In this episode, Barbara and Ocean discuss:
- Why it is essential to be mindful of your diet
- Why healthier foods tend to be more expensive and myths involving GMO foods—Genetically Modified Organisms
- What is the 31-Day Food Revolution and its mission
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If you haven’t eaten well your whole life, don’t sweat it. Otherwise, you can turn that around with your own knife and fork, and every step you take matters.” – Ocean Robbins
Connect with Ocean Robbins:
Learn more about the Food Revolution:
Order the 31-Day Food Revolution book: https://www.31dayfoodrevolution.com/
Connect with Barbara Hales:
Connect with Barbara Hales:
Dr. Barbara Hales: Welcome to another episode of Marketing Tips for Doctors. I’m your host, Dr. Barbara Hales. Today, we are very fortunate to have Ocean Robbins with us.
Ocean Robbins: Great to be with you, Barbara.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Ocean is the Co-Founder and CEO of the 600,000-member Food Revolution Network. He is the author of the bestseller “31-Day Food Revolution. Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World.” Ocean founded youth for environmental sanity at age 16 and directed for the next 20 years. He has spoken to over 200,000 people, organized online seminars and events reaching more than a million, and facilitated leadership development events for leaders from 65 nations.
He has served as an adjunct professor for Chapman University. He is the recipient of the National Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service, the Freedoms Flame Award, the Harmon Wilkinson Award, and many other honors. It’s a privilege to have you here today.
Ocean Robbins: Thanks so much, Barbara.
The Saga of the Ice Cream Company
Dr. Barbara Hales: You come from a pretty unique family. Your grandfather founded an ice cream company called Baskin Robbins. And in reading that, I want to tell everybody it’s not Baskin and Robbins that most people think just Baskin Robbins. Can you tell us a little about your family background and how that informs the work that you do today?
Ocean Robbins: Sure. My dad, John, grew up with an ice cream cone-shaped swimming pool in the backyard and 31 flavors of ice cream in the freezer. He was groomed to one day join his dad and running the family company. But when he was in his early 20s, he was offered that chance, and he said no. And he walked away from a path that was practically paved with gold and ice cream. As we jokingly say in our family follow his own rocky road. He ended up moving with my mom to a tiny island off the coast of Canada, where they built a one-room log cabin. They grew most of their own food.
They practiced yoga and meditation for several hours a day, and they named their kid Ocean. And they almost called me kale, by the way. And this was before kale was cool. But we did eat a lot of kale and cabbage and carrots and other veggies from the garden. And when I got a little older, we moved to California, and my dad came out with a book in 1987 called diet for a New America, which is about how our food choices impact our health, happiness, and future life on Earth. It became this runaway bestseller. The media had a lot of fun with the story. They called him the “Rebel Without a Cone,” and he inspired millions of people to look at their food choices as a chance to make a difference in the world. One of his many enthusiastic readers ended up being my grandpa Irvin Robbins, who lost his brother-in-law Burt Baskin to heart disease when my dad’s uncle Burt was just 54 years old. And my grandpa, at age 69, was facing severe heart issues, weight issues, blood sugar diabetes issues. His doctors told him he might not have long to live unless he meets significant changes.
They gave them a copy of my dad’s book, my grandpa read it, follow this advice, he ended up giving up sugar, cutting way down and processed foods, giving up ice cream, and cutting, cutting way down on animal products and eating way more whole plant foods. And he got results. He reversed his diabetes, he reversed his heart disease. He lost a bunch of weight. His golf game improved seven strokes. He was one happy camper, and he lived another 19 more healthy years. So, we have seen in our family that we get the standard American diseases when we follow the standard American diet. But when we make a change, we can turn things around and get incredible results. My grandpa’s business achievements inspire me. My dad’s choice inspires me for integrity and the impact he’s had. And my whole life.
I’ve been asking what I can do? And so, when I was 16, I founded a nonprofit working with leaders all around the globe called Yes. And as I traveled the world for 20 years doing leadership, development, work and empowerment, social change, work with young changemakers around the planet, I saw that everybody eats and that what we’re eating is having this huge impact all over the earth. The American way of growing food and marketing food and processing food and consuming food is spreading with KFC, McDonald’s, Baskin Robbins, Monsanto, and big agribusiness chemicals, pesticides, factory farms. And with this waste lines are expanding, hospitals are filling up and people are getting sick with diseases that were unheard of a generation or two ago. So, a few years ago, actually, about 10 years ago, I joined with my dad in launching the Food Revolution network to see if we could focus on this food issue directly. And we’ve grown to now having more than half a million members. And our mission is healthy, ethical, and sustainable food for all.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Was your grandfather conflicted about seeing that maybe ice cream was not the best thing to eat, and yet he was still selling it?
Ocean Robbins: Well, he sold the company many years earlier and in the late 60s. So, by the time he changed his diet, he no longer had a direct investment. But obviously, he had a lot of reason not to think that there was a connection between diet and health because newsflash, ice cream is not healthy food. And he’d manufactured and sold more of it than any human being who’d ever lived. And so yes, he was conflicted. But at the end of the day, he decided that he wanted to live, survive and reverse the illness. And that was more important to him than being right and he was one stubborn cookie. And if somebody who has that much investment in a certain way of eating and living can make a change, then maybe there’s hope for the rest of us to
Dr. Barbara Hales: Absolutely. Now you have named or your father called the Food Revolution as 31 days reflecting on 31 flavors for Baskin Robbins?
The 31-Day Food Revolution
Ocean Robbins: Well, you’re referring to my book now. I wrote a book called 31-day Food Revolution. And the reason we chose I chose that title was I wanted to play off of the 31 flavors. At the end of the day, what I’m saying is 31 steps to health can bring you more pleasure, more satisfaction, even then 31 flavors of ice cream. So, there are 31 chapters, of course, in the 31-day Food Revolution. And each chapter ends with a simple action step you can take to apply what you’re learning in your life. And it’s at the end of the day. It’s all about action. Because cancer, heart disease, type two diabetes, they don’t care a heck of a lot, how many books you read, how many workshops you go to, or watch what you eat. How you live knowledge opens the door, action walks through the door.
And at the end of the day, it’s the action that matters the most. And so, in our work, we’re always trying to spread the truth so people can know what’s healthy, how to make choices that are good for their bodies, good for their planet. And then we also want to always focus on implementation. How can you make this happen in your life? Because there are a lot of people who know they, their diets not the best. But that doesn’t help them lose the weight they need to lose and feel the way they want to feel. Because they don’t know how to make it happen. And so, 31-day Food Revolution captures what we’ve learned in our work about how you can make it happen in your life.
Dr. Barbara Hales: How does your program differ from other health and diet books out there?
Ocean Robbins: Well, the 31-day Food Revolution has a few things that I think are unique. One is that lots of stories from my own life obviously you won’t find anywhere else and from our body of work, the strong focus on implementation and results. So, it’s combining education with action. And then there are four parts to 31-day Food Revolution, and Part One is Detoxify, it’s how you get rid of the bad stuff. Part Two is Nourish. It’s how you say yes to the good stuff, the healthy superfoods that can help you thrive. And what the latest science says about that. Part Three is Gather. And this is what we look at the social side of food. And I think most health and diet books and programs leave this out. But the truth is, we’re not lone wolves. We are social creatures and are profoundly connected. And so, it’s much easier to succeed in any new endeavor when you’ve got friends and allies to help you and to pull you back on track when you start to stray and to create accountability.
So, this is about how you build up your social network. So, you have the web of relationships that will help us thrive and be accountable. And that will also help contribute to building a healthier world for everyone else. And then part four is transformed. And that’s where we look at the systemic side of food and how we can build a better world. What you eat becomes you. But it’s also political. It impacts people and policies and practices worldwide and impacts farmworkers; it affects animals and impacts the future of life on Earth. You can bring your food choices into integrity with your value, so you can vote every day with every food dollar you spend, in the type of health you want, and for the kind of world you want.
So, we look at systemic change and how we can contribute to building healthy ethical, and sustainable food for all not just for the privileged few, the Food Revolution network has twin goals, education, and advocacy. We want to help individuals get informed so they can live healthy, vibrant, wonderful lives. We also want to advocate for a better world because you shouldn’t have to be rich or super privileged or have a certain color of skin to have access to healthy food for your families. And the truth is that right now in the world today; it sometimes feels like it takes your whole paycheck, eat whole and healthy food can cost more. And it’s kind of like you’re being fined for wearing your seatbelt. If you want to do the safer right thing for your family, you have to pay extra and we say that’s not right. So, we’re looking at why that’s the case and what we can do to change it?
Healthy Foods Perspectives
Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, that’s undoubtedly true. It’s not always easy to afford healthier foods, so the disadvantaged population often winds up eating fewer fruits and vegetables. So how would you begin to change that?
Ocean Robbins: Well, there’s a few things. We have campaigns right now in the Food Revolution network. One is to address farm subsidies. So right now, in the US, the farm bill that the US Congress approves, every few years, there are 10s of billions of dollars in what amount to subsidies for commodities crops. Any equivalent subsidy does not match these for growers of fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds. So essentially, we’re bringing down the price of things like white flour, factory farm animal products, and high fructose corn syrup. And therefore, we’re creating a marketplace distortion that’s essentially driving up the price by comparing fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds. The foods that science is telling us we should eat more of. And so, we’re saying, “Hey, if we’re going to subsidize anything, let’s subsidize healthy food for the people who need it most.”
And number two, produce prescriptions is a pretty exciting program. This is where doctors can prescribe fruits and vegetables to their patients instead of or as well as drugs and surgeries. And then insurance companies reimburse, and instead of going to the pharmacy with a pH, you go to the pharmacy with an F. You can collect your fruits and vegetables, and Kaiser Permanente is actually hosting farmer’s markets and their hospitals now. We see progress here. And prescriptions are being piloted, and studies show us that they could be more economical than a lot of the currently utilized drugs and other interventions are in terms of improving quality of life, longevity, and even reversing certain illnesses. So, this is one step number two, we have a SNAP program where we provide food aid to poor low-income communities, and there’s about 15 million Americans are dependent on this right now to feed their families. And most of the snap money is going to junk food, quite honestly.
And so, what we’d love to see is doubling the value of snap dollars for fruits and vegetables. This is being piloted in 20 states with a program run by a group called a wholesome wave. And there’s about 500,000 Americans on the program, and they’re seeing that when people get double value. They buy more fruits and vegetables for fruits and vegetables, eat more fruits and vegetables, and be healthier because of it. And so, we want to take that nationwide. So, produce prescriptions Double Up Box is what it’s called for this nap program, changing the subsidy system. So, we stop subsidizing junk food. In the long run, these are all things that could be revenue neutral or even revenue positive because we’d save so much in health care costs. I mean, the US spends 19% of our entire gross domestic product on what we call health care, which is disease symptom management. And so, we’re saying, look, we get slashed those costs by focusing on investing in health, and we should focus on the communities that are the lowest income and most marginalized right now.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Absolutely. I have never heard of the fruit prescription. I think that’s fabulous. Have you seen any political fightback from the big pharmacies?
Ocean Robbins: Well, not so far. Their baby prefers to ignore it. In the long run, sure, some of them might oppose, but it’s a different thing. It’s not necessarily that if a patient gets well and doesn’t need their drugs, they’ll take a market hit. And that’s, that’s going to happen at some point, but hopefully, they won’t regard it as competition. If there are any ethics left in the pharmaceutical industry, they should want patients to be healthy. And I’m not. I’m not so naive as to think that’s all that’s going on. At the end of the day, if they block it, we are responsible for fighting back because human life is more important than the almighty dollar for a few companies.
The Truth about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
Dr. Barbara Hales: Absolutely. In chapter 25 of your book, you discuss myths and truths about GMOs. What exactly is a GMO for some of the listeners out there? And what’s the promise? What’s the reality? I know many people feel that the GMO was responsible for the increase in autism and childhood Elmo out airmen and increase in miscarriages. What is your feeling about all of that?
Ocean Robbins: Well, first of all, what is a GMO? Some people think it means God Move over. It’s a genetically modified organism. The world has been promised that they would lead to bigger yields, more drought-resistant crops, lower pesticide consumption, lower water consumption, better flavor and nutrition profiles. And so far, 25 plus years into the mass cultivation of GMOs in the marketplace. We haven’t seen any of those benefits. They’ve led to a net no net increase in yield a net increase in pesticide consumption, no reduction in water use no improvement in flavor or nutrition. What they have brought us are crops that have one or both of two traits.
They’re engineered to be resistant to Roundup and other herbicides that can be sprayed on the field, killing the weeds but not the genetically engineered crop. And they are bt producers. So, they produce an insecticide known as bt in every cell of the plant. And so, then those don’t need to be sprayed with pesticides because they’re living in pesticide factories. There’s no way you can wash the BT off. And bt is probably safe for humans. We don’t know for sure it’s been used in organic agriculture for a long time. But never in this kind of quantity. Never in every cell of the plant. So, we don’t know for sure. And we know that some of the herbicides used right now, including Roundup, are potentially carcinogenic. We see that they’re endocrine disruptors.
And so, and we know that they’re back antibiotics, roundups have been patented as an antibiotic. So, this means it can impact bacteria. And so, when you when you’re consuming large amounts of bt, and glyphosate, which is the primary active ingredient in our Roundup, you wind up potentially doing real damage to your digestive tract. We don’t know for sure. But it certainly causes concern and with all the people who are having gut problems today, all that rapid increase in gait issues. Some people think that this could be linked.
So, if you want to avoid GMOs, the number one thing you can do is go organic because that also gets you steered clear of many pesticides and helps you contribute to a healthier planet. So that’s one step and then now, number two, you can go certified non-GMO and those are products that then are GMO-free, but you still could be getting exposure to pesticides on them because they’re not organic. So those are the best options. And then the primary crops that are genetically engineered right now are corn, soy, canola, cotton, which is used for cottonseed oil, and alfalfa, which is used for livestock feed. So, corn and soy are the most prevalent and most processed foods with genetically engineered corn or soy ingredients. So, steering clear of processed foods and going again can be really big steps if you want to get away from GMOs.
Dr. Barbara Hales: What is your recommendation for what we ultimately must do to expand our food revolution?
Ocean Robbins: I vote with your dollars and your food choices for the health of the world that you want. And realize that every bite you take matters, and you can be a part of the solution on planet Earth. Choose to eat less sugar and processed junk, more whole plant foods. Pay attention to where you’re sourcing your food products so that as much as possible. You’re supporting local, organic, Fairtrade non-GMO producers and products. And then, eat fewer animal products in general because meat is a primary driving force behind the destruction of tropical rainforests. It’s the primary driving force behind climate change, desertification, topsoil erosion and aquifer depletion.
If you want to walk lightly on the Earth if you want to contribute to a world where future generations have a livable planet, then eating lower on the food chain is one of the most powerful steps that you can take. Recognize that many jobs fill a bucket, and the more of us that make a change, the more we change the marketplace. Absolutely. And we are changing the marketplace, the prevalence of plant-based meats and milks, the prevalence of organic certified non-GMO is nothing when we started Food Revolution network, it’s $40 billion in sales today, smart sales of organic products are exploding.
The number of Americans who identify as vegan has quadrupled in the last decade or so. More and more people are, in whatever way works for them stepping up, and you don’t have to sign a purity pact to be a part of the Food Revolution. You can do it one bite at a time and one step at a time. When you swap out beef and replace it with beans, you’re doing a good turn for your health and planet. And you’ll save some money too. So, these are powerful steps you can take, and they add up and make a real difference.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, I’m glad you brought this up. The impossible meats and the plant-based meats are really not understood by a lot of people. Is it healthy? Or isn’t it? What’s your take on that?
Ocean Robbins: It’s a matter of comparison. If you are, in general, like beyond meat, for example, it is healthier than beef, because it has a third less saturated fat. And certainly environmentally, it’s a lot more sustainable. That’s the big argument. health wise, it’s arguable, I mean, it’s a little higher protein and lower in saturated fat. But it’s not a health food, let’s be honest about it. And it’s processed, impossible foods also uses GMOs in their product in a way that many people find unsettling. But, you can make your own home plant milk, you can make your own soy milk or almond milk at home. And that can be super healthy and natural. It’s not highly refined at all. But some of the products that are in stores that have a lot of sugar and chemicals added aren’t healthy foods either.
It’s but it’s all a matter of degree and you start where you are and you take steps. For some people going from Big Mac to a MK plant, which is something McDonald’s is going to be coming out with might be a huge step for them. And yay, celebrate you for making a step in the right direction for your health and for your planet. The world will be better because of it. But is that the end goal? No, I’m not interested in so much of pointing to a spot on the field. As I’m saying, Let’s get moving in the right direction. Wherever you are, let’s keep taking steps and more steps. And at the end of the day, you want to eat more whole plant foods. You want to base your diet around real foods, not processed junk, you want to eat less stuff from packages, eventually, maybe none. But it’s one step at a time. Start where you are and with love and determination. You move forward.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Okay, fish Thumbs up, thumbs down.
Ocean Robbins: It’s complicated. Um, purely from a nutritional and health perspective. Low mercury wild fish have some significant advantages. There are studies showing that children who ate wild fish had higher IQ scores than children. Did not, there are studies showing that fish is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and even of cancer. However, that’s compared to what if you’re replacing beef with fish, you’re moving a huge step in the right direction, you’re essentially replacing saturated fat with omega three fats, which are really healthy for you. But fish is also coming from the oceans or from fish farms. And it tends to be highly polluted if bio, it’s a bio accumulator. So, it concentrates toxins, whatever’s in the water official absorbed out through its gills its entire life, and then a bigger fish will lead it and absorb all the toxic load that the littler fish ate.
And so, you can get fish that are 1000 times more toxic than the water around them, because of the way the food chain works. And so, then we end up with concentrations of mercury and heavy metals in the fish. And so, things like shark or even tuna, have some real drawbacks. But sardines, mackerel, herring, wild salmon, not so much. However, we’re overfishing in our oceans. By 2050, it’s estimated there may be more plastic than fish in our oceans, the way things are going. And so, we’re wiping out fish species, and we’re polluting the oceans. And most of our fish now have microplastics in them. And so, a lot of people are saying, gosh, I don’t want to be a part of that. And I don’t want to take in those toxins. Can you get some of the benefits without eating the fish? And the answer is, yes, you can take algae-based omega three capsules with EPA and DHA in them. And you can also replace protein from certain animal products like beef or whatever with protein from beans, or other legumes, instead of having to go to fish so you can get your protein, you can get your omega threes from other places. Some people for ethical reasons, or environmental reasons, prefer to go that direction. However, for a lot of people, the medical research is pretty clear. There, there almost every study on the topic seems to show that, that fish consumption is associated with longevity and health outcome for most people.
Environmental and Societal Stewardship
Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, that’s good, at least on the one hand, little scary, on the other hand, great that we are going in the right direction, and that there are some very positive action steps that we can take. Yes. So, for every new copy of your book that sold you’ve pledged to donate to trees for the future, so that they can plant organic fruit or not trade in a low-income community. What inspired you to take that step?
Ocean Robbins: Oh, goodness, I’m always looking at how we can weave impact into our mission. The Food Revolution Network has gotten over 150,000 trees planted in low-income communities through our partnership with Trees for the future. And I feel proud of that. And so yeah, the 31-day Food Revolution is part of that mission. And if you buy a copy, we’ll plant a tree. It’s a beautiful thing. We need to spread trees, and we need to spread food, especially to the communities that are struggling right now we can turn deserts into oases. And when more food trees are growing, they suck carbon out of the atmosphere, produce oxygen, and create a cooler environment, which can change ecosystems, create a more resilient environment, and help fight climate change quite directly while also feeding people. So, what’s not to love about that?
Last Piece of Advice
Dr. Barbara Hales: Absolutely. But for those of our audience who want to step forward and take action based on your message, what’s the one thing they can do to get started today?
Ocean Robbins: Start where you are, look at where you want to go and take some steps. The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. And so, if you haven’t eaten so well your whole life, don’t sweat it. That’s how much you have to gain from making a change. If you’re already a superstar healthy eater, realize we live in toxic food culture, we’ve normalized something statistically correlated with epidemic rates of heart disease, cancer, type two diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and feeling like crap. And so, you can turn that around with your own knife and fork and every step you take matters. And even if you’re already doing pretty well, you can probably go further and you can spread the word to others. 31 Day Food Revolution makes a great gift. So, feel free to grab a copy and join the Food Revolution with your own knife and fork by being a part of the change on this planet.
Connect with Ocean
Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, that’s an excellent idea. I might just put that on my gift list for the things that I give out my presence to the ones that I love in the future. Beautiful. Where can we find more information about you and your work?
Ocean Robbins: Go to foodrevolution.org and check out our website. There are hundreds and hundreds of articles on critical food topics on there. Or, go to 31dayfoodrevolution.com to find out about the book or you can get it on Amazon or the bookstore of your choice.
Dr. Barbara Hales: Ocean. Thank you so much for being with us today. It was a thrill.
Ocean Robbins: Absolutely. My pleasure, Barbara. Thank you so much for having me!
Dr. Barbara Hales: Okay, this has been another episode of marketing tips for doctors with Ocean Robbins and your host, Dr. Barbara Hales. Until next time! Thank you so much