Categories super nutrition academy health class
A Look At The Movie – Vitality with Pedram Shojai
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Yuri: Hey, guys, how’s it going? Yuri here with another episode of the SNA Health Class. I hope you’re having a great day. I’m pretty pumped because in this interview that you’re going to enjoy in the next couple minutes, I’ve got my good friend Pedram Shojai. I always have a tough time pronouncing his last name, but nonetheless, he’s an amazing doctor.
In this interview he’s going to give us some really cool perspectives on his experience in the medical community as a doctor and transitioning to discovering answers and solutions that are a little bit more alternative. He’s created an incredible documentary film called Vitality, and as you’ll see in this interview, I highly recommend watching it because I’ve watched it myself and I really think that these kinds of documentaries, you can’t get enough of them.
Most of us watch way too much TV as it is anyways; put aside an hour to an hour and a half to watch something really inspiring that is going to propel you forward in a healthy manner. That’s what these kinds of documentary movies are all about. Just like with James Colquhoun and Food Matters and Hungry for Change. Those are incredible movies that I think should be on everybody’s bookshelf or, at the very minimum, watching online.
Without any further ado, I’m going to introduce Pedram; he’ll be here in a moment. And I hope you guys enjoy the interview. Stay all the way to the end obviously, because we’ve got great stuff all the way through this interview. And we’ll see you on the other side.
Hey guys, welcome. Yuri Elkaim here with another episode of the Super Nutrition Academy Health Class, and with me today, I’ve got my good friend on the West Coast, Dr. Pedram Shojai.
Just to give you guys a bit of a background to who he is, well, if you don’t know him, he’s an elaborate guy. He’s a visionary author and filmmaker, as we’re going to be talking about in this podcast; a seasoned martial artist; a qigong master; doctor of oriental medicine; priest; knight; avid outdoorsman; and traveler. He studied with the likes of the Dalai Lama and has a real no-nonsense approach to life, health, and happiness.
His first movie, which we’re going to talk about a little bit in this podcast, called Vitality, breaks apart the problems with our current medical system and shows us how to increase our vitality so we don’t need expensive drugs and surgeries as much as we do in today’s world. His movies feature some of the biggest names in the health, wellness, fitness, and green movements. He’s taken a bold stance and is having a good time doing so.
I’m really excited to bring for the information that he’s sharing. He is also the founder and president of Well.org. You guys want to check that out; it’s Well.org, which is becoming a rapidly growing hub for health content that matters and breaks through the nonsense, which is awesome because, as you guys know, I can’t stand the nonsense, and that’s what this podcast is all about, to kind of cut through it all. Welcome, Pedram.
Pedram: Hey, good to be here.
Yuri: Awesome. I’m happy to have you. Let’s get right into this. You have an awesome documentary type of movie called Vitality. I watched this probably a couple weeks ago now, and I just find it amazing because you talked about four kind of big pillars within the movie with respect to how to increase our vitality. Can you share with our listeners what those four pillars are?
Pedram: Yeah, absolutely. What happens is everyone comes in thinking, I’m going to change my diet; my health is going to get better, or, I’m going to start doing this exercise routine and it gets better. What we’ve found kind of consistently across the board is that if you don’t look at all of these four spokes on the wheel—those four spokes being diet, exercise, sleep, and mind-set. Under mind-set, obviously, being stressed, stress management, meaning and purpose in life, and all the things that come with mind-set. The other things don’t all work out.
You cannot attain vitality without having a balanced approach to looking at life holistically. In doing so, you can eat as well as you want. If you’re not sleeping, you’re going to have problems and on and on and on. What we did is we kind of set up this super structure so people can start looking at health at just a little bit higher altitude vision of it. What it’s done is it’s really illustrated to us how much the medical system’s become so segmented that we want to look at everything in such isolation that we forget that the big picture is this whole organism, which is us.
Yuri: And what’s cool is that, I mean, you came from the medical community, and you were just so fed up with all the nonsense that was happening there. Can you give our listeners a bit of perspective as to what you were doing before you created this documentary? And what was it that just had you say “Enough is enough. I need to do something about this”?
Pedram: Yeah, sure. I came back. I was on sabbatical out in Asia. I was in India and traveling the Himalayans and doing the monk thing. Then I came back and started a practice and realized how little communication there was between the Eastern, the holistic guys and the kind of traditional guys.
I kept trying to bridge that gap and said the way I’m going to finally have to do this is I’m going to start my own medical group. I hired a bunch of doctors and blew it out. We had three big offices, and we were just buys humming, doing the medical thing.
I just became more and more brutally aware of the fact that I only got paid when people were sick, and, frankly, there was really no incentive to get them well, because if they stayed unwell, they’d keep coming back for more visits. I was fussing around, trying to get a model to work on the wellness side, and the insurance companies won’t pay for that stuff, or at the time they wouldn’t.
It was all just about diagnosing illness and kind of playing the game. People became cases; they weren’t people anymore. And that’s when I said, “You know what? This is ridiculous. This is not what I got into this game for.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back was at a health care symposium with bunch of hospital CEOs. I’d worked my way up into that room, and I was supposed to feel proud of myself. I asked this guy, I said, “Hey, how’s it going?” He says, “Terrible. I need some people to fall off the roof so my ER could fill up because my stuff is empty right now.”
And that was it. I just took a step back and said, “Look, how can you not wish well for the people that come in to your business as a sworn health care provider?” And that’s when I knew that there was something terribly wrong with the system. Especially in America.
The American system is very capitalistic. I know that you guys have, the Canadian system’s a little better; there are plenty of gripes about it. The U.K., same thing. It just became about profit-driven medicine that wasn’t focused on the wellness of the patient, but on the symptoms of the patient and the management of their care instead of teaching them how to not get sick in the first place; teaching them how to stay well so that they don’t need to fall into that trap.
Yuri: You’ve obviously been surrounded by doctors for a long time now. I think a lot of doctors get into medicine, the ones that I know—get into medicine because they want to ultimately help people. Do you find that with the doctors that you know that are practicing traditional allopathic medicine, do you find that they’ve come to a point where there’s such a disconnect between what they thought they were doing and what’s actually happening now in their practices with their patients? Or are they just kind of going through day to day without much awareness of what’s going on?
Pedram: A hundred percent, a hundred percent. There’re many examples of different kinds here, so I want to make sure that I don’t overgeneralize. I know a lot of doctors who will not recommend medicine for their kids. They say, “It used to be great. Now go into banking or go into finance.” Finance is where all the money’s at obviously, right? They’re saying, “If you want to make a living, go sell money. Forget about this bleeding-heart stuff,” which is sad because we need good doctors.
Then there’re the ones that kind of came through that egomaniacal era where it’s like you’re a doctor, you’re at the top of the world, you’re the king of the hill. A lot of them didn’t develop social skills and didn’t have the interpersonal skills, so they’re five alimonies deep in their family life, and they’re just working because they’ve got to keep working because they’ve got to feed the machine that they’ve created. And then I know a bunch of ’em that just got out and said, “Screw this. This isn’t what I got into this for. I’m either going to do some Doctors Without Borders in Africa or something, or I’m going to go into real estate because I’m tired of hearing people gripe, and I’m tired of the insurance companies pressing and the drug companies doing this and that and the other,” and then they leave.
None of that’s a good scene because at the end of the day, well-intentioned people that have gone into a noble profession trying to help people, and what has kind of systematically started to happen is, they just get more and more frustrated to the point where they say “Screw it, I’m out.” That’s not good for the end user of the health care system, and it’s certainly not good for these highly trained people that could be there helping people, but the system is kind of forwarding them from their interest or their attempts to do so.
Yuri: That’s interesting. From your perspective, with all this stuff you’ve done, your different travels and the different hats you’ve worn, what is your definition of health? I’m assuming it’s kind of related to what you talk about in Vitality.
Pedram: Yeah, yeah. If you were to put health on a scale and say everything from center to left would be the sickness that would fall into the disease-care model, so to speak. That’s pretty much all we talk about in the health care paradigm.
In Washington they’re not having a health care debate; they’re having a health care finance debate. They’re talking about who pays the bill; they’re not really talking about health. Everything that’s been part of that conversation has been from center to left, which basically means symptom-free to dying of cancer.
What we’re starting to change the argument about in this vitality paradigm is: What if you were overflowing with abundant health? What if your systems were doing so well that you had more energy available to you so that you could climb that rock or help a stranger in need or not get the flu when everyone else gets it? What is this vitalistic model that the yogis have talked about?
I’m a shaolin kung fu guy. These guys built up their chi; they built up their prowess; they built up their health at such a functional capacity where it’s like, yeah, disease happens, people get hit by trucks. But offsetting that, enhancing your health to a point where you’re actually vital, that’s an argument we’re making because that has been off the table.
Who talks about that? The fitness people talk about that, some of the nutrition people start talking about that, but the health care system is way behind. Guys like you, you guys are way ahead of the spectrum, and it’s where health care’s going, really.
Yuri: Yeah, we hope so. Definitely, definitely hope so. Just kind of switching gears to fitness for a second, one of the things I really enjoyed that you touched on, which I think is so misunderstood in the fitness industry is the importance of strength training. I thought that was a really cool moment, or several minutes, you guys had in the movie, because from a health perspective, so many people talk about you need to do cardiovascular training, you need to improve your cardiovascular system, you need to hop on the treadmill and go for a run.
But it was awesome to see you guys taking a very different position because hopefully more and more people are understanding the detriments of doing too much cardio, especially a lot of running. Can you speak to what you learned about strength training, why it’s important, the different people you learned from, and some basic fundamentals anyone can apply?
Pedram: Yeah, I’ve treated in just my clinical practice a number of triathletes and ultra marathoners and a lot of these people who are kind of competitive long-distance people…addictive joggers, if you will. I’ll tell you, once they get into their fourth or fifth decade, many of which are already there, obviously, they’re all coming in kind of secretly complaining about not being able to get erections, they’re all having mood disorders. All kinds of things are falling apart because their endocrine systems are not being able to sustain the energy output that they’re getting.
In contrast, look at a sprinter. Those people look like He-Man, right? They look like superstars. There’s something about the functional strength and the quick, fast-twitch muscle and these types of explosive trainings that are creating physiologies that are much more sustainable and healthy than this kind of long, slow jogging burn.
I think that there’s an epidemic of people who are getting sick from over jogging and doing this kind of burned-out, old-model cardio. One of the things that we talk about is, first of all, I’ll have our physical therapy staff or someone take a look at someone and just do a functional screening to see if someone is even capable of running. If you can’t do your basic squats, if you can’t do certain things and when you’re running every time, your hips are so weak functionally that your knees are dipping in, that’s a meniscus waiting to happen.
I’m working with a couple really prominent orthopedists right now and really discussing a model for preventative orthopedics that revolves around functional training and strengthening, because that’s really what’s missing. The way the health care system works right now is: Oh, you’re fat; go jogging. Oh, you hurt yourself jogging; we’ll replace that part. Oh, well, you hurt yourself jogging again; we’ll redo that surgery. Now we’ll do the other knee.
It’s a great system for keeping the hospitals and the emergency rooms and all these things full, but if you could prevent yourself from getting those injuries and strengthen yourself in a capacity where walking and sitting and just moving are things that come kind of naturally and innately, then you are offsetting this huge risk of getting injured in a way that is going to lead to surgery and kind of expensive interventions.
You reference back to our Paleo brethren, right? Those guys were cruising around all day. Those guys were moving, they were active, they were climbing trees, and they were just in the thick of this really kind of aggressive, natural environment that required them to be fit and muscular. You would run after things to eat them or to run for your life.
And I know there are certain arguments like born to run and all this stuff that people would do long-distance running. And I do believe that there are ways to do long-distance running with foot striking and some of the different methodologies for how we are using our bodies biomechanically, but the way everyone’s doing it right now, strapping on their Nikes and running down the asphalt, it’s suicide. It’s really bad for you.
Yuri: Yeah, and as you said, it’s just driving down the street or even going for a walk, you see so many people who should not be running. And you talk about how their knees are kind of buckling in. it’s one of those things where it’s just a paradigm shift that needs to take place. Especially among women who believe that doing cardio is the only way to lose weight and that weights are kind of a scary thing because they’re going to have them bulk up, which is a bit of a fallacy as well.
Thankfully with the stuff you’re sharing in the movie, hopefully what we’re sharing within people who know this stuff, we’re getting this message to more people, because strength training is so important. Going to nutrition for a second, what’s in your, I guess in your journeys and maybe what you talk about in the movie, what is the number one fundamental nutrition piece that people, it doesn’t matter what diet they’re following, but what is a fundamental component that people need to have in place for good nutrition?
Pedram: In my opinion, I’m kind of a throwback guy. I’m a blood sugar person when it comes to that argument. If you can manage your blood sugar in a reasonable way, then your body won’t freak out, you’ll get the energy that you need to extract from the food, and your systems can be going and you won’t be storing it as fat.
Over the years I’ve looked at a lot of the literature, followed this stuff for a long time, and what it really boils down to at this point, and it sounds overly simplistic, if it has a label on it, don’t eat it. I’ve really kind of gone back, I’m kickin’ it old school, if you will, just going back to saying eat whole foods.
Steam your vegetables; eat them raw if you can. Stay away from the really high-glycemic stuff. Have lean proteins. And eat like our ancestors did in a lot of ways, you will be doing well.
Look, if you’re some sort of long-distance athlete who’s going to be running a marathon tomorrow, yeah, sure eat your pasta. But that’s not your average desk jockey who’s out there working their nine-to-five, going home, and maybe going to the gym, getting a dinner, maybe watching some TV, and going to bed.
We’re taking way too many carb calories, way too many processed-carb calories, and not really moving enough to justify it. I think there’re six people I know that deserve to be eating pasta; everyone else is getting fat.
Yuri: It’s funny because I had somebody on Facebook ask me, I think it was yesterday, it was the weirdest question. They said: How do I get enough carbs? I’m not getting enough carbs because most of my meals are in the form of protein and fats. I was like, really? That is so unusual because the abundance of carbs, in any kind of packaged or processed food, it’s pretty much carbohydrate-based. That was interesting.
Pedram: Yeah, just eat a Twinkie. You will explode with carbs.
Yuri: Exactly. I think most people understand that, hopefully, they should be eating more whole foods. How do you get somebody to start? If somebody comes to see you or if somebody’s asking you for a recommendation, somebody comes in, they’re overweight, how do you practically, what’s the first thing you get them to do?
It’s easy and we all say the same thing about get rid of all the garbage in your house, stick to the outside of the grocery store and the produce. But from a practicality standpoint, is there something that you have discovered for yourself that works well in terms of making that transition or some things that you’ve seen in clients or friends of yours that have started to follow these types of guidelines?
Pedram: Yeah, I always start it with what you just prefaced it with, which is don’t, basically what happens is your food decisions happen well before it’s time to eat. They happen at the grocery store, and they happen when you’re curating the food, when you’re picking it up or planning ahead and anticipating. I’m a big fan of batch cooking.
I’m a big fan of going to the grocery store or, more specifically, if you can—I’ve been recommending this over the years, but now it’s like we’re doing so much media that there’re people who don’t have access to everything that I talk about, so I’m trying to be a little more egalitarian about it all—but I’m a big fan of the CSA, which is community-supported agriculture. What they’ll do is they’ll pool together produce from local farmers’ markets that are all organic and healthy; deliver them to a drop point or your house on a weekly, biweekly basis, depending on what you’re paying.
All of a sudden, you get this tub of stuff that you may or may not even know what to do with. It’s great because then you gamify it. You get the wife, you get the kids. You go, “Okay, we’re going to make this thing. This thing is called a zucchini squash, or this is called a who knows what,” and then you look it up and you build a culture around cooking.
You would probably agree with this; Mark Hyman definitely agrees with this. It’s what’s happening now in the meme of our culture. All the great docs out there are saying, “Look, just go back to cooking. Get back in the kitchen. Do a sensible approach to meals that revolves around you understanding what goes in your food.”
If you’re in the kitchen with your wife and kids, you’re not going to put Blue 40 or methylbenzylperoxate whatever as an additive in your pilaf dish because that’s insane. But if you’re eating out, it’s either in there or if you’re getting it out of a box, it’s in there. You just take it for granted that that’s how food comes.
The way that we can avoid this unnecessary exposure to these endocrine disruptors and these poison chemicals that are in these foods is to take over, take control, start cooking, and make that a part of the ritual, right? You could meet the guys at the bar for happy hour, or you can have them come over and have a cooking night or have the families, have them come over as a couples’ night, and you guys can all cook together. These rituals just need to be looked at.
One of the things, just to go back to your questions is: If someone comes in and they’re significantly overweight and they’re telling me that they want to lose weight and they’re under some sort of trance where they think that I’m going to do something or say something or give them some pill where their problem’s going to go away within two to three weeks, I do a little bit of reality management with them. It’s a slow burn.
It’s about changing a lifestyle and making it sustainable. All of these flash-in-the-pan diet-mentality tactics that have become so pervasive in the West, they’re just, there’re a lot of ways to make money off of people, and there are very few simple ways to help people.
I know that’s what you do in your Nutrition Academy, which I think is so great, teaching people what’s up so that they can have a sensible approach to health and living, really, that kind of carries into their lives for not just them, but for generations to come instead of saying, “Oh, look, I just got this resveratrol extract, and I lost nine pounds. So what if I gained it back? It was so good at the time.” It’s not sustainable and it’s not real; it’s market-driven and, to me, that’s distasteful.
Yuri: Yeah, no pun intended. But it’s completely true. I’ve mentioned this I don’t even know how many times now the importance of getting the whole family involved and the food-preparation process because if your kids grow up with fast food, well, most likely, they’re going to continue those habits later on in life. It’s not like we wake up at 40 years old and, for whatever reason, we’re addicted to McDonald’s. That happens over years. That’s great stuff.
Out in LA, I guess, obviously, California is like the hub of agriculture; it’s just incredible the stuff that’s grown out there. Is there more of a movement at the school level and maybe even in individual homes to start gardening and getting kids involved in that whole process of growing their own food so that they see, “Oh, this is where carrots come from. This is what they look like.” Is that happening at a young age in California that you’ve been aware of?
Pedram: We just did an interview with a guy named Murray Scott, who’s been doing it down in the San Diego area. Maybe I can hook you up to meet with this guy when you’re down here.
Pedram: He’s been doing it for the school district. What happened is there’ve been a lot of these consolidations where they’re closing schools and basically chucking all the kids into one campus so they can save money and all that. So, they have these campuses that are just sitting there with land, empty.
This guy’s gone in and set up organic agricultural farming programs, and then they just rotate the kids in to work the land. It’s been tremendously successful and it’s a model that’s expanding. For guys like myself, it’s never expanding fast enough because I see the diabesity problem head-on in the clinical setting so often, but if you’re going to take a step back and see what’s happening, it’s incredibly encouraging.
And there is a home-gardening movement that is really kind of taking effect. I work with a lot of the local organizations out here that are doing it and harvesting and feeding the kids in the food bank and creating kind of a local markets where even the whole-foods foragers are buying from now. It’s a real promise that is starting to be fulfilled.
Here in the States, Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers, one of his famous axioms was: A country that can’t feed itself is in trouble. I really see this as a Jeffersonian revival of agriculture in a way that’s really empowering for the people because, look, if you can’t control what you eat, you’re in trouble, and that’s really where the thing was headed.
California happens to be one of the progressive states that’s really kind of moving the needle and changing that on the front end. California is usually a leader in things like that; we really blew it on Prop 37, but there’re a lot of things that are happening in California that are very worth looking at and will change the world if there’s sustained momentum behind it.
Yuri: Yeah. I was just thinking about this. I don’t know if there’re any stats on this, but I bet there are more people who know how to use a firearm in the U.S. than know how to grow their own food.
Pedram: I would have to say just from the gut, you are absolutely right. They can shoot empty beer cans no problem.
Yuri: And if you think about it, that’s kind of a big problem. Sure, we can defend ourselves, but we can’t even sustain our own life by growing food. It’s really interesting.
Pedram: Yeah, I think it’s a perversion of the American spirit and the kind of cowboy spirit that really made this country great, which is you’re out on the frontier, you’ve got to protect your family. You’re not going to go eat something stupid, because there’s no doctor for 150 miles, and you gotta get there by horse.
People were really sensible, they took care of themselves, they had healthy, wholesome food, and they kind of sourced it themselves. The guns were used for defense when times were tough and all that. The whole argument has been flipped around, so yes, people are kind of defending it.
And I’m not going to make an argument for or against guns, but there was a whole spirit that was about rugged individualism and taking care of yourself and the ones around you and that’s been lost. All people are clinging to is their guns. I agree with you; I think it’s sad and it’s short-sighted.
Yuri: Cool. Well, we don’t need to go down the gun-debate route, but let’s finish off by giving the best place for people to watch Vitality. Would be to go to Well.org or…?
Pedram: Yeah, we’re actually currently in talks with a bunch of TV stations and all that for it. You go to Well.org and we’ll have updates for it, and within the next week or so, it’ll pretty much be up on Netflix for preorder and all these things. It’s ready to go.
I know you and I talked about we might do a sneak preview for your audience, so you can send an e-mail out for your audience to get a sneak preview of the movie, because it’s real limited availability while it’s getting shopped and all that, but I’m going to try to arrange a private screening for your peeps.
Yuri: That’d be awesome. We’ll definitely let them know about it. Great, well, thank you very much, Pedram, for taking the time to share your insights with us. And, obviously, for everyone listening, I’d highly recommend watching Vitality because I’m a huge believer in these types of documentary movies because sometimes you just need a bit of a kick in the butt, and you need some inspiration, motivation, reminder of what’s happening and what’s healthy and what’s not.
These types of documentaries are just awesome. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t get enough of them, because the more inspiration you have to get out of a funk or to go to the grocery store and get some healthier foods or to make some positive changes is really what it’s all about. You’re going to spend an hour, hour and a half watching TV anyways, and most people, so why not watch the good stuff?
Again, go to Well.org to check out Vitality. Thanks again, Pedram, for taking the time.
Pedram: Thanks for having me. It’s always a pleasure.
Yuri: Awesome, buddy; talk to you soon. Everyone else, we’ll see you in the next episode.
Pedram: Cheers, thanks.
Yuri: So, there we go. Another awesome interview with Pedram. Again, check out the Vitality movie at Well.org. I’ll obviously post the link below this interview on the blog, so pop over to SuperNutritionAcademy.com/blog, find Episode 73, where we’re talking with Dr. Pedram, and you’ll want to get, view the movie, watch the movie, it’s awesome.
It’s really, really inspiring. You’re going to really feel pumped up afterward. He talks about those four vital pillars to health, and they go into detail and depth to show you how to really implement each one into your life.
Once again, I’d love for some interaction from you guys. Grab a picture, take a picture with your iPhone or wherever you’re listening to this podcast from, whether that be in the car—obviously, don’t do anything crazy in the car, but just take a picture of yourself sitting in the car at a stoplight or when the car’s parked, something along those lines—tag me in the photo, Yuri Elkaim, upload it to my Facebook page, or upload it to your Facebook page and just tag me, and it’ll be picked up on my Facebook page too, Yuri Elkaim.
Let me know where you’re listening to the podcast from. We want to really give people some cool ideas as to where people are in the world, where they’re listening to the podcast, and how it’s keeping you pumped up and inspired to be healthy and eating well.
So, that’s all from me today. I hope you guys have an awesome day. Stay healthy, have fun, and we’ll see you in the next episode.
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