EPISODE 11: MAKING A LIFESTYLE U-TURN: FROM PAIN TO PURPOSE
Featuring: Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams
If you think one person can't make an impace, think again.
In 2016 at the young age of 54, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams listened as his doctor gave him a grim diagnosis of Type II diabetes. Sadly, he felt it was an inevitable fate because of rampant family history. What didn’t sit with him was relinquishing control of his health and realizing that he was going to be on medication for the rest of his life as his body continued to deteriorate.
Refusing to be buried by this diagnosis, Adams did something that would change the course of his life forever. Instead of googling, “Living with Diabetes,” he typed, “Reversing Diabetes” and a seed was planted. Fortunately, that seed has produced a bountiful harvest of hope and inspiration.
In just three short years since that diagnosis, Eric Adams has made a remarkable personal recovery plus a resounding impact with whole foods plant-based initiatives in New York City. He has lived a rich life committed to public service as an NYC Police Officer, New York State Senator, and Brooklyn Borough President. But this new chapter may be his most vital act of service yet - improving the lives and vitality of families and children in New York and beyond.
One person can, indeed, create meaningful change and leave a legacy of hope. Will you be the next?
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Born in Brownsville and educated in the City’s public school system, Eric Adams is committed to ensuring Brooklyn’s bright future by helping each and every Brooklynite reach his or her full potential. Recently, Eric made national headlines in the New York Times with his inspiring story of personal health transformation. Now, he joins us at Plant-Stock to raise awareness, to celebrate his efforts to overcome chronic disease and to share how he was able to turn pain into purpose.
Throughout his career, Eric has been an effective advocate for Brooklyn, bringing people and communities together to create progressive change, and working with both the private and public sectors to invigorate the borough’s economy by encouraging job growth and investment in every neighborhood. Whether his beat was on the street or in the halls of government, Eric has always looked out for Brooklyn’s working families and sought to protect our most vulnerable residents. He believes that government works best when everyone has a chance to be heard, and he has resolved to use his office to provide an opportunity for diverse groups to work together for the common good. Eric maintains residences in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Prospect Heights, where he has resided for over twenty years. He enjoys riding the streets of Brooklyn on his bicycle, meditation, and exploring new cultures and places.
Transcript of Episode 11: Making a Lifestyle U-Turn: From Pain to Purpose
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Eric Adams: My real problem was my diabetes, that it was out of control. I was at a coma state, and he told me that I had to go on insulin right away. He prescribed two medications for me also. And at that same time as fate will have it, my sight in my left eye was just almost gone. My sight in my right eye was slowing losing at the same time. And I had nerve damage in my hands and feel, they told me it was permanent. I couldn't even feel my right thigh anymore because the nerve damage had become so severe. And the doctor said this is basically what your life is going to be. And there were certain things he said in the office that really resonated with me. One, he said you're going to be on medicine the rest of your life. I just couldn't accept that thought, that I was going to be starting and ending my day with an injection, or taking a pill, it just wasn't something that I wanted to have as a ... how I define my life.
Rip Esselstyn: That voice you just heard is Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams. And he's a remarkable human being, a total, and I mean total force of nature. Eric solves problems and creates positive change for a living. So a few short years ago, when his doctor laid out his future and talked about what to expect from the ravages of his diabetes, Eric set out to fix the problem. He didn't set out to manage his diabetes, he set out to reverse it.
Rip Esselstyn: Diabetes is becoming a pandemic in our country, and for most people, those with type two diabetes, or have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic as a team or an adult, much like heart disease, this is a disease that need never exist. It is not contracted, it is earned by our poor lifestyle decisions. And conversely, it can be reversed with strong lifestyle decisions.
Rip Esselstyn: Today, we are learning about massive health transformation. From Eric's spectacular transformation from sick to vibrant, and when I say vibrant, I mean vibrant. When he walks in the room, you better be on your A game, because Eric is most definitely on his. This transformation also shows in the way in which Eric and his team are changing school lunches, and hospital patient menus by instilling Meatless Mondays. Thousands of students in the New York City Public Schools are now being fed healthier meals. Thousands of patients at the largest county hospital in the country, Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, are also eating a lot less meat. For those with heart disease, or type two diabetes, patients can now sign up to be treated at a new whole food plant based unit, all because of the work of Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams and his team.
Rip Esselstyn: Get ready to be inspired to make the big Plant-Strong change in your life. Let's get after it. I'm Rip Esselstyn, founder of Engine 2, and I want to help Bronx firefighter, Joe Inga and you become Plant-Strong.
Rip Esselstyn: So I basically want to cover three things with you today.
Eric Adams: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rip Esselstyn: I want to talk about your amazing transformation. I'd love to talk about your ... the platform that you're using now as borough president to make some policy changes.
Eric Adams: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rip Esselstyn: And then just what advice you would give to people that are starting to embrace this lifestyle.
Eric Adams: Right, right.
Rip Esselstyn: Right. So the first time I met you, Eric, was right around two years ago. It was kind of a cold day like today. It was at the Whole Foods in Brooklyn.
Eric Adams: Yes.
Rip Esselstyn: And we had a beautiful lunch upstairs. And you told me, and I didn't even know that you flew to Cleveland, you met with my mom and my dad, because you had something going on. What exactly was going on with you?
Eric Adams: In 2016, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And I'll never forget when the doctor told me, I was actually out of the country when I was getting the first signs of just my body breaking down, and we have a tendency to ignore some of those signs, particularly men. You know men, you have to drag us to the hospital after a time. And I was feeling pain in my stomach when I returned to the country and had a colonoscopy and also an examination of my stomach. The doctor told me that I had a small ulcer, but my real problem was my diabetes, he said it was out of control, I was at a coma state, the exact term that he used. And he told me that I had to go on insulin right away, and I needed to use ... he prescribed two medications for me also. And at that same time, as fate will have it, my sight in my left eye was just almost gone. My sight in my right eye was also ... I was slowly losing it at the same time. And I had nerve damage in my hands and feed, they told me it was permanent. My right thigh, I couldn't even feel my right thigh anymore because the nerve damage had become so severe. And the doctor said this is basically what your life is going to be.
Eric Adams: And there were certain things he said in the office that really resonated with me. One, he said you're going to be on medicine the rest of your life. I just couldn't accept that thought, that I was going to be starting and ending my day with an injection, or taking a pill, it just wasn't something that I wanted to have as a ... how I define my life. Second, I remember the feeling of inevitability. When the doctor said you're diabetic, it was like okay, we knew this was coming, your mother's diabetic, your sister is diabetic, diabetes runs in your family, heart disease, high blood pressure. So it was as though I said, okay, you get to a certain age, you knew this was coming. And that was the first thing that came in my head.
Rip Esselstyn: And you're in your mid 50s right now?
Eric Adams: Yes. At the time I was 54 years old.
Rip Esselstyn: That's young.
Eric Adams: Yes. Yes, but it was almost as though I expected to be told I was going to be diabetic. You hit a certain age and a certain level, that with that comes the diseases that is associated with it.
Rip Esselstyn: Let me stop you for a sec, because here's what is so amazing to me, is that here you are, right, you are a highly successful person. You have achieved an amazing amount in your life. You became a captain in the New York City Police Department, you graduated first in your class, you went on, you became a New York State Senator, Brooklyn Borough President, and yet, for whatever reason, you were still susceptible to type 2 diabetes, the ravages that are associated with it. Is that because you just didn't know any better? You just ate whatever you want, or ... ?
Eric Adams: That's such a good question that you're asking, because you'll find some of the most accomplished external people do little to deal with their internal mechanisms. We spend more time ... I think about the amount of time that I've spent searching for my house, supplies for my house, my son said to me when I told him I was diabetic, he said, "You used to drive around to find the best gas to put in your car, but you didn't find the best food to eat." We spend more energy making sure that we get a quality synthetic oil for our engine because we don't want it to burn out quickly, but our heart engine, we don't care what we put it into clog up the injectors, using the right analogy.
Eric Adams: And that's how it was. I spent a lot of time studying, I spent a lot of time making sure that I can move through the system, do the right things to get elected and what have you. But I was not dealing with the internal part of me. And it's amazing to me that ... it is probably one of the only places that we as human beings turn over to someone completely, and that's our medical and our health. The most important part of us is our temple, our body, but we basically walk into a medical professional office, care less about what type of training they've got, and the accuracy of it, we don't even look up and see, hey, is this school a good school that they're going to, or they went to, or what they learned. We just basically say, "You have to go to insulin." "Okay, doctor, where do I go pick it up, give me the prescription."
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah.
Eric Adams: I don't know any place in my life that I relinquish that much to an individual the way I did around medical.
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah, and you're not the only one, right? I mean, scores of Americans do that. And I'm doing this under doctor's orders. It's almost like they're a demigod, right?
Eric Adams: Right.
Rip Esselstyn: It's crazy. How many different physicians did you go to?
Eric Adams: When I went to the first doctor who was a good internist, his heart was in the right place, he was a very caring, compassionate person, he would spend an hour and some of the visit and just talk. And after he told me what was my status, I went to five other doctors here in the city. And because I was the borough president at the time, I was able to get access to people who were the best in their field, and they basically said the same thing. "It is what it is, this is your pathway, this is the rest of your life, and there's not much you can do about it."
Eric Adams: And it just didn't resonate. It didn't feel right to me.
Rip Esselstyn: So the best you could do is just kind of maintain where you are, and do everything you can to beat back the blindness, and the amputation of limbs, and the kidney failure, and all that?
Eric Adams: Well they basically stated that they're going to give me medicine that would slow down the process, but I'm going to lose my sight in about a year or so. They said that you'll eventually ... you're going to have amputations because of the severity of the nerve damage. So it wasn't as though you maintain. They were basically saying we could slow this down, but this is the pathway. And that pathway, we know so many people have traveled down that pathway, you start off with the insulin, the metformin, the other drugs. Then you have the nerve damage that you lose a toe, or foot, your sight, then you go to dialysis. It's the same song and dance, and it's just a continuation of if you're doing the same things, you're going to get the same results over and over again.
Rip Esselstyn: It's a harrowing prospect, right?
Eric Adams: It is, it really is.
Rip Esselstyn: And I think that the egregious crying shame is that 90 probably five percent of type 2 diabetes can be prevented and reversed, right?
Eric Adams: Yes.
Rip Esselstyn: Which is exactly what you did.
Eric Adams: Yes, yes.
Rip Esselstyn: Okay, so you went to these physicians, and then what was your aha moment where you were like, "Wow, I think I'm ... going to do something about this."
Eric Adams: It was really fascinating for me, because I said to myself, I recall after I left my mother's and saw her dealing with her diabetes, and then when I was told, I said, "Eric, you know how to read. And you an ex cop, you know how to do investigations. Go out and investigate. There must be something out there that could improve or to really slow down the amount of medicine I have to take." And that's what I was seeking. And so I like to say I did something scientific, I went to Google and Googled ... reversing diabetes.
Eric Adams: And it's interesting that I didn't put in that Google search, "living with diabetes". I put in, "reversing diabetes". Let me start from the ideal place. And at this time, I'm in bad shape physically. I looked fine, but internally, I was in some serious medical bad shape at the time. And I remember just all of this information came up. Your dad's book came up as one, Dr. Gregor, Dr. Bonner, and all of this information just came up, and as I'm reading through it, I'm saying, "What the heck? What is this?" And this is from issues in plain sight, that's the arrogancy of those who are poisoning our families, they're not even trying to hide the information, it's in plain sight.
Eric Adams: And so I remember staying up that night and just reading through. And just all of a sudden getting excited, and motivated. And early that morning I called your dad, and I introduced myself, and I said ... and even that first phone call with him, I said that, "I want to change health in the borough of Brooklyn. I'm the borough president, the county executive, and I would like to come down and see you. And if this is real, I'm going to use myself as an example and then I'm going to push this forward." And I took a flight out, and I was able to sit down and speak with him and never looked back.
Rip Esselstyn: And did you take that flight out there with your wife?
Eric Adams: Yes. Tracy joined me, the two of us went, and we attended the discussion. She was not diabetic at the time, she was pre-diabetic at the time. And I remember the natural tendency ... I remember she saying to your dad that, "Okay, I could give up a lot of things, but I'm not giving up my pork chops."
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah.
Eric Adams: And we started tasting the food that your mom cooked, and we was like, "This is good."
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. So I would love to know ... you now have been doing this for how long? Two and a half years?
Eric Adams: Two and a half years, figure the beginning of 2016.
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah.
Eric Adams: And we're now in 2019 so about two and a half years.
Rip Esselstyn: Okay. Is this easy, or is this hard for you?
Eric Adams: Easy, walk in the park.
Rip Esselstyn: Are you serious?
Eric Adams: Yeah.
Rip Esselstyn: I mean, this isn't too expensive, it's not too time consuming, you're just not eating twigs and berries?
Eric Adams: No, not walking around with grass in my pocket, and having bland taste. Actually the food I ate prior, it was every day the same thing. It wasn't like ... there was no diversity in my diet, I was waking up in the morning, doing the two eggs with bacon and cheese on the roll. Sometimes when people say, "Well, you know, when you go plant base, you drink a smoothie and ... a kale smoothie with carrot powder and a bunch of berries, you do it every day, aren't you bored?" I say, "You eat those two eggs on a roll every day."
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah, yeah.
Eric Adams: But I have diversity throughout my day with different flavors and creativity, different spices that I've never thought of before. And different types of food and mixture. And really you break out of the restrictions of what you're supposed to eat when you're supposed to eat. I'll hate oatmeal, steel cut oatmeal for dinner and enjoy it. So just the creativity, and not limiting yourself to what one state you're supposed to do. Food is free, and we should be free in our consumption of it.
Rip Esselstyn: You are probably one of the busiest men that I know. Your schedule is absolutely jam packed. And I would tell anybody that's out there that if you think you're too busy to eat healthy, that's hogwash.
Eric Adams: Yes, it is.
Rip Esselstyn: Absolutely hogwash.
Eric Adams: So true, so true.
Rip Esselstyn: What did you have for breakfast today?
Eric Adams: Every morning I break my fast with a nice kale or spinach smoothie with a cup and a half of blueberries and blackberries, with a nice portion of fruits. We're told for so long that diabetics should not eat fruits.
Rip Esselstyn: Right.
Eric Adams: So wrong. So wrong. And I cut up fruits, I have a nice fruit salad with a nice smoothie with carrot powder and some other powders that are really good, natural, good organic powders. And it's just ... the energy level is just unbelievable. I used to have to eat something extremely sweet by the mid morning to just give me that extra boost, and then I'll do it again, and it was a constant ... those days are gone. The energy level is unbelievable. My son and I went away on a 21 day trip out of the country after he graduated and he was like, "Dad, who's the kid and who's the old man? I'm tired all the time and you always on the go." People don't realize how food is fuel. You can put that terrible leaded fuel in you, or that unleaded high premium food that will allow you to run your engines correctly.
Rip Esselstyn: It's a little after 4:30, what did you have for lunch today?
Eric Adams: Lunch I had a great bean pasta with ... I make this nice sauce with cauliflower, and a lot of spices, and I mix in carrots, and kale. I try to get kale throughout my entire day. I eat kale four or five times through the day, a lot of peppers, a lot of fresh fruits. I'll chop up some celery to get the crunch taste I'm looking for. And just some mixture. The more in the bowl as possible, and I just enjoy the different tastes of it.
Rip Esselstyn: Are you making this in your office? I know you ... don't you have a refrigerator in your office, right?
Eric Adams: Yes, yes, I do. I have a nice refrig, but I do a lot of prep at the beginning of the week, and I will put in my bags, I'll chop up my mushrooms, chop up my kale, chop up my celery, my carrots, my beets, I'll have about 15 bags of different chopped items so this way I don't have to rush. I can just dip into the bag, take a nice handful, put it inside my soup or my mixture and everything is prepared. This takes away that well, you're busy. And I am. My life is built around what I eat. It used to be what I eat is built around my life, but first I fuel my body. And sometimes I'll have meetings where people are sitting in the meetings, and I have my big Buddha bowl, I like to call it, and I'm eating right in the meeting and you have to get used to it, if you don't bring your healthy food, shame on you, I'm bringing mine. You know?
Rip Esselstyn: And you're doing all this prep, and cutting, and chopping yourself? Your wife's not helping you, you don't have somebody else in the house helping you?
Eric Adams: Technology has really advanced, there's no excuse now not to have a healthy lifestyle. You grab a veggie bullet, and you throw those items through a veggie bullet, it chops it up easily for you, so you don't have to sit there and chop all the time. You grab a Nutri Bullet to make a good drink for yourself. You grab other devices and other food processors that allow the chopping to be done. It's not like I'm standing over the kitchen with a chopping board and having to chop up the carrots. Within a half an hour, my prep is done for the whole week, and it's just waiting for me to decide how am I going to mix it. So there's no reason to say, "Well, this takes too long to chop up your items." Those days are gone, technology is here.
Rip Esselstyn: What about dinner tonight? You know what you're going to have for dinner tonight?
Eric Adams: There's always kale, kale is at the heart of what I eat. My plate is majority live vegetables, so I'm going to do a mixture of kale, carrots, beet, I try to always have onions in my meal, always try to get a lemon somewhere in the meal to get the taste. And probably have some type of lentil, I may make a lentil burger, or make hummus, get a nice hummus dish and mix it with some bean pasta. I don't know until I walk into the kitchen and I say, "Okay, what do I feel like consuming?"
Rip Esselstyn: Right.
Eric Adams: Or I make a nice flaxseed bread where I would mix kale on top of it, kale and hummus to make some type of pizza with it, put a nice tomato paste on top of it, so it's a combination. I eat good now.
Rip Esselstyn: It sounds like you've turned into a regular chef.
Eric Adams: I never cooked before, that's very interesting.
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah.
Eric Adams: My good days is when I didn't burn toast back then, but now just the creativity that comes with finding the meals that fit your pallet. We all know our pallets, are pallets are unique to our different characteristics, and I find those meals and the spices that really help me enjoy the food that I like to eat.
Rip Esselstyn: You mentioned a little earlier your mother.
Eric Adams: Yes.
Rip Esselstyn: How is your mother doing these days? Is she on board?
Eric Adams: She's on board. She's now off her insulin, after two months of going plant based she was able to go off her insulin. And it was really a victory for me, because that really started out my mindset of how do we turn around health. My families have embraced, and they're all moving towards a whole food, plant based diet. And just the number of people in the borough of Brooklyn, I'm happy that I'm being used an as example.
Rip Esselstyn: While I was interviewing Eric at his office, I also interviewed Rachel Atcheson, a member of his staff, and a major spoke in the wheel of progress with the plant based movement.
Rip Esselstyn: How long have you been with the borough president, and what is your role?
Rachel Atcheson: Yeah, I've been with him for about nine months, and I am his deputy strategist. I work largely on his plant based nutrition initiatives. The messenger is borough president Eric Adams, and for him to have become so passionate about this issue, just means that we get so much more done than I could have ever imagined. I see a world in which we are eating mostly plants, and he is getting us there so much faster than I could have ever gotten us there.
Rachel Atcheson: So I'm honored to be on his team, and really to see how fast we can move this needle.
Eric Adams: People stop me all the time and talk about how they have changed their diet. And we are really expanding on doing things that allow people to be free.
Rip Esselstyn: No, you absolutely are, and this is I think one of your missions, it's one of your platforms. And you're using your ... I think your seat as borough president as a springboard to do all kinds of amazing health initiatives. Can you talk about maybe some of the ones you're most excited about right now?
Eric Adams: I think at the top of the list is what we're doing at Bellevue Hospital. Bellevue Hospital, for those who are not aware, is the oldest hospital in America. We're opening the first whole food, plant based unit in Bellevue Hospital. We have about 300 people who signed up to participate in a program, so individuals who come to the hospital with heart disease, diabetes, and some of the other chronic diseases, they're going to be placed on a whole food, plant based regimen. And we're monitoring the see the results. You and I both know the results are going to be positive. They're going to show that this is going to improve the quality of life of people.
Eric Adams: And with this study that we're doing, if we are successful, it is going to open this conversation for the entire health and hospital system. New York City has the largest health and hospital system throughout the entire country. And we're moving to show how successful this is, how it reverses diabetes, or at a minimum really decreases the amount of medication people are taking, and taking them off the large number of doses and medications that they're doing. This success is going to have ramifications not only throughout the city, but throughout the country, if not the entire globe. The globe is sick. And the pharmaceutical industries for the most part, many of our family members and loved ones are over consuming different drugs. And if we can show that by using a healthier lifestyle to prevent disease or reverse disease, it is going to have a serious ramification on what we do in this country.
Eric Adams: We're also looking at our schools. In New York City, particular the borough of Brooklyn, we are an extremely diverse place, 47% of Brooklynites speak a language other than English at home. Many of the young people really help their parents to transition into the American structure and American society. And where they learn from are our schools. It's unfortunate that our schools are not teaching our children healthy practices. In New York City, we feed children 980,000 meals a day. Yet those meals are feeding our healthcare crisis. Little Johnny eats a hamburger, he doesn't get colon cancer the next day, but the reality is he's learning bad practices that he's going to follow the rest of his life. WHO and other notable studies have shown processed meat is type 1 carcinogen, it causes cancer, yet we're feeding our children that.
Eric Adams: So we're moving to get processed meat banned from our schools. We're also moving to get our schools to start off by taking the first step of Meatless Mondays, and moving to vegetarian and vegan schools, where children are learning how to eat a more healthier lifestyle. We're putting a large amount of money into our school system, millions of dollars is going into building greenhouses on rooftops to teach our children vertical farming, and how to use technology to grow and also feed those in their communities. We have a program that we're doing at a school called Democracy Academy, where they're using a partnership we have with an organization called Farm Shelf, they have these units about the size of a refrig where you can grow using pots, where you can grow bok choy and other healthy green vegetables, and they are growing it and giving it to the residents in their community to sort of identify food desert, and do something about it.
Rip Esselstyn: During our trip to Brooklyn to meet with borough president Eric Adams, we also went to one of the schools in Brooklyn to see how the kids are doing with Meatless Mondays, and more exposure to vegetables.
Rip Esselstyn: Mr. Schulman, this is considered then ... is it an all vegetarian school, or ... how does it-
Mr. Schulman: We subscribe to the program that most city schools have, which is the Meatless Mondays. Which was introduced in September. So they're trying it out for all schools for Mondays. No meat, different kinds of pastas, vegetables, making it more prominent for the kids.
Rip Esselstyn: Okay. So this Meatless Monday initiative was started in September of 2018 then. And was this part of the influence of Eric Adams and some of his policy?
Mr. Schulman: Yeah, Eric Adams started wanting to have healthier foods for ... the whole week for all the city schools, but to start out, not to have it intimidating, he started with Meatless Mondays with the city schools to really push for families to know the options during lunch without meat. And make it healthy for kids, and make it tasty and presentable.
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. What's been the feedback from the kids and the parents?
Mr. Schulman: Well I think it just went seamlessly. The kids really didn't complain about it, and when you ask them about Mondays it's just like any other day, really. Which leads me to believe that you can introduce it on other days and introduce different things. So you can ask them, but I think things like the whole grain pastas, and the bean tacos, and the whole grains is really good for them, and the love it.
Mr. Schulman: Just the other day they had broccoli with penne, and I didn't hear so much about the penne, but I heard about the broccoli. "Oh, I love the broccoli, I love the broccoli." It's really green and presented really well. And I think that's a big part of it, presenting the colorful foods in a really nice way for the kids, and not just slopping it on there, so that the kids really look at it and say, "All this is stuff I want, I love to have it."
Student: I love broccoli [inaudible 00:30:00] and carrots. For we can be healthy, and we can have a strong body, so when we're done eating and when we go to the gym we can run faster and play whatever we want, like basketball, football, stuff like that.
Rip Esselstyn: How do you feel typically after eating a meal on a Meatless Monday?
Student: Strong. Happy. And I can play with my friends. Faster.
Mr. Schulman: The fruit and veggie program that we have, we had to apply for it, and then we got it just at the beginning of this year. And it introduces a new fruit snack or a vegetable for the kids every single day. Whether it's broccoli, carrots, sometimes it's kiwis, it could be lettuce, it could be almost anything from a garden. And they love it, they love it.
Speaker 6: This is so inspiring.
Eric Adams: We're also looking to put several millions of dollars into programs that will allow gardens to be on our rooftops that have butterflies, and bees so that we can continue to pollinate the city area. Our direction is really showing people healthy eating. We're reaching into our faith based institutions, bringing in a group of faith based leaders, so they can start teaching the people in their congregation, their synagogue, their mosque, or any other temple, how to eat a more healthier lifestyle.
Eric Adams: Every three months here we have a plant based vegan couriers meet up. We average anywhere from two to 400 people who come here and learn about how to live a vegan, plant based lifestyle, how to eat better, and we have panelists and conversations and talks about plant based eating and how it can improve your health and lifestyle. We had some great-
Rip Esselstyn: Does this list ever end? It's amazing. I mean, truly.
Eric Adams: We had some great speakers here. A doctor from Chicago who came here, a cardiologist, he came in to speak-
Rip Esselstyn: Oh, Kim Williams?
Eric Adams: Kim Williams. He came into speak with all of our cardiologists in the city to talk about the plant based lifestyle. So you're right, you can go on, and on, and on. But we are excited, and we're going to continue to bring that energy.
Rip Esselstyn: Well you know ... let me just say, so you mentioned Kim Williams, who in 2016 was a president of the American College of Cardiology, one of the most high ranking heart associations in this country. And he says there's two types of cardiologists, right? Those who are vegan, and those who have yet to read the data. Right? I mean, it's like ... if you've read the data, you know there's only one way to go.
Eric Adams: He was amazing, also he gave me a stat that I always talk about when I speak to my medical professionals. The number one death of cardiologists is heart disease.
Rip Esselstyn: Isn't that crazy? And guess ... okay, great. And guess how man cardiologists at Rush University Hospital, where he is the head cardiologist, are plant based?
Eric Adams: How many?
Rip Esselstyn: 23. 23. Now I don't know how many are on staff. But 23, that's phenomenal.
Eric Adams: That's impressive.
Rip Esselstyn: That's phenomenal.
Eric Adams: Yes, it is.
Rip Esselstyn: And I think it's a testament to the fact that he is leading by example.
Eric Adams: Yes.
Rip Esselstyn: And it's exactly what's happening to me here in Brooklyn, and the people that I've talked to, how you are. There's this amazing trickle down affect, you're making a difference. And as a individual like yourself, who has been committed to public service your whole life, I can't imagine anything that feels as gratifying.
Eric Adams: No, it's so true. And saving lives, and helping people live a healthier lifestyle, and watching people who have given up all of the sudden see the light of hope. It is so inspiring to hear someone come after I talk about this topic, and they'll come to me after and you can see the gleam of hope. And I speak often and to many size crowds, and I've never had a topic that resonated more with people than this topic. People want to heal. People want to heal.
Rip Esselstyn: You said earlier, we as a globe are sick, mother earth is sick.
Eric Adams: Yes.
Rip Esselstyn: Right, we can heal everything and this universe, right-
Eric Adams: That's so true.
Rip Esselstyn: When we eat this way-
Eric Adams: So true.
Rip Esselstyn: So it's for a higher level.
Eric Adams: Yes.
Rip Esselstyn: We all need to get on this Plant-Strong wagon.
Eric Adams: That's so true. And we can't tinker around the edges. And we have to be honest with ourselves. Those who consider themselves to be environmentalists, those who run the major organizations, the Diabetes Association, Heart Association, all of us, we need to be serious. It points to one direction. If we want to save mother earth and save our mother at the same time-
Rip Esselstyn: Yes.
Eric Adams: We need to really start talking about whole food, plant based. And anyone, I don't care if it's on the federal level or on a local level, you cannot wrap yourself around the environmentalist flag and not at the top of that conversation talk about our over consumption of meat in this country. That has to ... we're forcing and pushing that conversation, because far too long the environmentalists talked about fossil fuel, diesel fuel, and those things that are attractive, but they didn't want to go to the core of the problem, our over consumption of meat in America and across the globe.
Rip Esselstyn: Yep.
Eric Adams: And if we are successful or not, the conversation has started.
Rip Esselstyn: Yes.
Eric Adams: And I think that is the most important part of this. The genie is out of the bottle.
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah.
Eric Adams: And we're not going to allow her to go back in. And as long as we stay committed, and focused, and move in the right direction, I believe our country's never going to be the same. It's not about living forever. It's about living a quality life. To be 102, but you can't identify your grandchildren because the meat has eroded your arteries and your brain, and dementia and Alzheimer's have settled in. Or you can't get up and walk them to ... down the aisle when they're married because your limbs were lost because of diabetes. Or you need a pacemaker because your heart has been destroyed. That is not a healthy life. And many people start pointing to, well, we're living longer. No, we're propped up longer. Life is not existing, it's living to the fullness of what we are. God, in my belief, was meant for us to be fruitful and to multiple, not toxic and die. And we're dying too young.
Rip Esselstyn: Amen to that. What drives Eric Adams? You have done so many amazing things in your life, I feel in some ways you're just getting started at 58, 59. But what is it that drives you?
Eric Adams: Families, and the importance of families. And I believe in this concept that if you deposit into the social bank of life, when you have to make a withdrawal, you will have the equity. The worst thing that you can do as life goes on, we're going to have ups and downs, and we are fortunate to live long enough we're going to have the misfortune of experiencing pain. The goal is to turn into purpose. I was in pain when I was told I was diabetic, but I turned it into purpose. I was not buried with diabetes, I was planted, and the harvest of that planting people are going to benefit from. And I want to continue to live by that, so when the time comes that I have to draw on that social equity in my bank, I'm going to have enough there to make that withdrawal.
Rip Esselstyn: Yeah, yep. Love that attitude, Eric. I have one more question for you.
Eric Adams: Yes.
Rip Esselstyn: This morning I met with a New York City firefighter named Joe [Inga 00:37:58]. He works at Engine 72. And he's ... he's kind of hurting. And he reached out to me for some help, so I met with him. Any advice you'd have for Joe, and other New York City firefighters that are starting to embrace this plant based lifestyle?
Eric Adams: Create a community. And the community may not necessarily be inside their firehouse, but it could be a firefighter community. It's so important to have partners and friends, because the behavior science of really reversing disease we often overlook, it's not only physical, it's also emotional. And I think it's important to create a community, number one, do the prep, don't underestimate having your food ready that you want to eat, and that's available. Get all of the things that's going to pull at your cord our of your household. You know, the ice cream, any of the things that when you going through moments that you're going to reach out for them. Move them out of your space.
Eric Adams: And then you're going to get over the hump. Right now you're climbing up the mountain, but you're going to reach the top of the mountain and you're going to see how easy it is. It's not even a second thought for me. When I go into a restaurant, when I'm around family members, when I'm around those who don't have a plant based life, it's not even a second thought. I know how and why what I'm doing. And just hang in there. It may seem difficult now, but right now he has the right attitude, he can put out this fire.
Rip Esselstyn: He can. He absolutely can. When we first met at Whole Foods, you told me, "What starts in Brooklyn ... " You want to finish that for me?
Eric Adams: No, what I said that the way goes Brooklyn goes New York, the way goes New York goes America, the way goes America goes the globe. So ...
Rip Esselstyn: Let's do this. Right?
Eric Adams: In Brooklyn.
Rip Esselstyn: Thank you, sir.
Eric Adams: Thank you.
Rip Esselstyn: Let's wrap up this episode with a Plant-Strong rap from public school 327.
Speaker 7: Rolled oats, chili powder, chickpeas, whole wheat flower, corn, peppers, collared greens, kale, soup, black eyed peas, salsa, ginger root, sweet potato, starfruit, bean curry, cumin, tofu, cinnamon. We're raising our voices to make better choices.
Rip Esselstyn: I'd like to thank borough president Eric Adams and his team for taking the time to let us interview them and share their story. I'd also like to thank the teachers and students at public school 327 in Brooklyn who welcomed in for this episode. Special thanks to Mr. Schulman for writing and sharing his rap about plants with us. I want to thank my co-creator of the podcast, Scott Battishill and Ten Percent Media. Laurie Kortowich, producer extraordinaire and Engine 2 director of events. Ami Mackey, the curator of all the creative content for Engine 2. And HearBy for podcast production. Brandon Curtis for everything in between. I want to think Whole Food Market for giving me a platform for the last 10 years, and for believing in me.
Rip Esselstyn: Special thanks to Joe Inga for your courage to take control and change your life, and for allowing us to share your story along the way. And lastly I want to thank my father and mother, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Junior, and Ann Crile Esselstyn.
Rip Esselstyn: I also need to think all the Plant-Strong pioneers who have been pushing this huge boulder uphill for more than three decades. As they say, we are standing on the shoulder of giants. If you're digging the show, please rate us on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. Peace, Engine 2, keep it Plant-Strong.