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Helping Friends Understand the McDougall Diet

Updated September 30, 2014

Once you know the benefits of a starch-based diet, you will want to share the good news with family and friends. And maybe with everyone you meet. Some people will be ready to listen and learn while others may need more education and experiences before you can open their eyes. You will not be able to identify the willing until you try. Once you know better, it is your obligation to share the good news about a starch-based diet with others. Consider your best communication assets and gracefully move into the other person’s world so that you may help them.

Desperately Ill People Are Not Always Easy to Influence

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Opposite Approaches to Influence People Mary is gentle and reserved. Looking and feeling great she says, “Eating this way works for me.” John aggressively confronts people (it’s his nature). He says, “Just look at the facts.”

A well-educated dentist came into my office with heart bypass surgery scheduled for the next week. I (John McDougall, MD) reviewed his coronary angiogram pictures with him, pointing out blockages in two of the three major blood vessels feeding his heart. I explained that these ominous-appearing shadows really represented old, healed scars and that they were not life threatening.

The man had plenty of time to change his diet and regain his lost health. If this were an emergency, I pointed out, his doctors would have operated last week. And he had no chest pains. The major scientific studies on the results of coronary artery bypass surgery show that this operation does not save lives. The dentist knew these medical facts and that he had a dietary disease that could easily be stopped by taking my recommendations. From my viewpoint, there was never a more suitable candidate for change: he was intelligent, successful, motivated, and had every reason to live. He walked out of my office with much to ponder.

His surgery the following week was claimed a success even though he was left with a tremor in his right hand and some memory loss. My initial conclusion was that I had failed to help him. On the contrary, he did not forget the time we spent together. It has been one year since his surgery and his wife reports that he is now down 45 pounds and 95% on the diet. You may find yourself with similar frustrating encounters.

At the other end of the spectrum of need, don’t miss the opportunity to help the apparently healthy. I commonly see patients without any immediate threat to their wellbeing or life. They are trim with no sign of illness. However, their enthusiasm for a healthy diet may be as great as any person facing diabetes or breast cancer. Often, their goal is to remain in great shape, thereby avoiding a full spectrum of family ailments. Even healthy people realize that dietary illness, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even a stroke can strike without warning.

Don’t Give-up on Those You Love

After his first heart attack at age 54, my dad (John McDougall, Sr.) began to eat better at my encouragement. It took his second heart attack at age 70 followed by heart surgery to turn him around completely. The result of his serious dietary efforts was that we had 11 more years together SCUBA diving and flying airplanes. (He died at age 81.) My father-in-law (Mary’s dad) found a nodule in his prostate late in his sixties and had a heart attack at age 70. Mary and I encouraged him to give up the chicken and pizza. Following his second heart attack (and a threat from the heart surgeon), at age 72 he changed. He spent the next 21 years repairing and rebuilding our house. He died at age 93 with prostate cancer (not from it). Mary and I never gave up on our dads (nor our moms). (Mary’s mother died at 99 and John’s is still going strong at 91.)

Few people change following their initial introduction to a starch-based diet. They need more education, which comes through having positive and negative experiences. Pleasant forms of education include hanging out with people who eat well and appreciating a tasty bowl of split pea soup. Painful experiences include a trip to the emergency room for chest pain, finding a lump in your breast, or a prescription for shots of insulin. Through both negative and positive lessons, many people reach a time when they are ready for a serious turn around. You can help them with their journey.

5 Ways to Influence Others

1) Look the part. In order to share the message of good health through good nutrition you must educate by example. Others will notice your appearance. They will also notice what you are eating. I have found it is nearly impossible to speak beyond your own dinner plate: If you are eating meat and cheese, then you will find it nearly impossible to tell others to act differently.

2) Show the food. People eating at our programs in Santa Rosa are amazed by the flavor and abundance of food served. Not all vegan meals are the same! Meals based on green (kale), orange (carrots), and red (peppers) non-starchy vegetables are unsatisfying. Leave out the salt and spice, and the flat-tasting result causes many people thinking they would rather die than eat another bland vegan meal.

We serve “comfort food” like lasagna and spaghetti with a rich red sauce, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and rice bowls topped with snow peas, mushrooms, sprouts and a low-fat peanut sauce. Plus people can eat all they desire without after-dinner heartburn and bloating.

3) Present the truth about medical care. I have been asked many times over my career why I don’t just stick to the topic of diet. Why do I insist on bad-mouthing the work of heart surgeons, cardiologists, oncologists, and diabetes specialists? I do this because patients must understand that their current attempts to improve their health will never work. It is not a matter of “I will have bypass surgery rather than change my diet,” or “I will take a statin to compensate for my bacon and eggs,” or “A little extra insulin or a Metformin tablet will reduce the adverse effects caused by a dessert of double chocolate cheesecake.” The surgeries and drugs have little to no real benefits, and deliver great costs and harm to the patient and his or her family. Believing the medical business will save you may result in you missing your chance to heal with a simple diet.

Many times, changing one’s diet is viewed as the last chance to regain health, when in reality it was always the only chance. You can help others realize these truths by referring them to my Hot Topics section on The McDougall website (www.drmcdougall.com) and my previous McDougall books, which discuss the limitations of popular treatments like prostate and breast cancer surgery, and drugs for conditions from diabetes to hypertension.

4) Show them some Star McDougallers. I have found pictures and personal stories to be more powerful than research papers in influencing others to change their diet. Your friend or family member will think, “If another mortal is strong-willed enough to change, then I can too.” “If that person recovered from heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, then I can too.”

5) Get Friends and Family Involved with the McDougalls. Many people who have benefited from the McDougall Program want the same for their spouse, children, and/or parents. Unfortunately, it is hardest to learn from those closest to you. So give us, the McDougalls, a chance to deliver this powerful message to your loved ones.

Here is one common scenario: Grandpa and grandma cringed watching their grandchildren drink cow’s milk, so they offered them a free vacation to Costa Rica if they will attend a one hour lecture by “the doctor” each evening—after their adventures down the river with crocodiles or through the tree tops with monkeys. They don’t even have to eat the McDougall food; tell the grandkids they are welcome to eat at the other two dinning rooms at the resort, and “Just listen to his daily talk.” In almost all cases the whole family participates in the McDougall meals as soon as they see that the food is tasty, the crowd is friendly, and the health message is relevant.

“Small doses of McDougall” can also be found at weekend seminars held fours times a year. And some people find a 10-day live-in stay the best way to help. And the website is abundant with free articles and videos.

I Once Was Blind but Now I See

As a young physician, I (John McDougall, MD) was not interested in medicine because I found my studies confusing. Nothing made practical sense to me: I could not see how I could help my patients with the tools given me. Once I understood that my patients all were sick from eating the rich western diet, everything became clear. From that day on, all disciplines of medicine were fascinating. I wanted to know everything about food and medicine, and I wanted to learn everything cardiologists, neurologists, oncologists, and surgeons knew. My passion has caused me to be a voracious reader of the scientific literature over the past 38 years.

The same may happen for you. Once you see medical problems and solutions through the lens of starch-based nutrition, mysteries surrounding the health and appearance of friends and relatives will vanish. You will want to learn, share, and help those you care about.