What's this? No more burgers for Bubba? Ten years ago the thought of Bill Clinton as a poster child for healthy living would have seemed absurd. But oh how the times have changed: and none-too-soon.
After teaching and advocating for a holistic lifestyle for the last forty years, I'm thrilled to see that people are waking up, and that the mainstream is finally listening to what both science and alternative medicine have told us for so long. But I'm even more excited about the cache that Clinton brings to the vegan lifestyle. The message of leading a healthy lifestyle transcends politics and is a vital issue for a former president with 100% name recognition to lend his prestige..
The reality that led up to the president's monumental life change is the reality that faces more and more men and women every day: the seemingly unstoppable downward spiral of coronary heart disease. Even though he had a quadruple bypass in 2004, Clinton's heart required two stents last year, not as a result of the bypass veins collapsing, as is often the case, but because within only five years they had again become completely clogged again.
The president finally got the message that the public needs to get: what we eat is really a matter of life and death. Clinton's decision to adopt a plant-based diet was not so much about losing a few pounds for Chelsea's wedding, but about living long enough to see his grandchildren. Clinton's decision to go vegan was also influenced by the ground breaking research of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of the The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health.
There are cases far more extraordinary than Clinton's and in my own clients, I have seen these miraculous transformations through the healing power of food. By eliminating meat, dairy,processed sugars and preservatives, clients have reversed diabetes, high cholesterol, and a host of other chronic illnesses. Several clients have even completely recovered from terminal cancers after embracing a macrobiotic diet. Turns out that the truism "You are what you eat" is spot on. Food creates the body and has a great influence on our mind and spiritual life.
However, the deadly seriousness of diet hasn't been enough to make most people change their ways. The reluctance towards veganism has been less about the medical proof of its effectiveness, and more about social perceptions. How many more studies need to be commissioned to show us that our mothers were right each time they admonished us to "eat your veggies!"
The meaning of food for us goes deeper than simple health and nutrition. The vegan lifestyle is unfortunately associated with self-deprivation. As Dean Ornish, one of Clinton's doctors, joked about healthy living in a recent CNN interview, "Am I going to live longer or is it only going to seem longer.'"
Habit, taste and tradition also create barriers to change. For many, even those facing life risk, it is inconceivable to give up foods that they grew up with and associate with pleasurable events, such as the Sunday barbeque, hot dogs at the ball game or an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.
This is precisely how most people view their food choices - as unhealthy indulgence or unbearable privation - with little grey area in-between. But this view is based on misconceptions and outdated stereotypes.
What we really need is a change in consciousness about our food. People aren't going to embrace a holistic lifestyle as long as it's stigmatized as a punishment. And this is exactly why Clinton's personal awakening is so important for the public at large.
Holistic living is about enjoyment. What people forget is that the current explosion of degenerative diseases has not only led to an increase in premature death, but also to a significantly reduced quality of life. Healthy diet offers so many benefits, but most people never take the time to discover the possibilities.
This lifestyle has come quite a ways in the four decades I have been involved in the natural food movement. This isn't your mother's vegetarianism. It doesn't have to mean tofu: it can mean soul food, or Asian fusion, or even cupcakes. With the proliferation of vegan restaurants and cooking classes, it is easier than ever to maintain health.
Our current venue for spreading the message is Holistic Holiday at Sea. We provide a friendly, supportive and educational environment with like-minded people who have either discovered the health benefits and enjoyment of eating well or are just finding out what it is all about.
President Clinton you are welcome aboard anytime!