EPISODE 7: CRUSHING FAST FOOD ADDICTION

with Chuck Carroll

 

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This self-proclaimed Taco Bell addict was taking a long walk off a very short pier.  At just 5 feet 6 inches tall, Chuck weighed 420 pounds before radically changing his life.

Like so many others, he tried and failed countless times to lose weight.  Any success he achieved was short-lived as the weight came pouring back on and then some.

But then he did something remarkable and turned it all around.  Rip had a chance encounter with Chuck Carroll when he traveled to D.C. and visited the Barnard Medical Center to interview Drs. Jim Loomis and Neal Barnard for upcoming episodes.  Chuck’s story of radical transformation is jaw-dropping and his candid conversation with Rip highlights all that is possible with plants and determination. Intimately acquainted with the lonely and habitual trap of fast food, Chuck weighs in on Joe’s recent slip up with Burger King.  


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Chuck Carroll is truly The Weight Loss Champion.

Ten years ago out of desperation, he underwent gastric bypass surgery. Chuck was just 27 years old at the time and didn’t think he would live to see 30.  Prior to the procedure he was convinced that the surgery would become like all the other failed weight-loss attempts. “But,” he said, “at least I’d go to my grave having tried everything.”

Then the unexpected happened. He woke up from the surgery and never looked back.  Although a critical component, the surgery proved only to be the first step in his journey. In fact, he only attributes 10 percent of his weight loss success to the procedure.

In just over a year, Chuck shed 265 pounds by conquering food addiction and devoting himself to a healthier lifestyle! He’s now maintaining the weight loss by eating a plant-based diet. Going vegan once seemed unthinkable to Chuck, but now it’s going back to eating processed meat and dairy that would be inconceivable.

The confidence he gained from the weight loss enabled him to pursue his dream of becoming a sports reporter. He has hosted a number of radio shows with NFL players where he was first given the title of “The Weight Loss Champion.” After the pair was featured in PCRM’s Teaming Up 4 Health campaign, Chuck had the opportunity to speak on Capitol Hill and share his remarkable journey.

Shortly thereafter, Chuck’s career took a twist when he became a reporter for the all-news CBS station in Washington. From there, he went on to anchor at NBC News Radio. Now he is delighted to be bringing his passion and talents to PCRM as host of The Exam Room™ podcast.

Follow Chuck on Twitter and Instagram @ChuckCarrollWLC


Transcript of Episode 7: CRUSHING FAST FOOD ADDICTION

Chuck Carroll: I was 420 pounds with a 66 inch waist, a size 6XL shirt. I was at a point, Rip, where I in another year or so would have been too large to shop out of a big and tall catalog. I knew that I was overweight. I just, still, I mean it was drive-thrus and it was pizza. Over time, became more and more and more of a food addict, to the point where I got completely out of control.

Rip Esselstyn: How much do you weigh right now?

Chuck Carroll: 145.

Rip Esselstyn: I'm Rip Esselstyn, the founder of Engine 2. In season one of The Plant-Strong Podcast, I'm going to be working with Joe Inga, a New York City firefighter assigned to Engine 72 in the heart of the Bronx. Joe reached out to me to regain his lost health that has been spiraling out of control over the last 12 years as a firefighter. I've marshaled together a network of doctors, Navy Seals, TV producers, fellow firefighters and nutritionists, so we can all team up to coach Joe and maybe even you. Along with motivating and educating Joe, I'm going to take Joe from a couch potato to a veritable sweet potato triathlete in less than six months. Join in as Joe gains traction and confidence and momentum with each episode until he truly believes he can become the man he was destined to be. Welcome to Plant-Strong.

Rip Esselstyn: Last week we had our first check in with Joe, and I want you all to know I am so proud of Joe. He is doing so well, and as far as his numbers go, he is down almost 30 pounds with his weight loss. His cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, his lipid panel is improving rapidly, but I would be remiss to gloss over his slip up at Burger King. Joe has a history of being a fast food junkie, and so I want to put a little weight on this. As I mentioned last week, mistakes are gonna happen, right? That's just an undeniable part of being human. I want you to know that eating plant based, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition, but the truth of the matter is you are going to realize your undeniably best results when you commit all the way. You're going to get the greatest results with weight loss, with your lipid panel, as far as reclaiming your lost palate that's been hijacked from you.

Rip Esselstyn: You know, my father, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., loves to say, "Moderation kills." I have a whole chapter in my second book Plant-Strong, called, "Lose the Moderation Mentality." So I want you to know, if you slip up, I don't want you or Joe or anyone else to beat yourself up, but I want you to dust yourself off and I want you to get right back after it.

Rip Esselstyn: Now, getting back to Joe. Joe's in a bit of a different situation, though. He's been very open about his fight with alcoholism. He's been sober for over six and a half years now and he is making it happen. But as anyone who suffers with an addictive personality knows, it's important that we are nipping this in the bud quickly and we're addressing any underlying stresses that Joe or even you might potentially be facing.

Speaker 5: Taco Bell's cheesy gordita crunch, warm flatbread covered in three melted cheeses wrapped around a crunchy taco and topped with a zesty pepper jack sauce for a textural taste sensation. Think outside the bun.

Speaker 6: New, the French toast sandwich, maple-licious bread, breakfast goodness. Can't wait for that sweet thing. Wake up with a king.

Speaker 7: With double cheeseburgers for a dollar each, we can keep the party jumping. McDonald's dollar menu, a whole lot of what I love for a little bit of change. (singing)

Rip Esselstyn: What is it about fast food restaurants that make us are drawn to them in some ways like a moth to flame? Well, I can tell you in three words, salt, sugar and fat. In Michael Moss's book, Salt, Sugar, and Fat, he talks about how these executives of the world's largest food companies, they have one job to do and that's to maximize sales and profits. They deliberately entice customers by stuffing their products with, you guessed it, salt, sugar and fat. Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, in his book The End of Overeating, talks about how these food manufacturers, these food giants, they put salt on top of sugar on top of fat and then they put more salt on top of sugar on top of fat and then they have the unmitigated tenacity to put more salt on top of sugar, on top of fat.

Rip Esselstyn: We all have receptors in our brain for salt, sugar and fat just like we do for nicotine and heroin and cocaine, but they hyper-inflate these substances to the point to where our brains go off like a pinball machine and we are asking for more and more and more. These are also appetite stimulants, and we are essentially almost held hostage to these fast food restaurants and some of these these food products.

Rip Esselstyn: I was just interviewed for the Exam Room podcast, which is developed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It is hosted by Chuck Carroll, and I was so moved by our conversation and his personal story of food addiction and how he was able to conquer that and is now realizing health benefits from a plant based diet beyond his wildest dreams, that I asked him if we could turn the mics around and if he would allow me to interview him and see what advice he has for Joe and any one else that is out there.

Rip Esselstyn: You have an amazing journey yourself that you've been on. Not too long ago, you can tell us-

Chuck Carroll: It's been a number of years, actually. We're coming up on 10 years.

Rip Esselstyn: 10 years.

Chuck Carroll: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: And how old are you?

Chuck Carroll: 36.

Rip Esselstyn: So you're 36 years old, and at the age of 26 you were pushing what kind of weight?

Chuck Carroll: 420 at my heaviest.

Rip Esselstyn: 420 pounds.

Chuck Carroll: And putting it on fast.

Rip Esselstyn: And how tall are you?

Chuck Carroll: Five, I'll lie and say 5'6, but in reality it's like 5'5 and a half. So I'm very short guy.

Rip Esselstyn: I mean I think it's fair to say that you were morbidly obese.

Chuck Carroll: That would be the understatement of the century. I was 420 pounds with the 66 inch waist, a size 6XL shirt. I was at a point, Rip, where I in another year or so would have been too large to shop out of a big and tall catalog. You know, you think 420 pounds, and you see these shows, and it's certainly not a competition, but you see these shows like My 600 Pound Life, and some of the guys that are on there are close to six feet tall. So their waist never gets up to 66 inches. But if you shop out of these big and tall catalogs, in my case it was more short and fat, but you really, they will only make the waist size up to a certain certain circumference. And I believe 70 was the cutoff, man. So I was running out of time. I was running out of time.

Rip Esselstyn: And how is it, explain to me how somebody gets to 420 pounds? Because I mean I'm not sure I quite understand how that happens.

Chuck Carroll: Doesn't happen overnight. And really it wasn't until I started working here at the Physicians Committee that I really began to understand that it started very early in childhood. I was always overweight as a child, the chubby kid in class. I remember being mortified, I think in the second or third grade, when I got weighed in at school and I was over 100 pounds. I remember looking up to the teacher and I was like, "Man, I've got to go on a diet." So that was the first time that that really popped onto my radar, but I didn't really know what that meant. So the pounds kept piling on. Nobody in my family really knew a whole heap about nutrition. I come from a single parent household. Mom worked, so there wasn't a whole lot of time for cooking.

Rip Esselstyn: Was she overweight?

Chuck Carroll: Yeah. Not her entire life. She got heavier as she got older. My dad was certainly overweight. He got up to probably close to 400 at his heaviest as well. So that really ran in the family. But when you're young and your home cooked meals are French fries and baked beans and macaroni and cheese and hamburgers and things like that, then you're not going to be the skinny kid in class.

Rip Esselstyn: So you're 420 pounds. Do you have any other medical issues going on? Are you diabetic yet? Are you hypertensive?

Chuck Carroll: Hypertensive for sure, and well on my way to being diabetic. I was actually put on blood pressure medication in high school. I was 15 or 16 at the time, and my blood pressure was like around 185/110. sometimes it would get 195. I sometimes thought it would be a game. "Can I ever make it up to 200?" You know, teenager, what did I really know? But I was put on blood pressure medication and I didn't really grasp the gravity of that.

Chuck Carroll: You know, I mean that's such a huge deal to be put on beta blockers when you're a sophomore or junior in high school. But there I was, you know, and I knew that I was overweight. I just, still, I mean it was drive-thrus, and it was pizza. Over time, became more and more and more of a food addict, to the point where I got completely out of control.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. And I want to talk about that in a second.

Chuck Carroll: Sure.

Rip Esselstyn: But before we do, can you remember what would a typical day of eating look like for Chuck Carroll?

Chuck Carroll: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: Back when you were, I don't know, 20, 21, 22.

Chuck Carroll: Yeah. So at my heaviest, a lot of times I would actually skip breakfast, which turns out was a huge mistake. It is the most important meal of the day and they're not lying when they say that. But then I would have an enormous lunch. I remember 21, 22, I was working in radio, I was working up the street here in the DC area, a radio station, Big 100.3. So this kind of fueled my obesity as well because this was my big break on air and I thought "Wow, to be on Big 100.3 I have to play this Big Chuck character." And they played it up and it was great. It was my first taste of, you know, celebrity, if you want to call it that. It was local radio. So I would use that as my excuse to go across the street to Subway and get a footlong tuna sub with extra mayonnaise, and then a six inch BMT on top of that, of course with the bag of chips and the large soda that goes with it. I know that that was a lot of food.

Chuck Carroll: So I would come back to my office and close the door and eat privately in there, 18 inches of of sub, and that would be lunch. On the way home, I would go to 7/11 and get like six items off of the rollers.

Rip Esselstyn: What's a roller?

Chuck Carroll: It's the thing where they cook the hot dogs, or they have taquitos on them. I was a big fan of the buffalo chicken taquito. It got to a point at the 7/11 at one point, they knew I was coming into buy cigarettes and taquitos. They knew I would be there at like 2:00 every day. So they would just have have six fresh taquitos ready for me, and I'd get my Gatorade, pickup my smokes, my taquitos, and off I would go. So that was my snack on the, the snack mind you, on the drive home. Dinner was typically Taco Bell, and I would get $20 worth of food from there. And this was 15 years ago. So I mean they've raised their prices since then.

Chuck Carroll: So back then I mean I was getting a good five pound sack of food and crushing that, and then-

Rip Esselstyn: You were just crushing it.

Chuck Carroll: I was crushing it, man.

Rip Esselstyn: And it was crushing you.

Chuck Carroll: In every way imaginable. On nights when I wouldn't have Taco Bell, I would order pizza. But we would always get these flyers in the mail and they would advertise the office special, you know, five pizzas, feed your whole office for lunch. I would do that, and five pizzas would last me about two days. So I would eat one and then come back and have another one later on that night.

Rip Esselstyn: And these are probably with double or triple cheese.

Chuck Carroll: Meat lovers.

Rip Esselstyn: Meat lovers.

Chuck Carroll: Meat lovers or sausage-

Rip Esselstyn: Meat lovers.

Chuck Carroll: Or sausage and mushroom or the Hawaiian ham and pineapple. It's a sad state.

Rip Esselstyn: Now, during this time, so you're smoking cigarettes, are you also doing alcohol or drugs or anything like that?

Chuck Carroll: I've never talked about this on my show, but what the heck. Yeah, I'll just put it out there. Yeah man. I was a major, major, major pothead. Like some people think, "Marijuana, not a big deal." I have such an addictive personality it was a problem. I was getting high like five, six, seven times a day. I was blowing an inordinate amount of money on marijuana. So that wasn't helping things either. Alcohol not so much. I did enjoy beer, but that was never my vice, even though alcoholism runs in my family. But you know, marijuana was, that was it for me man. That was it.

Rip Esselstyn: So you've heard me talk about Joe.

Chuck Carroll: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: Joe Inga, the Bronx firefighter who's trying to reclaim his lost health, battled some addiction with alcohol and now is trying to embrace the plant-strong lifestyle. The other day after being really good for two months, Burger King was calling his name, and he got the Whopper.

Joe Inga: I went through the drive thru.

Rip Esselstyn: And what exactly did you order?

Joe Inga: I ordered the original chicken sandwich combo, which is like a fried chicken sandwich with iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise. Then it comes with a fries, a soda, and a Whopper Jr, which is like a burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise.

Rip Esselstyn: And I'm just wondering what kind of advice you could give Joe in what he's going through right now because I'm looking at a man right now who, I mean how much do you weigh right now?

Chuck Carroll: 145.

Rip Esselstyn: 145.

Chuck Carroll: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: You look like you've got your shit together. Right?

Chuck Carroll: Wow, we can cuss on his podcast? That's fantastic. Okay.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. Anyway, you're representing the lifestyle really really well.

Chuck Carroll: Thank you.

Rip Esselstyn: And so, yeah. What would you tell a guy like Joe being?

Chuck Carroll: Slips are going to happen, and that's part of it like any addiction. I wasn't able to quit food and I'm gonna put that one in quotes, we can never quit food, but we can certainly quit the way that we've been eating. So it's just like kicking any other addiction. You're probably not going to do it in your first try. That's no different than every other time you hear somebody talk about yo-yo dieting. That's exactly what they're talking about. If they're not addicted, then right at the finish line of their goal weight they go right back to eating chocolate cake as a reward. And that's a whole other thing. But for food addicts and people that just have these addictive personalities, they're prone to addiction, it is so important that you maintain this belief that you can't have just one, because one will hurt me.

Chuck Carroll: One absolutely will hurt me, because what that one does is it leads you to the next, and the next and the next and the next. So just as I know that if I were to go downstairs and have one cigarette, I would then have one pack of cigarettes and then another, and I'd be smoking two packs a day again. That is not something that I want. And the same thing holds true for the same type of foods that get you up to 420 pounds or gets Joe up to whatever weight he's at right now. That's the same thing. So I know that Joe slipped and he went to Burger King because he to see if he could handle it, I think. Joe, I love you to death. I wish you all the success in the world. That is the worst thing that you can possibly do.

Chuck Carroll: Why would you want to reintroduce that into your system?

Rip Esselstyn: I think he, I think Joe had been perfect for like two months and I think he wanted to see, he wanted to test himself and he wanted to see, "Okay, how does it make me feel?" I talked to him and he said he felt absolutely god awful inside, wanted to vomit. But it's like a curiosity maybe.

Chuck Carroll: Man, I get it because sometimes I wonder that myself. It was so hard for me to kick Taco Bell. I would go through, at my heaviest I was a Taco Bell junkie. I was actually working at a Mexican restaurant, would leave there and go to Taco Bell afterward. So I had access to free burritos and quesadillas and everything I wanted. But it wasn't Taco Bell.

Rip Esselstyn: What was it about the Taco Bell?

Chuck Carroll: I don't know, man. They must put crack in there or something. You know, I've talked to Dr. Barnard about that on the Exam Room and it's the way that this food is just engineered and put together, man. I mean it sounds like this big wacky conspiracy theory, but they really do have people in think tanks to come up with ways to get people to eat as much of this food as possible. And I think that if you're prone to addiction or you're a food addict, man, I mean they are going right to your brain and it makes it so hard to quit. So I hope that Joe doesn't experience food addiction to this extreme. But I think that the story that I share that really hits home with a lot of people who are super morbidly obese is trying to kick that habit of Taco Bell on many occasions when I would diet. The first night not feel great, but you get through it. The second night you become kind of flu-ish a little bit and you get kind of cranky.

Chuck Carroll: The third night, I would lose all the color in my face and I would get really cold sweats and I would start to shake.

Rip Esselstyn: You're actually detoxing.

Chuck Carroll: It was a physical detox. It was absolutely a physical detox. Then that night, like after I'm feeling so sick, at some point it was like "Boom," a switch flipped. I got angry and I got violent, not to the point where I was attacking anybody, but I had to hit something. So I got out of bed as sick as I was and I put my fist through a wall. That didn't do it, so I put my fist through a door because I wasn't eating a seven layer burrito. It seems so crazy to somebody who may not be familiar with addiction or food addiction, in this case in particular. But it is real and it is a strong pole.

Chuck Carroll: Then because at this time when I was putting my fist through the wall and through the door, I was on one of these diets and I was doing well, I didn't want to let anybody down. I felt like people were counting on me. So I snuck out in the middle of the night, went to the 24 hour Taco Bell drive-thru, probably 1:30, 2:00 in the morning, ordered my $20 worth of food, came back, binged, crushed it all, hid the evidence and then continued on my merry way. I was a much more pleasant guy in the morning. Nobody knew why, but-

Rip Esselstyn: So that lasted what, three day? And then-

Chuck Carroll: Three days.

Rip Esselstyn: Three days and then you succumb to the Taco Bell pull.

Chuck Carroll: Absolutely. Actually, man, you know what? It took, I went to the extreme and I had weight loss surgery. I didn't know anything about the plant based diet at that point. I really wish to God that I did because I think it would have done me a lot of good. But at the same time, I don't regret the decision. Because what the surgery does is it gives you this three to six month window where you physically can't tolerate those foods. So you're gonna feel like crap anyway after the surgery. So you might as well just go through the detox again at that same time. So that's what I did. But the interesting thing is people still, after they make that radical decision to have that surgery, if they go that route, they still go back to those same kinds of foods.

Chuck Carroll: What people don't realize about the surgery is when you go in there and the doctor's explaining it to you for the first time, a lot of these doctors will also say, "Well if this one doesn't take, you can come back for what's called a revision of surgery.

Rip Esselstyn: What does that mean if it doesn't take? Meaning if you somehow out trick it and you gain the weight back again?

Chuck Carroll: Bingo. Bingo.

Rip Esselstyn: Because I've met more people that come to me and they say, "Rip, I had the gastric bypass surgery. I lost 120 pounds and then two years later I'm back up and then some."

Chuck Carroll: Right, right. It's absolutely possible. It's not a quick fix, man. If you do not change your eating habits, if you do not change your lifestyle, you will repeat it and be right back to where you were. So what the revision of surgery does is essentially it goes back in there and it will tighten up your stomach for a second time. I guess in my case I did have gastric bypass. So obviously I didn't want that the second time. But it is my understanding that involves more staples and essentially you're having the same thing done. But to the best of my knowledge, you can not have it a third time. You can't have it a fourth time.

Rip Esselstyn: How long ago did you have the gastric bypass?

Chuck Carroll: In September, so it's 2019, so in September, September 1st it will be 10 years.

Rip Esselstyn: 10 years.

Chuck Carroll: 10 years.

Rip Esselstyn: And so did you ever put back the weight? I mean how long have you been eating plant based?

Chuck Carroll: Coming up on three years now. Never put the weight back on. I know that you've had Dr. Loomis on your podcast as well and he talked about after he went plant-based, he's in this narrow window where his weight really only fluctuates within like a 10 pound window or something like that. That's about the same for me. I'm so careful to not put those kinds of foods back in my system because, one, I know a whole lot more now about nutrition and acquired this amazing knowledge, which is so critical. But I'm petrified that if I do that, it's going to be like every other failed diet I ever went on and I'm going to be right back at the drive-thru the next night and the night after and the night after and the night after. And I do not want to be that guy again.

Rip Esselstyn: Maybe you've heard us mention the Engine 2 Rescue 10x program with Joe. As part of our support system for Joe, we've enrolled him in our online coaching program. What is it exactly? The Rescue 10x is a 10 week behavioral change intensive program geared towards helping people find their why and develop the daily habits needed to sustain longterm success with the plant-strong lifestyle. We know how important it is to have a tribe to support you and celebrate your progress. A tribe can also help pull you over the hard patches and hold you accountable. With educational videos, live group calls with Engine 2 coaches, weekly workbooks, at home exercises, and daily support in our online platform, we invite you to join the next Rescue 10x program and dedicate 10 weeks to changing your game. Visit engine2.com for details, and use the code plant strong for a $50 discount.

Rip Esselstyn: How did you find plant based nutrition?

Chuck Carroll: Very interesting story. I actually also still cover sports for CBS, and I was interviewing a professional wrestler by the name of Austin Aries. He was like, "Hey, Chuck, I'm plant-based. I just put out this new book. It's amazing and you need to watch this documentary. It's called What The Health?" That one had just dropped. And I did, and I thought that I was a healthy eater before then and no. I was a dairy junkie and I was eating a ton of chicken breasts, like they were going out of style.

Rip Esselstyn: This is after the gastric bypass.

Chuck Carroll: This is absolutely-

Rip Esselstyn: You're eating chicken, you're eating the dairy, you're doing all that.

Chuck Carroll: Eating salmon.

Rip Esselstyn: But because of your gastric bypass and I guess the size of your stomach, did you feel like you were limited in how much of this you could eat at one sitting?

Chuck Carroll: Your stomach is very elastic so it will stretch back out and expand over time. So I can eat a really good portion of food now. So after a few years your stomach's not the same size that it was, but you can put it away if you want. So portions really aren't that big of a deal anymore.

Rip Esselstyn: Okay. Okay.

Chuck Carroll: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: Okay. So What The Health.

Chuck Carroll: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: And now you're kind of, light bulb goes off and you're on your way.

Chuck Carroll: Oh, 100% on my way. I was always in nutrition, and I was a reporter for CBS Radio at that time. I was covering the most depressing stories in the world. I mean, you're a firefighter. I'm sure that you've seen some things that you'd prefer not to talk about anymore. And you know, every day it was going to another scene like that, whether it was a fatal or even if it wasn't a fatal, a family loses everything in their home. And, and you just see the tears associated with that, the sorrow, the heartbreak, or God forbid, a deadly accident or murder or whatever. Anyway.

Joe Inga: You know, one of the reasons why I went on this was there was a recent incident in October that really kind of woke my eyes up to a lot of things. One of my best friends, Tom Corcoran, he's a firefighter in our firehouse, him and I, we were working in a different firehouse together. He had the roof position in the ladder truck and we got called to a fire on the top floor of the building. He went up the ladder and he fell off of the roof, 35 feet, and broke his back. This happened while I was in the engine. I kind of saw him. I didn't see him directly fall, but I heard it. I can still hear the ring of the cylinder in my head constantly. I look around the corner and there he is laying there.

Chuck Carroll: That takes a toll on you emotionally. And I wanted to do something positive with my life. I loved talking about weight loss. I love talking about my story and trying to inspire other people. And so I then pitched the idea of doing this podcast to the Physicians Committee, and they really liked the idea, God bless them, and three meetings later we had a side deal and then the Exam Room has been off and running ever since.

Rip Esselstyn: How long ago was that?

Chuck Carroll: That would've been October 2017, so a year and a half.

Rip Esselstyn: Wow. Huge congrats on that.

Chuck Carroll: Thanks, man.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah.

Chuck Carroll: Thanks.

Rip Esselstyn: You mentioned emotions a second ago and how the murders, the bad car accidents and all that stuff takes an emotional toll on you. I found that to be the case too as a firefighter. When I was interviewing JD Roth, who is the TV producer of The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss and The Revolution and all these amazing reality TV shows, he mentioned to me that he feels that really to address this weight loss, you have to kind of first find out what's going on at an emotional level. Do you agree with that?

Chuck Carroll: That's definitely a big part of it. Emotion is definitely a very big part of it because you do build this relationship with food and it becomes a warm blanket. It's a warm blanket when you're sad. It's a great thing to celebrate with when you're happy. Food is your friend, and a lot of times it's your best friend, especially for super morbidly obese people, because a lot of times in that case you become very isolated. You don't want to leave the house either because you feel like crap or you don't have self confidence and you don't have a whole lot of friends. So everybody needs a friend. So in my case, my friend was Taco Bell.

Rip Esselstyn: But if you had to point to one deep rooted emotional thing in your life that led to it, I mean, do you feel like you know what that is? Maybe we're going deeper than we need to go right now and just, I'm totally cool with that.

Chuck Carroll: Well, what the hell? So when I was in elementary school, I had a babysitter that got a little inappropriate with me. I didn't realize what a toll that took on me, like that stuck with me. And certainly that was not the only thing and I'm not using that as a total excuse, but there's that scarring that builds up over time. So that's one thing. Being a product of divorce was another thing. Dad moved away, hundreds of miles away, when I was very young. Why doesn't dad love me? I don't know. Let me cure that pain with food.

Chuck Carroll: Then when you get overweight and you don't have the confidence and you can't get a girlfriend, that stings. So what's your relationship with then? It's with food. Then when you do get a girlfriend, and this is honest to God true story. When you do get a girlfriend and you're 400 pounds, you think that you're on top of the world, but this girl is so ashamed to be dating somebody so heavy that she doesn't tell her friends that we're dating. She doesn't tell her family that we're dating. She asked that I not tell anybody that we're dating. And this goes on for a year and a half and I tolerated it because I didn't have the confidence to say, "Hey, that's not right."

Chuck Carroll: I thought that that was the best that I could do. So that's what I tolerated. And so every time this conversation would come up, it was like being kicked in the jimmies all over again, like really hard. Kicked in the jimmies with steel toed boots. And so what do you do? More pain. Where do you go? Taco Bell. That's food addiction, man. It's psychological, it's emotional, it's physical. It's a whole bunch of things, man. It's so hard, so hard.

Rip Esselstyn: Are you seeing somebody right now?

Chuck Carroll: Oh, I'm married, man.

Rip Esselstyn: Oh, okay. Good for you.

Chuck Carroll: Thank you.

Rip Esselstyn: Well, so what have you had to eat today? Can you let Joe and those guys know?

Chuck Carroll: Yeah. All right. So breakfast this morning was actually a unique one. I was kind of in a hurry. So it was a, I had a little bit of roasted sweet potato leftover from last night. So I had that. And then I had some carrots and some Engine 2 hummus and that was breakfast. You know, it's not your traditional bacon and eggs, but I don't miss that. So to me that was great. Then I come in here and come to find out that lunch was a couple of recipes right out of the Engine 2 book, man.

Chuck Carroll: I mean it was this steamed kale with a little bit of nutritional yeast and cheesy chickpeas. I mean it was just so good on top of a bed of brown rice. I mean, like, that's eating right there. It was so good.

Rip Esselstyn: It was simple, it was easy, and it was delicious.

Chuck Carroll: Delicious. That's the most important part. It can be difficult, but it's delicious that makes a difficulty okay. But if it's simple and delicious, home run.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. Yeah. Well, Chuck.

Chuck Carroll: Rip.

Rip Esselstyn: This was just an unexpected pleasure.

Chuck Carroll: Thank you.

Rip Esselstyn: And I appreciate you being willing to come on at the last moment. I appreciate your willingness to just kind of bare it all, and I'm sure there's a lot of people that will benefit from your courage today.

Chuck Carroll: Well, I appreciate you having me on.

Rip Esselstyn: I want to thank my co creator of the podcast, Scott Battishill, and 10-Percent Media, Laurie Kortowich, producer extraordinaire, and the Engine 2 director of events, Bumble Media for this podcast production, and Brandon Curtis for everything in between. Thanks to Whole Foods Market for believing in me and giving me a platform for the last 10 years. Special thanks to Joe Inga, our Bronx firefighter for your courage to not only change your life, but also allowing us to share your story along the way. Lastly, I want to thank my father and mother, Dr Caldwell B Esselstyn Jr., and Ann Crile Esselstyn, as well as all the Plant-Strong pioneers who have been pushing this boulder uphill for more than three decades. As they say, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. And remember, if you're digging the show, please rate us on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. And with that, let me say peace, Engine 2, keep it plant strong.

Ami Mackey