long have you been a vegetarian, near-vegan?"
PP: "I started moving in this direction about 10
years ago. I stopped eating beef, chicken and dairy products,
eggs... all that kind of stuff, about 8 years ago."
MS: "Was there a particular event that prompted this
change for you?
PP: "I was very lucky in that my terrible eating habits,
and they were terrible until 10 years ago, had not resulted
in either weight gain or a bad illness. Now I know now
that had I continued doing what I was doing, I was on my
way to having cancer or heart disease.
What basically happened was that I was motivated by articles
I was reading that indicated my diet was 'deadly.' And
I kind of knew that anyway. I knew I wasn't doing very
well. I was really motivated because I had two kids, and
I knew they were eating like I was eating, and that wasn't
very good. So this started as kind of informal personal
research. Let's clean up my own diet, fix my kid's diet.
I got so interested in this, once I saw the difference
in me, my energy levels, my appearance, and everything
changed. I just couldn't understand why everyone didn't
know about this.
I can't say that I had some awful illness that prompted
me to do all this... it became common sense to me that
I should change my ways."[go to top]
CHILDREN & DIET
MS: "How have your children taken
to your ideas?"
PP: "Well, it's been interesting. My oldest, who's
twenty-five, really like the vegetarian food from the get-go.
I put tofu in front of her, she'd eat it. Sunflower seeds
on a salad, great. No problems from her.
The youngest one was far more resistant, she was much more
of a garbage-eater than her sister. When Jenny, my oldest,
left home, she went back to eating terrible foods. She
gained a lot of weight. One day (you have to wait and be
quiet) she came to me and she said "the best she ever
felt in her life was when she was at home eating good vegetarian
food, and I want to get back on track," which I helped
her do. Now she's just become a vegan. In fact, she's getting
married, and one of the wedding requests is for a vegan
cake. She's really latched onto this now, and it's a very
important part of her life.
Now my youngest one we're still working on. She's in college
and having trouble adapting her lifestyle. I think the
same thing will happen to her that happened to her sister.
One day she'll kind of come to her senses and know she
needs this. She has the foundation."
MS: "So, you're more of the type of person who encourages,
rather than proselytise?"
PP: "Well, with my kids, when they lived in my house,
they ate what's in front of them!"
MS: [laughs] "So there's no menu checklist?"
PP: "I talk to parents all the time about this, that
when your kids complain or 'moan and groan' that they can't
order in a pizza, you look at them and say "I'm sorry,
but we don't do that here any more."
The other side of it that when dealing with it from a business
perspective, or when I'm dealing with friends that have
terrible habits, I have to wait for opportunities. I have
to make sure that I don't wear out my welcome, or people
won't want me around, because that's really counter-productive
to trying to be useful."
MS: "Howard's notorious for saying that you have a
30-second window of opportunity in getting your message
through to people."
PP: "The other thing that you can do, and I do this
all the time, I practice what I call "Healthside Deception." I'll
have friends over that are not on the same page with me
on "health," and serve them a fruitcake I made
with tofu. They scarf it down: "oh, it's delicious...
you were always a great cook." Then you don't tell
them until they're done that it has tofu in it. Their jaws
I like to entice people into getting interested in healthy
foods, because it really is tasty."[go
you academic background?"
PP: "I have Bachleor's, Master, and Phd in Nutrition,
and a Phd in Naturopathy."
MS: "Did the degrees come from your dietary change,
or did they influence your change?"
PP: "It was both. I went back to school. I didn't
know I would end up in this profession.
Did you ever just sort of follow your gut? It was just
the right thing to do. I was about three years into how
to change my diet, I was feeling great, and just couldn't
get enough information. I was buying six books week and
reading them over the weekend. So I finally decided to
well, you might as well go to school and get some real
formal education, the anatomy, the physiology, the biology,
and all the other stuff that goes along withit. I just
stopped everything and went to school, not thinking about
what I was going to do, but knowing that I wanted to
know this information.
Once I got a couple of initials after my name, an interesting
thing started happening, and that was people started
asking me questions. They knew I was at school and they
see the change in me. It was dramatic. My skin color
changed. I went from never leaving the house without
to I wear no makeup on my face. People were astounded."
MS: "I don't either, by the way." [laughs]
PP: "I'm glad to hear that. [laughs] So, I mean, people
would look at me and go "omigosh, what happened to
you?" Between getting some information and the changes
in me, people were surprised. The more I learned, the
more convicted I became about my own personal choices
of my habits, the more results I got, the more I wanted
to pursue the education."[go to top]
MS: "Is a personal with a Phd in Nutrition considered
more or less qualified than a Registered Dietician?"
PP: "Depends upon where you live. Depends on who
you're talking to.
I think one of the problems that we have, in terms
of education pertaining to nutrition, is that we don't
that "dietetics" is one form of the study of
nutrition. A lot of people don't agree with it, and
I'm one of them.
So, there are all kinds of educational pathways that
utlize different philosophies.
In some states, for example Michigan, dieticians practice "dietetics" and
people like me practice nutrition with a totally different
philosophy. They don't get too involved in it, and
there doesn't seem to be as much of this kind of acrimony
and forth' about who's right and wrong.
Where I live in Ohio, we have some terrible laws here
that enable this to go on. The practice of 'dietetics'
to be the only true form of nutrition."
MS: "That's fascinating, as I've always thought
that 'dietetics' and 'nutritionist' to be somewhat
PP: "They should be. The problem with the practice
and study of Dietetics, in my opinnion, is that it's
based on very old information. They do not recognize
a lot of
the science we now have. The agency or organization
that certifies dieticians and controls the curriculum
the schools that they attend is the American Dietetic
a very industry-friendly group. They take between $750
and $1000 million dollars a year from agricultural
organizations and corporations that manufacture food
and food additives,
in return for the opinons about subjects. You can't
take $50,000 a year from the sugar association and
things about sugar."[go to top]
THE WELLNESS FORUM/FOUNDATION
MS: "When/how/why the Wellness Forum?"
PP: "I'd love to be able to tell you that I got
together with my closest advisors and hatched this
But that's not how it happened! As I mentioned, I started
learning all this stuff in school, changed my habits,
and my appearance and demeanor changed. I noticed one
hey.... I was always hanging over the kitchen counter
with someone telling them how to make something with
or teaching them how to bake without oil, or talking
to them about how to relieve arthritis pain by getting
of so many animal protein in their diet, etc. Maybe what
I ought to do, since like everyone has the same bad habits
and the changes they need to make are the same, so we
need to have classes!
So I organized a little class. On Monday night everybody's
going to come over, and I going to make it organized.
I had some notes and everything. This goes on, and
teaching a group of people, and those people start
bring their friends, and they start bringing their
and soon my house has been taken over by this. So I
I've need to get a center. I've got to get this out
of the house."
I went a rented a center. And I'll tell you how much
I didn't really think of this as a business in the
beginning. I was there for three months, doing my thing,
I was driving home and I though, "y'know, you're paying
rent... you're going to have to start charging people." It
wasn't hard, it's just indicate of how I kind of backdoored
my way into this thing."
MS: "So there was no business plan?"
PP: "I started charging people money. At that point
in time, it was self-sufficient financially, and I thinking "boy,
I've found out what I want to do when I grow up."
MS: "How long ago was this?"
PP: "This was in '97 when I opened the Center."
MS: "So you had your Phd then?"
PP: "I was in school then, still doing my school thing.
So, I could do this in Columbus and be a happy girl for
the rest of my life. A couple of my friends of mine in
other cities, who knew what I was doing, and suggested
that maybe they'd like to open one of these things, too.
I remember having conversations with them saying "I
don't know what I'm doing here, let alone teaching someone
how to do it someplace else." But I felt like we were
good enough friends, that we could try this, and if it
worked out, fine. We opened a couple of centers. "Okay," I
thought, "chain sounds good. Alright, now we'll
have a chain."
MS: "Would you actually call it a chain or franchise?"
PP: "It's a license. We license people to use
our materials. They go through a very specific and
training program. It takes an average of about nine
months (and can be done faster), and they can open
Forum Center, and offer our program and classes. We
teach them how to market themselves and how to be profitable,
because if you're not profitable, you can't stay in
So that's where the business came from, it just kind
of grew."[go to top]
THE FOUNDATION & SCHOOLS
MS: "You have a licensing program and a Foundation...
I'm not quite clear on the distinctions."
PP: "The Wellness Forum is a for-profit business.
And that's where we teach this classes in Columbus,
and we do programs and corporations, have licensees,
programs in other cities. We started the Foundation
about four years
ago, because I became convinced that one of the significant
issues that we're facing in this country is our children
and their eating habits, and the health problems
that are associated with their eating habits. We
those kids at an early age and turn around their
thinking around about this. I think the way to to
this is through
So, we started the Foundation, because if we go in
and we sell our services to the schools (the schools
no money for this), so we need to give our services
school. So we got our programming qualified for "teacher's
CE" (continuing education), so that teachers
can come and learn this information and get continuing
education units for doing it. And then we make grants
that they have samples and starting kits... the things
you that you need to get children interested in healthy
It's self-perpetuating. Once we teach a teacher, they
teach this year's class, and next year's class, and next
class. So we can get to a lot of children this way.
MS: "That's extraordinary! School nutrition
has become high on the national radar recently."
PP: "It's incredible what we're doing. And we
send such a wrong message to these kids, in terms
nutrition is all about, when they see the high-fat
garbage in the
cafeteria, and the soda machines in the hall.
I tell people all the time, you know, the biggest
threat to our national security, is not Osama Bin
the Iraqis, it's the fact we are rearing a generation
children that are so unhealthy."
MS: "I think it was Dr. Neal Barnard and PCRM that
recently labelled current school lunches "Weapons
of Mass Destruction."
PP: "He was here a few days ago. We had over
550 people in attendence for him! I think it's a
though. I'm moving closer to them all the time. I
don't care who I make angry when I say things like
more. I think we need to make more people angry."[go
MS: "Tell me about the diet you're teaching.
I've read some of your materials and was really
PP: "Essentially the diet that we're teaching
people to adopt in general, is plant-based. We
that everyone needs to be a vegetarian. But a 90%
plant-based diet reduced down to about 10%.
To put that in perspective, we're talking about 21 major
meals in a week, a couple of them involving animal
foods. The rest of the time you're eating rice, beans,
and vegetarian foods. Paying attention to the quality
of that animal food. Getting away from the stuff
full of antibiotics,
steroids, and hormones. Getting off the dairy.
I think dairy is the worst thing you can put into your
every day. So we do stress that everybody eliminate
that. Getting away from this dependence upon packaged food,
and learning how to be a savvy label reader,
if you are
going to eat packaged food, know what's inside."
MS: "I was stunned about your information
about reading labels, shopping lists, goals...
wrote about chlorinated
water and cancer."
PP: "...and getting people hydrated. Getting
them to drink enough water. Eating enough raw foods.
most people live on dead food. It's been cooked
to death. Even if they're eating the right food,
it all cooked."
MS: "There are a lot of vegans and vegetarians
who eat, in my opinion, eat too much processed
PP: "Oh yes, there's a lot of vegan cookies
out there. But you can't live on the, well... you
but you won't
be healthy! It's very important that whatever adaptation
of this program, whether they become vegetarian
or vegan, is that they learn how to practice 'qualitative
quantitative' nutrition, in other words, pay attention
to what you're putting into your mouth. Stop practicing
'diet by exclusion,' which a lot of vegetarians
I've given up meat, I still eat junk all day, but
MS: "I've been reading material by Jameth
Sheridan on the web recently, and he made the observation
that a lot of vegans and vegetarians define their
they don't eat, rather than what they eat."
PP: "Exactly. That's the way a lot of people
define themselves and the way they chose food.
this because it's fat-free, I'm eating this because
salt... it doesn't have anything that will benefit
me, but it doesn't have those things in it. That's
mean by 'qualitative nutrition,' let's take a look
at what you're
putting in your mouth that doesn't have any nutritive
MS: "Do you advocate a particular percentage
of raw foods?"
PP: "I think about 70% of the plant food you eat.
So many people go "oh my god," but it's
so easy to do. You do two things and you've got
snacks become raw food, and your salads become
the biggest part of the meal for lunch and dinner.
you do that,
you're at 70% easily."
MS: "One of the things that intrigued me about
your program, is that you cover all aspects of
PP: "And we're doing it in a very user-friendly way.
Somebody was asked, in a newspaper article about us, why
do you think the Wellness Forum has become so successful?
Her answer was great. She said, "because they know
how to meet the public where they are, and help them start
moving in the direction of better health." And that's
very important. This all has to be very user-friendly.
People have to come to class and say: "I can
MS: "The program materials are upbeat, great
illustration, very optimistic presentation of information
lectures.. I was impressed... Who are you trying
to reach? I mean,
obviously children, but who else?"
PP: "Here's the message I want to get out
to everybody. It is YOUR responsibility to take
Not the insurance company's responsibility, the
responsibility, federal government... it's your's.
That message needs to go everybody for two reasons:
is one. We can't afford to keep doing what we're
The other thing is: quality of life. We had a dinner
at our Center last night, with 27 or 28 people and almost
all of them had serious health issues that compromised
the quality of their life. We want to get to everybody,
and what I particularly love is when we can get somebody
who isn't sick yet, and keep them from becoming sick
we change their lifestyle first.
Everybody needs to hear this message. We're at
a point in time where, for health and financial
needs to do something about it."[go
MS: "The Wellness Forum in China, now there's
a concept...how'd it happen? (Dr.
T. Colin Campbell not withstanding!)"
PP: "How that happened was interesting.
The first person to open a Wellness Forum outside
was a Chinese-American friend of mine. When she
Center, she went home to visit her family, and
they were so excited about what she was doing
the major cities in Asia, health is starting
in decline because people are adopting these
habits of ours), and so it was suggested to her
that she maybe
she should think about opening one in Bejiing.
I was pretty astounded about that, I mean, I didn't know
what I was doing in Columbus and now I'm going to Bejiing.
MS: "So you hadn't heard of the "China Study" before
PP: "By that time I'd read the 'China Study.'
She facilitated that, and the Chinese, in addition
with health issues where we could be very helpful,
are very interested in education, so that's been
venture for us.
The question I've been asked a lot is "do we intend
to go into lots of other countries?" Yes,
we do, but we have to be careful that we don't
thin. Anyplace there are people who are sick
and overweight, is someplace we'll eventually
visit."[go to top]
DR. POPPER VS OHIO BOARD OF DIETETICS
MS: "I'm looking a document that's called the "Testimony
of Pamela A. Popper, to the Ohio State Commerce and Labor
Committee" entitled, "The Ohio Board of Dietetics
HAS Used Heavy-Handed Tactics In its Investigations." HOW
did you get involved in this one?"
PP: "Well, this is a long story. The short
version is that essentially when I started teaching
how to eat healthier in Columbus, Ohio, it never
ocurred to me that it might be against the law.
So I'm happily
my thing, and one day I got a call from an investigator
from the Board [Ohio
Board of Dietetics] who
know what we are up to. I got checked out a little
bit, and left alone. I didn't think much of it
at the time.
About a year later, the State Investigator called
again. She came out to see me and informed me
you are a registered and licensed dietician,
in the State
of Ohio, you can't talk about food. Some of the
said to me almost had me laughing out loud. One
of them was that if I showed the movie "Diet
for a New America" [John
Robbins], that could be construed as the practice
of Dietetics because somebody might change their
a result of seeing that movie."
MS: [laughs] "...and you're still showing
that movie, aren't you?"
PP: "Oh, we still are. We're terrible lawbreakers.
So I'll try to summarize what happened.
I'm a person who, number one, understands my
rights, and number two, I have a big mouth. So
I was told
that I wasn't
allowed to do these things any more, teach workshops
and these sort of things. So I said, "well, I'm going
to continue to do it, and we're going to have to agree
to disagree." And this started a battle
that went a long time and cost a fortune to keep
As a result of this, at one time, they were going to
put me in jail for failing to comply with a supeona.
My parents were great. They were going to take
over the company, and make sure that my kids
school. We were preparing."
MS: "Mom's a jailbird..."
PP: "The only thing we were worried about
was how I was going to get fed behind bars...
food. Balony sandwhiches are not on my diet.
The good thing that came out of it, and there's
always something good that comes out everything,
some state legislators saw what happened and
by it and they introduced legislation....."
MS: "... basically you were harassed...
I mean the testimony is such a clear record of
PP: "...but here's what really interesting.
I wasn't the only one. Once these legislators
on getting this whole situation changed here.
that the Ohio Board of Dietetics had taken action
against more people than all other states combined."
average of 142 per year from 1996 to 2001,
with Florida being second at 19 per year."
PP: "So they went after 795 people in one six-year
period of time with 287 disciplinary actions, one of which
was the sent me a "cease and desist" order that
I couldn't put "Phd" after my name
even though I have two of them. You want to know
I found out
yesterday? The Ohio Board of Dietetics does not
have the statutory
authority to issue a 'cease and desist' order."
MS: "But they did?"
PP: "But they did..."
MS: "Are you counter-sueing? You spent some
$50k in defending your rights?"
PP: "We're going to win this battle by getting
the law changed."
MS: "That's your primary motivation. To
change the law to do what?"
PP: "So that people in the State of Ohio
have access to more than one philosophy about
As I mentioned
during this interview, the problem with dietitians,
in my opinion, is that they have one philosophy
people don't agree with, this is one philosophy
Dietetic Association, which supervises and
has some say in the certification of dieticians, takes
enormous amounts of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars
a year, from industry and agricultural organnizations,
so that many of their opinions are essentially paid for
Now I don't resent the fact that they have a
trade group, and fund themselves this way, but
do resent, and
what I do think is inappropriate, is that they
have a monopoly on the dispensing of nutrition
It's a disservice.
Forget about the issues that affect me, it's
a terrible disservice to the close to 12 million
live in this State."
MS: "What if some of your licensed people
in other States had some problems. Would you
PP: "We're the worst in the country. The
closest we every came to having this issue in
Texas Legislature passed a law back when George
W. was governor, that would have essentially
Texas like it is in Ohio, and we were involved
in a massive campaign
to educate the then Gov. Bush, and he vetoed
This doesn't go on anyplace else, this amount
of harassement. I should say it doesn't go on
in Ohio. I've
been going to their meetings and I've heard them
their investigory activity has been reduced 75%."
MS: "Oh, I'm sure they love to see you in
PP: "Yes, and I bring friends."
MS: "Maybe you should bring some vegan cookies."
PP: "Well, they could use them. I do bring
things because what they bring are diet sodas
MS: "One of things that struck me is the
similiarity to what the AMA did to Gerson back
in the '30s,
where his research was basically locked up and
he was kicked
of the country because he dare suggest that
diet has an influence on lung cancer."
PP: "God forbid." [go