Our Food. A “big picture” view of what’s not working

And a call for HELP from those who can make a difference

Keeping things simple is a big part of industrial engineering—my field of study at Auburn University. I later earned an MBA from The University of Hawaii. The CEO of the world’s most valuable company is also an Auburn I.E. grad.

Addressed to nutritional scientists everywhere, today’s blog contains a letter that I plan to send to hundreds of professors of nutritional science around the United States. The idea to write such a letter evolved while I was composing my last three blogs:

My primary purpose in this letter is to ask our nation’s nutritional scientists for their help. Through no fault of their own, our feeding model in the western world has sprung a few serious leaks. While preparing my thoughts for my letter and considering the desired tone, I took a look at what I said about our overall “system” in Chapter 8 of our book:

This is not a story of conspiracy or of suspected misconduct on the part of any individual, company, institution, or branch of the government. This is a story of confusion that develops when an enormously complicated and interconnected group of organizations in a free market environment has zero financial incentive to promote the highest possible level of health.

Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, University of Connecticut

My first letter is addressed to Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, Professor in the Department of Nutritional Science at the University of Connecticut. I chose her primarily because of her recent notoriety in the news and also because we reside in the same state.

I first saw Dr. Rodriguez on Larry King Live a few years ago and just last week, saw that she was featured in the Wall Street Journal article about the pros and cons of a vegan diet

In addition to this online version of my letter, I will send a hard copy today via USPS Priority Mail, along with a copy of our book to her office in the UConn Department of Nutritional Sciences in Storrs, CT.

September 25, 2012

Dear Dr. Rodriguez,

As a fellow resident of the great state of Connecticut and one who shares your interest of promoting health around the world, I am writing today to ask you for your help. I am writing to share with you my understanding of a global dilemma that I truly feel is the most important topic in the history of the human race.

I used to say that it was the most important topic in the history of the world, but then I realized that the world has been around for 4 billion years and we humans only 200,000 years. The planet has survived mass extinctions before and will continue to survive—even if we don’t. The question is whether she will be able to provide for the long-term sustainability of the human race. 

First as an industrial engineer, and later as a senior business executive for over thirty years, it was always important to consider the “big picture” impact of any system that we might wish to change or improve. The overall topic for this letter is a critical look at the flawed feeding model that we have embraced in the western world.

How is it flawed? For starters, the way we’re currently eating is not working when it comes to our health. Consider that just 22 years ago, the U.S. obesity average was 12%. By 2005, it almost doubled to 23%. Today it stands at about 36% and is now projected by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation to hit 44% by 2030. Concurrently, our cost of health care has risen sharply from 5.2% of GDP in 1960 to the 18% that we have today and is forecast to hit 31% by 2035.

In addition to our own health, we must also consider the other global consequences of what we choose to eat. The four most crucial issues to consider are world hunger, the shortage of clean water, the conservation of fossil fuels and the impact that raising of livestock has on global warming. From an engineering perspective, there is no way we could have developed a more inefficient, more harmful and more unsustainable way to feed ourselves. To sum it up, Philip Wollen stated in his powerfully moving video from down under recently,

“If everyone ate the way that we do here in the western world, we’d need two planet Earths to feed us all; we only have one, and she is dying.” 

Please understand that I am not writing to criticize, but rather as an appeal for a collaborative effort to address some serious world issues while there is still time. Today, I write to request three things—that you read our 2011 book (enclosed), that you agree to meet with me in your office, and that you would consider having me as a guest lecturer in some of your classes at UConn.

I began my study of our global feeding model in 2002 and believe that I have now reached a totally unbiased conclusion of what has transpired—as only an outsider can do. As Dr. T. Colin Campbell stated in the foreword of our book regarding my “big picture” view of the world, 

“Too often in a field of study, we rely solely on those people who have established themselves as the inside “experts.” Yet, sometimes the most interesting perspectives are those that come from outside the field. And this is the case here—Jim’s unique perspective has enabled him to tell a story in Healthy Eating, Healthy World that is informative, engaging, and compelling.”

In addition to reading the enclosed book, I encourage you to take a look around my blog-site at hpjmh.com. Since early 2011, I have posted 598 consecutive daily blogs—and all have something to do with my unique “big picture” view. Please call me at your convenience to discuss. You can reach me on my cell phone at 917-399-9700. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards, J. Morris (Jim) Hicks, PO Box 823, Stonington, CT 

Consecutive daily blogs (numerals today from a British auto tag)

PS: You should know by now that I have become a strong proponent of a whole foods, plant-based diet. Not because I am a scientist or a physician, but because from a comprehensive “big picture” perspective, it just makes sense.

Our proprietary 4Leaf Program was designed as a simple tool to help people maximize the percentage of their calories from whole plants; not necessarily becoming vegetarian or vegan. I am also on the board of directors of the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. For a preview of our book, click on the second link below. 

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

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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5 Responses to Our Food. A “big picture” view of what’s not working

  1. Joe Dundas says:

    I am curious about why you would describe Philip Wollen’s video as “Infamous”. Indeed, I would have thought that his entire philosophy would be supporting everything you stand for – in other words, he is a staunch ally? This is the meaning of the word “infamous”. in·fa·mous (nf-ms)
    1. Having an exceedingly bad reputation; notorious.
    2. Causing or deserving infamy; heinous: an infamous deed.
    3. Law
    a. Punishable by severe measures, such as death, long imprisonment, or loss of civil rights.
    b. Convicted of a crime, such as treason or felony, that carries such a punishment.

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Thank you Joe. Bad choice of words on my part. I have corrected it thanks to you. Best regards, Jim

  2. Sal Liggieri says:


    That is a well written letter and should have an impact on the reader. But what if Rodriguez doesn’t respond? Then what? What about the Surgeon General? Why is the government unresponsive. Maybe government is owned by the big businesses and the lobbyists and there are no profits in people eating broccoli.

    America the beautiful or should that be America the ugly.

    Sal Liggieri

  3. These are great examples… Thank you for sharing
    Helps us make the connection that we need to be thinking about diet consequences outside of what’s published in the media

  4. Leo S. says:

    We should learn from history but also see what is happening to some of the young people of this generation.

    The astronaut James Irwin also had bypass surgery and two heart attacks and died at 61. His blood cholesterol was 300 while traveling in the space capsule. He and president Clinton supposedly had the “best doctors” our country could supply and still developed heart conditions. Even though Clinton was advised by Dr. Ornish he apparently did not take advantage of the research that Ornish and Esselstyn and others might have offered him. It wasn’t until after the bypass, angioplasty and finally a stent began to become clogged that he started to change what he ate. Even Dr. McDougall sent him a letter to try to get him to change his diet.
    Venus Williams developed blood clots even though she was young and athletic and had to refrain from playing tennis for a period of time. She has resorted to a plant-based diet to overcome an autoimmune disorder (Sjogren’s Disease) which may be caused by dairy products. Being African-American she may very well be lactose intolerant, as are Asians, but many are not aware of that problem and continue to consume dairy and/or take medication to treat “allergies” without removing the cause.
    We continue to consume items which clog the arteries. Nathan Pritikin pointed out that consumption of dairy products could show deceptively low cholesterol readings while still allowing buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries.
    08/31/2012 at 1:27 pm
    Here is a news release about Stallone’s son. Many young people are developing clogged arteries. These conditions are sometimes considered “normal” and nothing is done to try and reverse the blockage because many physicians and individuals are not aware that these conditions are reversible by lifestyle changes. Many doctors still tell their patients that “food has nothing to do with your condition.”
    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sylvester Stallone’s son Sage died at age 36 from natural causes due to a heart condition, coroner’s officials said Thursday.
    Sage Stallone’s death on July 13 was attributed to a condition that causes blockage of the arteries, and no other factors were involved. It has been classified a natural death.

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