A tiny few eating a perfect diet? — or truly changing the world?


Dr. T. Colin Campbell -- author of The China Study and the world's leading authority on health promoting, plant-based nutrition.

Keeping the “big picture” in mind

Last month, while meeting with Dr. Campbell in his home, he reiterated what he has often said and written:

Our role is to help people understand exactly what comprises a near optimal, health-promoting diet for humans — telling them the goal. What people do with that knowledge is completely up to them.

Upon learning the truth about nutrition for the first time, some will adopt a 100% plant-based diet immediately, more will begin to gradually add more fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains to their diets, but the vast majority will probably do nothing — at least for now. We know from past experience that only a tiny percentage will adopt this seemingly difficult diet-style immediately; but if we convey the message properly, a great many will HEAR and will begin to make some improvements.

Reaching the masses -- like this soccer crowd in Brazil

The huge group that will listen to our message and make modest improvements is exactly who we are trying to reach in our book AND in this blog. Just yesterday, I heard from two readers who summed up my feelings perfectly. They posted the following comments beneath the blog where I admitted to having one cookie and a coke on Delta Airlines — in the middle of a high 3-Leaf or low 4-Leaf day…

First from Jean. Thanks for sharing what you do in the real world. While I realize the earlier comments are true about the unhealthiness of Coke, cookies, etc.; when you are trying to help the masses change to healthier eating, you cannot come across as a fanatic or you turn everyone totally off.

Is it better for a very few to eat pure diets or for a lot of people to eat mostly healthy diets? Thanks for keeping the big picture in mind! Jean

Then from Denise. Life is about choices, not regiments. It is called wiggle room and without some flexibility, we would all bomb out sooner or later. No, Jim you won’t go to H*** because you had one coke and a cookie. If I learned anything from your posts, It’s the Big Picture not the small. Keep up the good work :) Denise.     p.s. It shows that you are human tooooooooo.

These two comments prompted me to revisit an earlier blog on this subject. While walking home this morning, I explained the focus of that blog to my girlfriend, Ruth — here in Naples, FL. I explained that it’s all about the question that Jean asked above, “Is it better for a very few to eat pure diets or for a lot of people to eat mostly healthy diets?” Without a doubt, it would be the latter.

As more people adopt the wasteful Western diet every day, the problems of water shortage and pollution continue to get worse.

My premise for changing the world. There are a great many things riding on our food choices besides our own health:

  • the opportunity to reduce our water footprint by up to 90%
  • the opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint by put to 30%
  • the opportunity to feed up to twenty times as many people on the same amount of land
  • the opportunity to dramatically curtail the suffering of billions of animals in factory farm

How much difference can we make? My premise is that only a very few will quickly go all the way to a near-optimal 4-Leaf kind of plant-based diet. But, the good news is that ten times that number could begin making positive changes if we convey the message properly. Let’s do the math. Two scenarios;

Leveraging the simple concept of maximizing the percent of your calories that are derived from whole, plant-based foods

  • One person goes to the 4-Leaf level (80% from whole plants). They go from 10% of their calories from whole plants 80%. In so doing, they earn 70 GIP’s (global improvement points, computed from 80 minus 10 = 70)
  • Ten people go halfway, moving from 10% of their calories from whole plants to the low end of the 2-Leaf level, or 40%. They quadruple the amount of whole plants and each of them earn 30 GIP’s (40 minus 10 = 30)
  • Who wins? Which group does the planet the most good in the four categories listed above? The Group of Ten of course. They earn 300 GIP’s compared to the Group of One that went all the way and earned 70 points.
  • Bottom Line. By influencing modest improvements in a much larger group, we can promote much more global change. How much? Over 300% (329% to be exact) more beneficial change.

Let’s put all of this in perspective by adding our premise to entire Western world — a population of nearly four billion people. Consider this scenario:

  • 2.5%, or 100 million people, go all the way to to 4-Leaf (80% whole plants) and earn 7.0 billion GIPs (100 million x 70)
  • 25%, or one billion people, go halfway to 2-Leaf (40% whole plants) and earn 30 billion GIP’s (one billion x 30)
  • Combined, both groups earn 37 billion GIP’s out of a possible 280 billion GIP’s; which translates to 37/280 or  13.2 percent.
  • If we had not reached the much larger 2-Leaf group, the improvement would have been only 2.5% (7/280).

One of the smartest animals, pigs get a bad rap -- most live their complete lives in horrid conditions until they reach their ultimate destiny as part of your breakfast, your pizza topping or your barbecue sandwich.

So what kind of improvements will this action drive? Let’s begin with animal suffering. What about the sixty billion suffering animals in our factory farms? The 4-Leafers only lower it from 60 billion to 58.5 billion — whereas the combined group, including the 2-Leafers, drop the number to 52.1 billion. By adding the 2-Leafers, we eliminate the suffering of an additional 6.4 billion animals.

Similar improvements can also be extrapolated to improvements in water, trees, biodiversity, climate change and world hunger. So, when you consider all of the above, the answer to the title question is like a blinding flash of the obvious:

A tiny few eating a perfect diet? — or truly changing the world? Without a doubt, we must engage greater numbers of people and we’re simply not going to be able to do that with an “all or nothing approach” to the way we should be eating. For more on this concept take a look at this earlier post from October 2011.“All or nothing” doesn’t fly for most people

In Naples, FL this week and enjoying the kind of weather that reminds me of summertime in New England

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page.

And if you like what 4-Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our new “4-Leaf Gear” store. From sunny Old Naples, Florida – Be well and have a great day.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com

SHARE and rate this post below…One more thing, occasionally an unauthorized ad may appear beneath a blog post. It is controlled by WordPress (a totally free hosting service). I do not approve or personally benefit whatsoever from any ad that might ever appear on this site. I apologize and urge you to please disregard.

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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One Response to A tiny few eating a perfect diet? — or truly changing the world?

  1. Denise says:

    Another great post Jim! I agree that most people won’t adopt a perfect diet – but the more plant foods, the better. Thanks for sharing your ‘cookie and coke’ story! Have fun in sunny Florida! We are in the frozen north!

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