controllable conditions. I always had a passion and interest in health, wellness, and alternative healing. Through my own journey of healing myself and self-discovery, it became clear that I really wanted to help others reclaim their health, by improving their diet and lifestyle habits.

I knew food was a part of the picture, but nourishment—more specifically, how we nourish ourselves—was also a conversation I was having. When I discovered The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I knew we were a perfect fit. Today, I feel blessed that my knowledge of plant-based foods, nutrition, and nourishment, and ability to connect with people, has supported so many in making sustainable, life-enhancing changes.

NVA: What aspect of nutritional health counseling is most exciting for you these days?

RB-Z: Several things, actually. Teaching people about the life-saving preventive benefits of an unprocessed, plant-based diet is the most exciting. There is an abundance of solid scientific evidence that a plant-based diet is the best choice, not only for sustained wellness throughout one's life, but also to reverse and even cure disease including heart disease and cancer—the number one and two leading causes of death in this country—as well as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and strokes. Assisting folks in taking life-changing life savings steps is also very exciting.

Knowing that these and scores of common ailments are nutritionally controllable is very empowering, because it means that it isn't your genes that dictate your fate, but rather, what we are putting at the end of our forks. We live in a culture that tells us to take a drug for everything. The reality is that if we ate an unprocessed plant-based diet, and lived an active lifestyle, millions of people's health would skyrocket back to optimum. That is exciting.

What is also so exciting about nutritionial health counseling is that nutrition isn't just what you eat. Nutrition is about nourishment, how we nourish our whole selves. It includes how we speak to ourselves, our relationships, our careers and hobbies, our lifestyle, our exercise, our movement, and our spirituality. It is the dance we call our lives, how we move to our edges and find more space, more comfort, more joy. We practice nourishment everyday, because our lives are an adventure every day. So it starts with food, but then we see that there is so much more to our experiences which influence our choices.

There are so many colors, shapes, and textures to our experiences that affect what we eat and how we feel. Often I say that how we nourish ourselves is like a metaphoric yoga practice. Each day, we can choose to check out where we are are and what we can do. In that same way, we can choose to go to our nutritional edge each day and discover what is available to us, what adjustments we will make to allow more healthy nourishment in our lives.

NVA: That really resonates; it's a great reminder how we get so bogged down in the daily details of our lives that it often it takes a teacher or counselor to remind us to grow and stretch our boundaries. I imagine it's not always easy, however. What is most challenging about your work?

RB-Z: In terms of coaching, I would say that it's teaching the practice of taking care of one's self, of creating healthy habits, of slowing down, and of learning to know and give yourself what you need. Taking small, mindful steps every day, and leaning in the direction of wellness and optimal health, instead of huge giant steps and then petering out shortly thereafter. That thought process is challenging.

I teach people that they are creating an expanded lifestyle, adding new things into their life that reflect what they say they want for themselves. This allows for them to shed, let go, or crowd out the things that no longer support their goals, with them in charge. So keeping people committed to the process and taking consistent steps that will by-pass their resistance—and allow them to create new habits that are sustainable behaviors for them —is the biggest challenge.

In regard specifically to food, I would say that the biggest challenge is sorting out confusion around the do-ability of an unprocessed, plant-based diet/lifestyle. We are creatures of habits, and even though the science is there stating that a whole foods, plant-based diet is superior, that it can save your life, some people would rather have open heart surgery than give up their meat or processed foods. People are concerned that they won't get enough protein, which is a big myth, and that they can't possibly give up animal food, donuts, cakes, candy, soda, chips etc.

That thought process is very challenging, because as a health coach, I want to help my clients achieve optimal health. And in order to achieve that, big changes over time need to occur, which obviously includes rethinking one's diet. So the most challenging thing is to get folks to make tiny changes that will add up to big, sustainable changes over the long run, as well as having folks embrace these "changes" as an opportunity to discover their optimal health or an adventure into the greatest discovery of their life: Being a more healthy, vibrant person.

I also aim to help people understand that their health is not just personal, that it includes the health of all living creatures, and to introduce the benefits of plant-based food (while also educating about the plight of animals, in a way that doesn't turn off the client's journey for their optimal health).

NVA: It's interesting that you must be sensitive in your teaching not to turn people off. What do most people come to you and seek help with?

RB-Z: My clients come for weight loss, emotional eating, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and concern that worse is around the corner. Many of my clients are also unhappy with their overall health and or energy level, and really want to learn how to make honest, sustainable, healthy changes, but are frustrated about how to do that. My client is someone who is finally willing to put himself or herself first, and knows that he or she needs someone else's guidance, someone to coach in the same way that an athlete needs a coach for training. Without coaching, most of us will keep doing the same old, same old, and not see the big changes necessary for vibrant health.

NVA: Let's turn for a moment to veganism, specifically. What types of help do people want with partially or fully adopting a vegan diet?

RB-Z: The people I speak with want to understand what it is and isn't, and how they can transition into plant-based choices without feeling deprived. Most people believe that their need for protein can only be fulfilled from animals. They really don't know what else to eat if there isn't some type of meat or dairy on their plate. If they are eating vegetables it comprises only a small amount of their food intake. That being the case, they want to know how to add more vegetables and unprocessed foods into their diets.

They also don't know what to feed their families or what they can eat when they go to restaurants, etc. Going to an out-and-out all unprocessed plant-based diet and lifestyle is, for some, like saying "I want to learn Chinese in 4 days." It is not going to happen. My clients want support, education and encouragement so that they are empowered to make changes. My approach is less of a focus on vegan and more on getting my clients to adapt an unprocessed, whole foods, plant-based diet, because that is truly what will restore the imbalances showing up as excess weight, high blood pressure, diabetes etc.

I do this with a lot of encouragement, and lot of baby-step learning, which eventually manifests into big changes. I listen to what my clients say, what they are about, what they are willing to manage, and I meet them there. I am the guide, the one holding the map; my client is the warrior taking baby steps on a journey that has no end. It is really about evolving, which is what we are doing all the time anyway. It just becomes more of a conscious, deliberate activity with personal responsibility and empowerment.

NVA: Any amusing or poignant anecdotes about your interaction with clients over the years?

RB-Z: Recently, after coming home from food shopping before the impeding Hurricane Irene storm, a wonderful client said that, before she started working with me, she would have brought home ice cream and cookies, but as a result of working with me, she brought home quinoa and tofu, and was looking forward to making the recipes I had given her. I thought that was terrific.

Another client, who has been struggling with depression and weight loss for over two years, reached some profound "ah-ha" moments during our sessions a few months ago. She became aware of her constant, "I can't" negative self talk that was holding her back. That, coupled with a test result from her doctor stating that her cholesterol was in the high 200s, let her finally allow herself to commit to taking charge of her health. It was when she committed to her health instead of engaging in negative self talk that big changes started to happen. Now, she is losing weight and is almost unrecognizable in attitude and belief about what is possible for her!

That shows me that sticking to what you want (and leaning in the direction of what you want to achieve) can take on many forms (including self sabotage, a time-honored resistance technique that we all use), but if you continue every day to explore that which you desire, success is possible and inevitable. I am very proud of this client.

NVA: Congratulations to both of you! That's really inspiring. What are you planning these days? What are you most excited about?

RB-Z: Currently I'm enrolled in a fascinating Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition online course at eCornell with T.Colin Campbell, Professor at Cornell University and author of The China Study, and I'm taking a Raw Food Intensive program in New York City. I'm always excited about my ongoing workshops and cooking classes that I teach in the Princeton, NJ area. Onsen for All in Princeton is one of the many regular places where I give classes. My fall and winter schedule is being finalized this month, and will be available on my website,, as well as on Additionally, I look forward to continuing hosting speakers on the subjects of health and wellness; the fall/winter schedule will be announced soon.

NVA: Anything interesting we haven't talked about yet?

RB-Z: I would like to talk about this quote from T. Colin Campbell:

There are no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better obtained from plant-based foods. The levels and types of proteins and fats in plant based foods are more effective in creating health in humans than are the proteins and fats (saturated) in animal-based foods. While both types of foods contain nutrients, the way they affect the human body is different, and that is what can contribute to a healthy or unhealthy body.

To expand, fat, an essential ingredient to good health, is delivered as a saturated fat from animal-based foods. Saturated fats are well known to promote diseases—heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes, for starters. As we know, animal-based foods also contain protein, and while protein is another key ingredient needed for health, it turns out that the protein from animals has been scientifically shown to promote serious diseases, most notably heart disease and cancer. Also not needed are the amounts of protein that animal eaters are getting from their animal-based diets, which are surely contributing to many serious diseases.

Plant-based foods are the perfect foods. They contain, for the most part, small amounts of fat, ample lean protein, a symphony of energy-producing complex carbohydrates, and lots of water. When consumed through plants, these nutrients can dramatically improve one's health.

Cholesterol is something our body manufactures naturally; we don't want or need any additional cholesterol. However, that is exactly what you get in large amounts of from animal food. By contrast, plant food doesn't contain any cholesterol and tends to decrease cholesterol levels in the body. Animal protein affects higher cholesterol rates, more so than even saturated fats. The very important China Study showed that high levels of cholesterol in the blood were directly related to heart disease and cancer. It also showed that low levels of cholesterol—150 or lower—are obtained from plant-based diets and were associated with almost a total disappearance of heart disease.

NVA: What else do plant-based foods offer?

RB-Z: Plant food contains fiber, while animal food does not. Fiber is fundamental to good health. Fiber is not digested, but remains in the intestines and acts as a broom, binding and sweeping out toxins and carcinogens from our system. It creates a feeling of being full, which in turn supports weight loss because a full stomach often means the stopping of eating. Fiber also aids our absorption of helpful nutrients by slowing the process down.

One of them is glucose, whose job it is to maintain our blood sugar levels and gets a smooth ride in our bloodstream with the aid of fiber being present. Plant foods contain antioxidants naturally derived from the sun, which are so important in fighting cancers and free radicals that occur in our bodies and can do major damage to our health. There are no natural antioxidants in animals (except sometimes a few, because they have just eaten plant food before they were slaughtered). These are some of the reasons that plant food is superior to animal food.

Something else that is controversial to talk about is educating folks on the facts about animal agriculture, helping them to understand that animals are sentient creatures, just like humans, and that they feel and understand the horrible pain inflicted on them before and during their slaughter at the factory farms. Most of us are horrified if dogs or cats are harmed, but think nothing of cows, pigs, chickens, etc. that are slaughtered.

We can't be truly healthy if we are knowingly causing harm and pain on others. Whether we are doing the slaughter or buying the product, we are contributing to the slaughter of beautiful, loving, intelligent, living, creatures. This is something that is hard for most people to even allow themselves to hear, because it is so unjust and so sickening. But I believe that if we are truly talking about holistic health, this conversation, consciousness and commitment to protect animals—all animals —must be had.

NVA: Agreed. And I can't think of a way to state it more directly and clearly than you just have. Thank you. How can people learn more about nutritional health counseling?

RB-Z: Anyone interested in health coaching can go to my website,, or or contact me directly via e-mail with any questions at

NVA: Are there other ways people can learn more about you and your work?

RB-Z: There are lots of testimonials on my website. The website is also very helpful. My twitter account is @yourveganchoice, and I'm on Facebook under my name, and there are archives of my newspaper articles written for the Princeton Packet.

NVA: Any special upcoming events you'd like to mention?

RB-Z: Yes! Please check out Farm Sanctuary's Walk for Farm Animals.

NVA: I'm supporting that this year, too! Thank you, Rochelle. It's been a pleasure.

RB-Z: Thank you! All the best to you and your friends and family—may you enjoy a lovely, healthy, vibrant Autumn.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Join or support my 3-day walk for Farm Sanctuary!

This World Vegan Day, to celebrate vegans' hope for the day when all animals are free to lead lives without cruelty, confinement, or slaughter, I'm walking from Philadelphia's Liberty Bell to New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Exact route & final details TBD.
Will you join me for any part (or all) of this 3-day walk ending Tuesday, November 1st? Or support it by making a donation to meet Farm Sanctuary's critical mission of providing injured and abused farm animals a comfortable life?

To celebrate the ease of being vegan and the diverse options today's vegans enjoy, each evening, we'll share a nutritious, flavor-filled meal, either around a campfire (with vegan sausage, roasted potatoes, spicy vegetables, and rich, dairy-free desserts), or at a popular local eatery along the route that features innovative vegan cuisine.

We owe it to the animals, we owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our beautiful planet to stop buying, using, or consuming products derived from animals. Through this blog and other places, I'm learning that people from all backgrounds agree that going vegan is the best, simplest, most delicious, and most rewarding decision they've ever made.

Please visit my Personal Fundraising Page to make a secure online donation or let me know how you'd like to help or get involved!

October 18, 2011 UPDATE: With the walk starting next weekend, I've posted a new update with answers to some commonly-asked questions. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Vegan Credo

Please click here for a condensed, updated, and printable version of this credo.

A credo (Latin, "I believe") is a simple yet powerful statement of belief. It's everything in just a few words. Veganism is simple, too. Is our credo no meat? Is it do no harm? Or, does it go something like this?
I believe that all animals—wild animals, farm animals, and our beloved companion animals—feel pain, make decisions, and are inclined to protect themselves and their families from harm.
I believe that, as beings with a higher intelligence, it is humans' moral, social, and political responsibility to protect the health and well-being of all wild, farm, and companion animals, and not to use or consume anything derived from them for the sake of beauty, flavor, or convenience.
I believe that proposed legislation, laws, policies, procedures, and actions should uniformly and unfailingly address our responsibility to protect animals, ensuring they are never unnecessarily or knowingly confined, tortured, or killed.
I believe that a safe, well-protected, well-cared-for animal population improves and strengthens communities and the lives of the people who live there. 
I believe that an individual’s impact on the environment can be minimized by consuming and using plant-based food and products, and that a vegan diet frees up land to grow food for people that would otherwise be used to house animals and grow the food that is required to feed them.
An inspiring, more comprehensive, and much-better codified universal declaration has already been adopted by World Society for the Protection of Animals. How would you strengthen and further simplify this proposed five-paragraph Vegan Credo?

July 10, 2011 UPDATE: Thanks to those of you who have directly (and in other forums) shared thought-provoking, inspiring, challenging questions and feedback. As you've very helpfully pointed out, we must and will consider certain fundamental questions (and tweak some of its words for accuracy). To some people, there is only one credo, and it is it the Christian statement of beliefs. (This was drafted only to propose a clear statement of vegans' beliefs, and not to replace or update any other accepted credo.) Further, can any succinct statement fully and universally address the beliefs of all vegans? I agree with those of you who have pointed out that it can not. I'll await any other comments and questions that may trickle in, then propose an updated version in a month. Thanks again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Recipe: Philly Vegan Tofurky Hoagie

Yo! Philly sandwich fans!

Though you may hate our sports teams and fans, few people anywhere can turn down an authentic Philly sandwich. Known in other parts of the country as a sub, a well-built hoagie emerges from its wrapper full of flavor, texture, and memories. Vegans, thankfully, can enjoy a slightly-healthier take on the original: No animal products, of course, and crunchy, textured greens that present the flavor of the oil mixture in unusual ways with every bite.

In the early 1990s, I learned the art of sandwichmaking as an employee of Lee's Hoagie House, a venerable Philadelphia institution. Though my internship there was completed well before I became vegan, the preparation and wrapping skills I obtained will last a lifetime, and I'm happy to share them with my vegan friends!
  • Sea salt, pepper, and oregano (to taste) 
  • 1/2 tbsp. canola oil 
  • 1/2 tsp. organic apple cider vinegar 
  • 1/8 tsp. Spike gourmet natural seasoning 
  • 1 tbsp. organic Vegenaise® (optional) 
  • 1/4 of an organic yellow onion, sliced horizontally into about six 1/8-inch rings 
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized organic tomato, sliced horizontally into about six 1/8-inch slices (wide enough to hold water and not dissolve) 
  • 1/2 cup organic spring mix lettuce 
  • 10- or 12-inch roll (preferably Amoroso's). If seeded, ensure seeds not baked on using egg whites 
  • 10 to 12 slices of Tofurky® Hickory Smoked or Oven Roasted flavor 
  • 5 to 6 slices of favorite mild cheese-flavored squares (optional) 
  • 2 medium sheets thin wax paper (if not eating sandwich immediately) 
  • 2 regular sheets of sandwich paper (obtained at any deli) 
In small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, and Spike. Set aside.

 Slice (if necessary) and horizontally flatten out long roll so that two halves are still connected at the spine & bread is facing upward. If desired, spread thin layer of Vegenaise over entire surface of open roll. Place Tofurky slices across open face, laying each new new slice about a half inch from the last for maximum overlap. Repeat with cheese substitute, if desired.

Layer tomato slices across roll, and add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Layer on raw onion rings, and add oregano to taste. Add lettuce mixture to top of sandwich and drizzle oil mixture over top of lettuce, being careful not to oversoak.

Turn sandwich 90 degrees to be perpendicular to your body, with sandwich spine to the left. Use flat edge of large knife blade to tuck vegetables into roll, gently folding it over towards closure as you repeat (generally, 2 or 3 times does the trick). When ready to cut, hoagie should be about 4/5 closed and 1/5 open. Cut in half and serve with organic chips of your choice. (Lately, I've really been enjoying the Pico de Gallo flavor from Garden of Eatin®.)

Be careful to eat the sandwich over the paper or a plate AND away from your body. No matter how dry the veggies and how little the oil, drips will emerge from the other end of the sandwich each time you bite into it. It's something you'll learn to minimize and better manage in time, not unlike how New Yorkers manage to fold a pizza slice in half while also walking, sipping coffee, and texting. If not eating immediately, follow travel directions below.

Travel directions (up to 4 hours)

Turn sandwich away from you and place on horizontal piece of thin wax paper. Gather sandwich contents by pinching paper together at top.

Begin rolling outer wrap from below, gathering ends up as you pass the roll and finish.

Seal with small piece of masking tape. Separately package Vegenaise and oil mixture in tight containers.

Extended Travel Directions (4 to 12 hours) 

Place thin wax paper on bread before main assembly. Package for travel as shown above.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview: Fit For Life Author Harvey Diamond

In 1991, when I was still an acne-riddled teenage busboy smoking cigarettes out by the restaurant dumpster, one of the waiters recommended two books to me that changed my life.

Logical, straightforward, appealing to common sense, and also very humorous, Fit for Life (and its sequel, Living Health) proved to be much more than books that temporarily impressed me. Filled with transformational ideas, including information and insights about meat and dairy, they'd found my decision to become a vegetarian (and later, vegan).

The books' author, Harvey Diamond, was the first to point out to me that "getting up your strength" by consuming meat was a joke: The strongest animals only consume plants, and the teeth and digestive systems of true carnivores differ substantially from our own. He was also the first to point out that there's no difference between companion and farmed animals, and he introduced me to the "great protein debate": Not only are deficiencies nonexistent, animal protein is not necessary, or even very usable, as our bodies much more efficiently build the protein we need from sources like produce, beans, and nuts.

By the mid-1990s, I was regularly using products I'd only first heard of in Harvey's books: Spike seasoning, Tom's Toothpaste, and Ezekiel 4:9 bread, among others. By the early 2000s, I'd given up meat for good. Last year, when I finally gave up dairy, my extreme sensitivity to loud noises disappeared. I recently reached out to Harvey to thank him for his influence and impact, and was fortunate to spend some time talking to him, catching up on his work since the original books and reflecting on how, in just 25 short years, some of his "craziest" ideas then have now become mainstream.

Though he does consume animal products, and I’m a vegan who won’t knowingly consume or use them for any reason, my eyes may never have been opened to the ease and joy of a plant-based diet without Harvey's accessible, humorous, informative writing style.

New Vegan Age: I became a vegetarian not long after reading the original Fit For Life book. And becoming vegan grew out of that. So thank you!

HD: I wrote the book in such a way that the reader would see the virtue of at least decreasing the amount of animal products they took in, if not becoming a complete vegetarian. Because of that, because it was low-key, and didn’t make people wrong, and didn’t attack them, a lot more people just gravitated to it, simply because it’s the most intelligent way to go.

NVA: Many of the ideas about health you presented in the original Fit For Life books were new, novel, and unorthodox for many people. At that time, widespread use of Internet and the attending decentralization of information had yet to take root. How has the Internet improved people’s access to non-establishment information about diet and health?

HD: It’s almost impossible to describe the extent to which it has improved things. When I first wrote Fit For Life, for any little thing I needed to know, I had to get in the car and drive up to the UCLA medical library. Up and back, up and back. I spent hours and hours driving up and back for any little tiny thing. Now, the entire world is at your fingertips.

Of course, you do have to use discernment, because anyone has access to the Internet, and they can put anything they want. There tends to be this phenomenon, that someone goes and reads something somewhere online and takes it as gospel. You can’t just leave it up to everyone else. You have to have a little self-education, so that you can show a little discernment, and when you see things that violate your own common sense, you have the wherewithal and strength to make that decision, and utilize what appeals to you and you resonate with, and pass on the things that don’t. But as far as access? Wow.

NVA: So abundant alternative information about health on the Internet is generally positive. 

HD: It’s like anything else in the world. You can use or abuse anything. Sometimes people will say, ‘I don’t go out in the sun, because I don’t want to get cancer,’ and it almost makes me scream. The sun is the source of life of our planet. And water? Same thing. If you hold your head under water and don’t pull it up, you’re going to drown. Does that mean you shouldn’t go in water, and not drink water? No.

But it does mean you shouldn’t abuse it. And it’s the same thing with the sun. They keep discovering new things about the extent to which vitamin D benefits the body. The plain fact is, vitamin D is the result of going out in the sunshine. The sun will immediately interact with a substance underneath the skin called ergosterol, and it turns it right into vitamin D. A person can go out for an hour or so a week, and will have this vitamin that is immensely important for health and well-being.

NVA: It’s common sense, right? We’re human beings. We’re designed to be outside.

HD: That’s why I try to appeal to a person’s common sense, more often than anything else. Anybody can prove anything in a study. I give the example of something in The New England Journal of Medicine, where there were two conflicting studies in the same journal. Not only in the same journal on different dates; I mean in the exact same copy. One said that giving hormones to post-menopausal women would dramatically increase heart attacks. The other study said doing so would dramatically decrease them. Both studies were impeccably done, so just seeing a study doesn’t really mean anything. Someone with enough money and funding can prove anything.

NVA: You wrote the first Fit For Life in 1985, and the second one in 1987. Since that time, how has your practice of natural hygiene continued?

HD: The reason Fit for Life still remains pertinent today is because I made a point of writing the book in such a way where it utilized underlying principles that are true. And they’ll always be true. It doesn’t matter if the book was written 25 years ago or 125 years ago. There are certain basic fundamentals, certain truths, about the living body and how it functions physiologically and biologically that are true today. They were true then, and they’ll be true another 50 years from now.

I do exactly what I recommend my readers do: Use those principles to whatever degree is comfortable for your lifestyle. Yes, I do eat cooked food. Yes, I do eat animal products. But they play a lesser role in my diet. 75 to 80 percent of what I eat is raw food. The other 20 to 25 percent is cooked food of, basically, anything I want. Of course, I don’t eat trash; I try to eat pretty well. But whatever I want, I have. If I want to have a piece of pizza, I’ll have it. I certainly don’t do it often, but if I feel like it, I’ll have it.

So, I still utilize the principles. Like proper food combining. That’s the way the stomach works, and proper food combining works. I know it’s been slighted by some people who want to maintain the status quo, and they don’t want to find out that eating meat and potatoes together is not a good idea. However, if I feel like eating something that is not properly combined, I’ll still have it. If I feel like having lasagna, I’m going to do it. But I don’t do it often, I always take enzymes with it, I always make sure I have a salad with it, and I don’t do it the next day, or the day after that.

So I’m still using the principles, but I use them according to how my lifestyle works best. Which is exactly what I recommend what anyone who reads Fit For Life does. You use it the best you can, you understand the principles, you know what they are, you use them as often as you can, and that’s it. 

NVA: Some things you wrote about and recommended seemed so exotic then—sea salt, pomegranate, avocado, couscous, and kale come to mind—which now, 25 years after publication, are everywhere. Similarly, concepts you advocated for like organic produce, juicing, detoxification, and the obsolescence of the "four basic food groups" have come to be commonly-accepted tenets.

HD: There’s lots of information in there that was badmouthed at the time. And now it’s almost like common knowledge. Detoxification was one of the underlying principles of Fit For Life. When I was first saying that, people ridiculed the word, said that was ridiculous. Now, there are detoxification centers all over the place. I used to talk abut the extent to which people could ameliorate difficulties with cancer. One time, I was on the Larry King show, and some medical doctor called up, and said that CNN was being irresponsible to have someone on who wasn’t even a medical doctor giving the impression that diet had anything to do with cancer, when it was an established fact that diet had "nothing" to do with cancer.

Now, today, that same medical profession acknowledges that at least 35 percent of cancer can be directly linked to diet. And, in three of the most common cancers - breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer - they attribute 80 to 85 percent to diet.

NVA: Validation?

HD: Absolute validation! At the time, there I was live on TV, and this crazy person, this doctor, this arrogant person who had his credentials on the wall, I’m sure, was trying to badmouth me, saying that I was a fool and that CNN was irresponsible for even suggesting that diet had anything to do with cancer. And today, that person is the one who looks like the fool.

It’s the same thing with breastfeeding. Back then, doctors were convincing mothers to get shots to dry up their breast milk, because it was so inconvenient, and convincing them that they should instead use “formula”. I can’t even say that word without the hair standing up on the back of my neck. How could anyone give something like that to an infant? And now, of course, breastfeeding is recommended almost across the board.

And it’s the same with sleep. Back then, people were trying to figure out how they could get the least amount of sleep. One of the things the body absolutely has to have to survive is sleep. And now you can read articles all about that.

NVA: My mom and I still laugh about your quote, “Napping is an intelligent and productive use of time.” We always say that to each other when one is heading down for a nap. Your sense of humor opened a lot of doors for me and others.

HD: I’ve told people in the past, if I wasn’t writing health books, I’d be Jerry Seinfeld. I’ve always been a fan of comedy. I love comedy. If I go watch TV, I’m looking around for what’s going to be funny. I enjoy humor, and I enjoy reading books that have humor interspersed into them, so I always make sure that I put a little bit of that into my books.

NVA: Someone once said that laughter fills the gap of our discomfort. One of the points you made, when writing about why it’s not natural or necessary to consume animal products, shocked me into understanding that there’s really no difference between the “companion” animals we love and the “farm” animals we eat. You wrote, “Ever eat a dead dog? How about a dead puppy? (They’re a lot more tender.)” Though probably a joke, that resonated so deeply that it’s part of the reason I became a vegan.

HD: Humor can be a good teacher! Now, I’m often quoted by vegans and vegetarians for saying, “Put a rabbit and an apple in a crib with a baby. If the baby eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car.” That’s just common sense! You don’t need any studies to prove that.

NVA: Making the case against dairy products, you wrote that we just don’t see people crawling through a pasture and suckling at a cow’s udder. I recently saw that depicted in a cartoon! People have seized on the absurdity of that image. And yet, they continue to consume dairy products. And there’s no difference.

HD: I did that on the Oprah Winfrey show one time. There was a dietician talking about that. I actually went and got down on my hands and knees, and made it look like I was suckling from a cow. The audience roared. I said, “The only reason you’re laughing is to buffer the fact that you know that what I’m saying is true. You would not go out there into the pasture, and get cow doo-doo all over your nice shoes, and get down and suckle off the cow. What you’re going to do is, you’re going to let somebody go out there and get their shoes dirty, and hand it to you in a glass. You’re still suckling off that cow!

NVA: What's ahead for you?

HD: I’m working on a project, but it’s not something that I am able to speak about, because it’s not official yet. I do have my latest book, Living Without Pain, which is really helping a lot of people. I’m really proud of that one. You know, pain is the number one health complaint in the United States. More money is spent on pain than on any other health problem. Nothing else even comes close. People think it’s a part of getting old, and it’s absolutely not true. And I’m proof of that.

When I was 21 years old, I was in the military and I was sent to Vietnam. And I was exposed to Agent Orange, and I have a devastating physical disability because of it. I cannot lift a glass of water to my mouth; I can’t pick up a fork to eat. I don’t have the use of my arms and hands, except very, very, minimally. I can only use my arms and hands to a very slight degree, and I limp pretty significantly in my right leg.

But I’m in the record books at the VA hospital, because other people who have been exposed to the degree I was are dead. They’re dead or in a wheelchair. They don’t know how on earth I’m still able to walk around on my own. I keep telling them, you don’t know? Read my book.

The reason I’m so enthusiastic and excited about the information that I write about is that, had it not been for that information, I wouldn’t be here. You’d be talking about me in the past tense. I used to be a member of the Agent Orange support group in Los Angeles. Every single one of them is dead. I’m the only one left alive. The irony is not lost on me, believe me. I’ve helped millions of people all over the world experience a greater level of health and well-being, and I am essentially crippled - from a toxin that is considered to be the most toxic, human-made toxin in existence.

So life for me right now is a huge challenge. Little tiny things you’d never even give another thought to, for me, it’s a big deal. I mean, for me, just to dress and feed myself each day is a major accomplishment. Little things like putting a letter in an envelope, and putting a stamp on it? For me, that’s a huge production.

NVA: So sorry to hear it. I had no idea.

HD: Well, how would you? I finally wrote about it in some of my books because I don’t travel any more. There are only certain things I can do with my body, and other things I can’t. So I wrote about it in the last few books that I’ve written, so that people would know.

If you just look at me, just see me sitting somewhere, you’d never know that I have a problem. But then you’d see that I can’t use my arms to do what I want to do.

NVA: You’ve helped so many people, and now you're struggling in some very fundamental ways.

HD: I think the fact that I have such a devastating challenge to deal with helps me grasp what other people are going through, and have more of a desire to help them if I can. And if you read any spiritually-oriented books, whether it’s the Bible, or the Bhagavad Gita, or the Koran, or the Torah, or Zen Buddhism, they all say the same thing: In order to get closer to God, you have to perform service. You have to do for others, and that’s how you do it. And that is the noble pathway to God, to perform service for others less fortunate than yourself. And for me, that is my creed. I need to do things for other people.

NVA: And you are. And you have been, it seems, your entire life. Whether it’s military service, writing, educating: Even now, when it’s such a challenge, you’re helping people. I’m moved! Thank you.

HD: That’s okay! Thank you. I appreciate it!

NVA: Is there anything we haven’t talked about or touched on?

HD: Well, we didn’t get into the lymph system, which is the reason I’m still alive. It’s the body’s garbage collector. You have to detoxify, and the mechanism in the living body that does this is the lymph system. When people talk about the immune system, they’re talking about the lymph system. It’s the heart and soul of the immune system. So if there’s a way you can accelerate the effectiveness of your lymph system, you’re going to experience a higher level of health.

That’s what i did. And that’s something that everybody and anyone, anywhere, interested in their health and well-being, simply has to have an understanding about. I go into great detail about the lymph system in both Living Without Pain and Fit For Life: A New Beginning. It’s what saved my life; it’s the only reason why we’re talking right now.

NVA: Are there any specific projects, websites, or upcoming events you'd like to mention?

HD: Well, people can go to my website,, or they can go visit me on There’s information there about the books, and about the lymph system, and there are some very short videos with me talking about different aspects of things.

NVA: We look forward to checking it out! Thanks again for talking today. All the best to you!

HD: Thank you! The same to you.

Note: Though no longer married to Harvey, Marilyn Diamond, who worked closely with him and co-authored the original Fit For Life books, is also still doing amazing things to inspire and educate others about health and wellness. Check out her website for more information.