Brown vs. Yale — in the first ever “4-Leaf Challenge?”

Healthy Eating comes to the Ivy League? Just in the idea stage right now — searching for leaders

Leveraging the simple, yet powerful concept of maximizing the percent of your calories from whole plant foods -- still in nature's package

As a new author and activist, I am naturally always looking for ways to get more people involved in taking charge of their own health and, in so doing, contributing mightily to the health of the planet and so much more.

The latest idea that we’ll be discussing today with our marketing consultants is a 4-Leaf Challenge that involves a competition between two or three organizations — with each fielding a team of twenty people — all committing to eating at the 4-Leaf level for 4 weeks. The winning team will have the best composite percentage improvement in two key factors: weight and total cholesterol.

Location. So what about Brown vs. Yale? Two things: international name recognition and location. I reside in the seaside village of Stonington, CT, which lies exactly halfway between Providence, RI and New Haven, CT, the home of Ivy League stalwarts Brown and Yale respectively. Location is important for our first few 4-Leaf Challenges because of our need to visit with the respective teams regularly during those crucial four weeks.

Leadership. For our first 4-Leaf Challenge, it is imperative that we get the top leader involved. The President of the University or the CEO of the participating company must be one of the twenty competitors. Why? Because as a former senior executive, I know very well the importance of leadership when it comes to driving positive change; particularly when that change involves something as foreign as eating mostly whole plant foods for a whole month. If the top leader is a participant, the program WILL succeed, and it will attract media attention. It will also lead to permanent, positive change within the entire organization. We prefer not to compromise on this all-important element.

4-Leaf Publicity. Our timing is good; as our book and 4-Leaf Program was a feature story in the area’s largest newspaper, The New London Day, on Wednesday, October 12 — front page of the Daybreak Section. The writer of that story, Amy Barry, read our book and interviewed me for a half-hour before writing the piece. She told me that she had been writing about food for many years and was absolutely amazed at some of the things she learned from reading our book. So, as we begin to contact the CEO’s of possible 4-Leaf Challenge participating organizations, we’ll have some very recent published information to show them.

Possible Participants. I have been thinking about this 4-Leaf Challenge idea for about a week now and just recently identified Brown University as a possible participant. I was one of two authors who spoke one evening at the Brown University BookStore in Providence, Rhode Island. One of the attendees was the head of Wellness Programs for the university, which employs over 4,000 faculty and staff. Now, if she can help me get the university president on board, we’re in business. With the location factor our first cut, here are some five other possibilities for our very first 4-Leaf Challenge:

  • Mystic Aquarium vs. Mystic Seaport
  • Electric Boat (builds submarines) vs. Pfizer — just a few miles apart (both employ thousands)
  • L&M Hospital (New London) vs. The Westerly Hospital (Westerly, RI)
  • The Town of Stonington vs. The Town of Groton (beginning with the two mayors)
  • The Mohegan Sun vs. Foxwoods (the two largest casinos in the world; both within 20 minutes of where I am sitting right now at the Mystic Starbucks)

Program Outline. Here are my initial thoughts. After we get the all-important two CEO’s on board, we’ll ask each of them for a one-hour meeting with them and all of their direct reports. Each person will get a copy of our book at that meeting and will be required to read it before the next meeting in two weeks. At the second meeting, we’ll discuss how the twenty voluntary participants will be recruited. Hopefully, several of them will be among the CEO’s direct reports. As plans are firming up, we’ll bring in the media to publicize the upcoming competition. After the two teams of twenty have been selected, the program will go something like this:

  • A kickoff meeting will be held with the groups of twenty (after they have all read the book)
  • Recipe and meal-planning materials will be provided to all participants.
  • A medical organization will record the “before” data for both teams.
  • My son (co-author) and I will be on call as needed; giving our personal email and phone numbers to all participants.
  • Weekly follow-up meetings will be held with each group of twenty.
  • At the final meeting, the medical people will record the “after” data after four weeks of competition.
  • The media will keep the public informed throughout the process.

What next? Obviously, in our initial discussions with the CEO’s, we’ll stress the importance of this being a permanent lifestyle change, not just a temporary gimmick to lose weight. We’re talking about life and death here — for ourselves, our country and our planet. We will stress the importance of rolling out this program to the entire organization and providing incentives for people to participate. Why?

We know that the formula works. We know that an improved diet will lower the cost of health care and will improve productivity. Finally, we know that eating mostly whole plants will work wonders for our global environment as we all embrace the inevitable process of bringing our human lifestyle back into harmony with nature.

Authors J. Stanfield Hicks and J. Morris Hicks hiking the White Mountains of New Hampshire

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. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – 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

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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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2 Responses to Brown vs. Yale — in the first ever “4-Leaf Challenge?”

  1. You are wild, “Sailor Jim!” Get the whole country’s organizations competing like this — better than an “Occupy Wall Street” type of event!

  2. Denise says:

    Sounds like an awesome plan! This will be very exciting to watch unfold. My husband and I were just at the Engine 2 Immersion in Austin Texas, and loved it! We were already vegan but wanted to improve our diet. Thanks for your great work! Denise

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