Mad Cowboy Interview 02: Dr. Pam Popper
(Part 02 of 02)

[Part 01] [Part 02]

MS: "I take it the ADA is not unlike the AMA in how they approach differences of opinion?"

PP: "Well, the ADA has done some similar things. A lot of people know about [Dr.] Shari Lieberman, who used to be a Registered Dietician. She published a bunch of articles about 'essential fatty acids' and talking about 'stop eating dairy products,' and I'm not sure of the content of all the articles, but the ADA revoked her RD status. She turned around and sued them, it was settld out-of-court. The settlement is sealed, but it's my understanding that she got several million dollar from the ADA before it went to trial.

So this is a organization very intent of maintaining its stamp on certain issues, and I of course I come back to this issue if you're taking all this money from industry, you just can't have your membership out there saying things against the party line."

MS: "So, you decided to stick your neck out because you thinks it's critical that people are aware of this and be allowed to hear alternatives?"

PP: "Absolutely critical. That's why if they actually hauled me out of the court room in handcuffs, I was willing to do it. I have to thank my family for being supportive of me. My parents said you should go.

MS: "Did you have any doubts that you'd win?"

PP: "I have had no doubts from the beginning that I would win, the only question would be 'how long it would take' and 'what would be put into it.'
One thing that I have found, and I'm really encouraged about, is that the legislature in Ohio is very concerned about this issue and a lot of legislators have spend an enormous amount of time on this. I've very optimistic about the outcome.

I'm one of those people who thinks that it all comes out okay. It always does. People say to me: "do you really believe that?" I really do.

MS: "Sounds like that director in the movie "Shakesphere in Love", where he says, "it always works out."

PP: "I'm one of the happy kind of people. Everything that's always happened to me has always worked out for the best, and comes out okay in the end."[go to top]


MS: "Let's change gears a little bit..... you're a marathon runner? How did this happen?"

PP: "I used be a ballet dancer when I was younger. And so I was in great shape then. For a combination of all of my terrible habits, which included not being a very good regular exerciser, I became sedentary cookie-eater and coffee-drinker.

So I started doing some exercises when I started changing my habits, but I wasn't doing really anything impressive. A bunch of people that I knew where running the New York City Marathon every year. A good friend of mine suggested that maybe I might like marathon running, and I wasn't too terribly excited about it, and one of them said: "well, maybe you can't do it."

MS: [laughs] "Oh no... the wrong thing to say to you...."

PP: [laughs] "I'd never run to the mailbox before. I ended up agreeing with this thing, and then wondering: "what have I gotten myself into?"

So, for the couple of months that I was running, I was just doing it because I committed to doing this thing, it's like if I have to crawl through the streets of New York, I'm going to finish.

Then I fell in love with it, and I LOVE running. It's been a couple of years since I've done a marathon, because of I've been very busy with this legislative thing, but I still run almost every day for fitness. My ideal run is an hour. It's the perfect amount of time, as it completely de-stresses me, get my mind of everything."

MS: "So that's how you burnout and relax, basically you run."

PP: "That, and yoga. I do "Bikram" Yoga. And I workout with trainers and do weight-training a couple of times a week. So exercise has become an real important part of my life; I do something aggressively physical every day."

MS: "What do you generally enjoy for breakfast?"

PP: "I make a smoothie! In fact, Howard had it when he was here. It has soy powder in it, and sea vegetables, and green tea leaves, and ground up flax seeds, brewer's yeast, and bananas, and frozen berries, and soy milk. I make it in a blender and it has 500 calories, about 24 ounces. I make it for breakfast in the morning and it's very powerful food."

MS: "What do you usually have for lunch?"

PP: "I have a great big salad, and like today, I had some tofu chili that had chickpeas and vegetables in it. I love big salads, and for dinner, same thing, big salad and a side dish, like a vegan quiche or soups, or rice and beans with some really good salsa on top. Powerful food."

MS: "I'm almost afraid to ask what your favorite food endulgence is...."

PP: "I still like chocolate, so I'll only do a vegan chocolate. I don't eat that other stuff any more. In fact, I know how to make a really good candy for Easter or Christmas, with vegan chocolate. The other thing that I like, once and awhile, is coconut macaroons. I have a vegan recipe for them and it's in my cookbook."[go to top]


MS: "How did you meet or know of Howard?"

PP: "I started about a year and a half ago doing a public series of lectures, where we bring in somebody significant on a national scale. We had Dr. McDougall come.... and Howard was one of the people we wanted to come and speak. Oh, I read his book. Because I follow all the stuff going on legally in the food and nutrition areas, he had been my hero for a long time.

So, that's how I knew about him... I thought: "I've got to get this guy to come to Columbus." When he was here, we had 250 people in that room, and he talked for a few hours, and not one person moved. I mean, we're talking nobody moved --- they were incredibly entranced with what he had to say."

MS: "Do you have a short list of people who have most inspired you in your life, your work, and what you do?"

PP: ".... Howard's one. Dr. McDougall... in fact the very first cookbook I bought was by Dr. McDougall. And I liked it, so I started buying his books. And again, that's when I was saying to myself every day: "why doesn't everybody know this stuff?"

Dr. McDougall... Dean Ornish, has been an incredible influence... Dr. Russell Blaylock, he's they guy that wrote: "Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills"... Joel Fuehrman, and all of the people associated with the National Health Association (it used to be the Natural Hygiene Society, Sheldon's organization), the Marilyn and Harvey Diamond and their book ["Fit for Life"]... they're a lot of people who've influenced me. Neal Barnard, and all the work that PCRM has done. I've always been an avid reader, and reading is what kind of started this thing.

John Robbins, definitely, "Diet for a New America," Dr. T. Colin Campbell and everything he wrote, Michael Klapper."

MS: "You've sure covered all the bases."

PP: "Oh yes, these are people I read early on. Every day I'd read one of the books and go: "Omigosh, everyone should know this!"

MS: "You've met most of these people?"

PP: "I've met a lot of them, but I haven't had the pleasure of meeting all of them. Eventually I will, because I'll have them come here and talk! That's one good way to meet them..."

MS: "I there something common or similiar to those luminaries you've met... some recurring theme to how they operate?"

PP: "They're incredibly courageous, because they're all going 'against the grain.' And I respect that a lot. I think the second thing is, that they are all focussed, and absolutely dedicated to improving the health of every individual they come in contact with, and the public health overall. I love people with a mission statement, because that's what I identify with.

I think that they have a keen ability to decypher the difference between an advertising message and a scientific study, which not many people these days have the ability to do."[go to top]


MS: "If you were able to pick, oh, let's say five, dinner guests from the past, present, and future, who'd you have over for a meal?"

PP: "Omigosh, that would be so hard. I think the five people that would be fun to have dinner with, would be Dean Ornish, John McDougall, Howard, Neal Barnard, John Robbins... because collectively I think we'd change the world."

MS: "I don't want to be morbid, but can you think of anyone from history?"

PP: "Benjamin Rush. Do you know who he is?"

MS: "No..."

PP: "Dr. Benjamin Rush was one of the framers of the Constitution. He wanted to put "Health Freedom" into the Bill of Rights. So I'd love to have Benjamin Rush come and attend the Commerce and Labor Hearings on the Dietetics Issues here in Ohio."

MS: [laughs] "You might have to help him in, y'know."

PP: [laughs] "He's the person from history to have around and comment. What a prophetic thing back then! He actually said we need to write this into the Constitution like we have "religious liberty," because if we don't, we're going to have a small group of people who get command and control of industry, and that's going to be a bad thing for the country."[go to top]


MS: "Okay, what if I give you a million dollars with no strings attached?"

PP: "I'd put it into my foundation. We'd be in every school system in the country tomorrow morning."

MS: "Are you finding schools more receptive now?

PP: "No... you have to do what I call "guerilla warfare." When people call me up and ask what do they do, I tell them "guerilla warfare." First thing you do is get one teacher who's your ally, who believes in what you're doing, and gets knowledgable about it, and starts using the material in his or her classroom. Then that teacher helps get other teachers. And you reach a point where you've got 50 or 60 teachers in the school system that have an understanding of this and you can start working on school system-wide cafeteria offerings and so on.

First of all, you've this whole issue of who's planning the menu, and what's sound nutrition and what's not.

I was at one meeting where a dietician suggested that one of the things we could do to improve the health of school children is give 'em ice cream with "Splenda."

MS: "What's "Splenda?"

PP: "Artificial sweetner. Of course, I'm sure that the makers of Splenda have contributed handsomely to the ADA [American Dietetic Association]

MS: "Yeah, it's the equivalent of pouring rights, I'd imagine."

PP: "Right. So I think it's going to be awhile, and you have the problem in terms of "who's the expert?" And then you also have some issues as to the financial aspect of this."

MS: "Follow the money."

PP: "The schools are very addicted to the money the pop machines bring. And the other thing is that when the Feds cut back the funding for school lunches several years ago, what the school system told the food service people to do was to devise a way to make the operation profitable. How they did that was "a la carte" items that the kids were willing to spend money on, that didn't have to comply with any Federal Regulations. That's how the pizza and all the other garbage got into the cafeteria.

We have to be careful, first of all, that we don't villify these Food Service people, because they just did what they were told. But, by the same token, we have to understand the economics of the lunch program dictates that the junk be sold at this time.

So, back to your question about "what would I do with a million dollars," I'd be out making grants to the school system so we can get this [expletive] out of here... I'll help you out until we can figure how to do it differently."[go to top]


MS: "What's big the biggest surprise or failure since founding the Wellness Forum? Let me change that so surprise.... I've got a hunch that 'failure' isn't in your vocabulary."

PP: "I'm kind of like Thomas Edison when somebody said to him: "aren't you discouraged? You've done this 10,000 times and it still doesn't work." He said, "Nah.... I've had 10,000 opportunities to find something that doesn't work, so I don't do that any more, and now I'm closer to the solution."

For example, it took us a long time to figure out how to find people to open centers in other cities. We've finally done that. We did a lot of things that didn't work, but every time we found out one that didn't work, we got closer to one that did.

So, I can't really say that we've had failures.

First of all, I've been surprised at how quickly the human body responds to good nutrition. I never get tired of watching that happen, I never get tired of e-mails and people calling me on the phone and telling me "Dr. Pam, you've changed my life. I've got my life back." And I don't mean that from an egotistical standpoint, I mean it because I get joy out of people improving their lives. That has continued to astound me, and I still have that child-like wonder whenever somebody picks up the phone and calls.

I think the second thing, is how much our market has expanded, and how much more receptive people are to our message. Eight years ago I was really nagging people about the connection between diet and disease. Today, everybody understands it, now they just need to know what to do about it. That's a whole different issue.

The other thing, too, is I guess I'm surprised at how well this has all gone. I mean, we've had this legislative thing, the battle with the Dietetics Department. And in spite of all that, we are growing by leaps and bounds, and our messages gets out to more people every day. I guess the way I feel about it is that we must be doing something right, because the universe is making all the planets line up so we can do it bigger and better."

MS: "If you look back on it all, would you have done anything differently? You know, hindsight being 20/20?"

PP: [laughs] "Oh, YEAH. [laughs again] You have probably have heard this before: "if I'd know what I was getting into, I never would have done this."
I think, I think the one thing that I really didn't have a feel for, was how stressful it was going to be to go to school full-time and build a company full-time. I did this by myself in the beginning, and Howard knows this because he was here, now I have the most incredible people working with me, and it's a pleasure to be here every day.

In the beginning, I was the one packing the boxes and teaching the classes. I had another associated, but between the the two of us, that's all there was. And so, when finally I got out of school and got my education out of the way, somebody asked me "how did I feel?" and said "I feel like I'm coming out of the abyss." I'm not exaggerating. I spent years doing an entire week's worth of work on a weekend. I'm was putting 40 hours into it on the weekend.

I think if I had really understood that in the beginning, maybe I would have finished my education first. But it all came out great in the end. I wouldn't trade where I am today for anything."

MS: "It's probably hard for you to go to bed at night and easy to get up in the morning."

PP: "I get up in the morning at four forty-five, I bounce out of bed like I'm shot from a gun. And I love every minute of the day! The only reason I look at a clock is to make sure I'm not late, it's not because I'm counting the hours until I'm finished. I think the big challenge for me, and I've found ways to deal with it, is that it's easy for me to to just keep working all the time and not regenerate."

MS: "It sounds like you've got that mastered, with the running and yoga."

PP: "The other things is that in the summertime, my significant other has a house on Lake Erie, and we get out of here on Friday afternoon and go up there for the weekend. If I take things with me, it's for reading. I don't take work to do..."

MS: "Books on nutrition, no doubt."

PP: [laughs] "... a couple days out on the boat, and in the sun. It's nice. Helps a great deal, too."[go to top]


MS: "Tell us about the future of the Wellness Forum."

PP: "We're going to have one of these Wellness Forums in every city in the country, and then in every country. I visualize a time when we'll have our conferences, when we bring all our facilitators in, and we'll have 700, 800, 900 people that our teaching our classes. We're are on our way to getting that done.

As to the future of the Wellness Foundation, it will grow along with the Wellness Forum, because that's where the funding comes from. So the better the Wellness Forum does, the better the Wellness Foundation does, because we'll have more resources to work with."[go to top]


MS: "What do you think are the biggest threats in this country and this planet to more people eating properly and having good nutrition or diets?"

PP: "The biggest threat we have is the ignorance of people."

MS: "This is the average person you're talking about?"

PP: "I'm not talking about ignorance as a derrogatory comment. I've said this for years... we've have got to wake people up. And that's one of the reasons we do things the way we do at the Wellness Forum. We can't change and legislate that people eat properly or legislate that they shouldn't take drugs that their medical doctors prescribe. We have to educate them from the ground up to make decisions differently.

The biggest problem that this presents is we have a populace that doesn't read, it doesn't vote. People don't pay attention to issues that are so important to their lives. We've got to get people involved in the process. Because, politically, how the American Medical Association and the medical establishment and the dieticians in Ohio get control of these kinds of things, is that they do it while people aren't paying attention. And I used to not pay attention."

MS: "Do you worry about companies like Nestle's [the largest food company] , and Kraft, and these multi-national corporations?"

PP: "If we educate enough people to make decisions differently, they'll have to respond economically. And we've already little hints of that with McDonald's requiring new requirements their chicken producers, and Kraft is going to take the trans-fat out of their food because they think people won't buy it."

MS: "So you're saying that the only reason corporations run the show because we let them?"

PP: "We let them. And the only reason the doctors are in control is because we let them. And the only reason why all of this is going on is because we let them. And I'm almost on the verge of ranting about all this.... I'm downtown, all the time, talking with legislators in our state government buildings. These buildings should be full of people who are concerned enough about what's going on, to come down here and scream and holler, and talk to people. They're not. And that's very very disturbing, and that's how this whole situation got to the where it is.

And the way we'll undo it, and this is why the work that Howard's doing is important, what I am doing is important, is we just have to go out there. Everytime I'm in front of a hundred people, two hundred, ten thousand, doesn't matter, because those people are going to tell other people, and we're going to build this critical mass to the place where so many people are educated, that these companies and these governments can't get away with this stuff any more."[go to top]

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