Michael Greger is the founder of NutritionFacts.org, an amazing website that produces daily what would take me six months to do: a short, entertaining video exploring some aspect of nutritional science and its application to everyday life. From humble beginnings, the website now educates millions of viewers about the relationship between diet/lifestyle and disease/health.
From a one-man show in 2011 to a staff of 19 and a loyal and supportive community, and with all this success, you might forgive Michael for not wanting to take eight months out of his life to write a book. After all, everyone watches online video, and no one reads anymore. What, aside from vanity, would be the point?
Luckily, someone convinced him to write How Not To Die, which has spent many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (unheard of for a book on plant-based nutrition that doesn't have the b-word in the title).
And far from simply being a recap of his thousand-plus videos, the book manages to entertain like a detective novel, inspire like a Deepak Chopra fable, and convey valuable information like a reference book.
Michael and I had already spoken about his work, his impetus to practice medicine, and his philosophy in an interview recorded in November 2013, which you can find here. So in this interview, I wanted to know about the book, and how it came to be, and what impact it's had on his life and on the wider public discussion of nutrition.
In our conversation, we cover:
- the purpose of the How Not To Die framework
- the challenge of simplifying the science to make it useful
- the goal of Dr Greger's Daily Dozen smartphone app
- how writing the book helped Dr Greger think about the evidence
- the importance of creating a narrative structure for his annual presentations
- the sequel: How Not To Diet
- the “Miss Marple” approach to discussing scientific studies
- reading science chronologically
- a love letter to science
- dealing with the anti-science Internet health gurus (“this isn't movie reviews; it's a matter of life and death”)
- sticking to the science and avoiding the controversies
- “Please share how you arrived at that conclusion” – seeking transparency rather than dogma
- the dearth of scientific literacy in the medical / health community
- navigating the science when we're too busy to think critically about absolutely everything
- how to evaluate experts – performing due diligence on their crazy claims
- becoming the resource he couldn't find while in medical school
- why Dr Greger's officially in the book business and why he was resistant
- reaching bigger and more enthusiastic crowds
- “It's being published in Mongolian!”
- the power of a rabid fan base
- the impact of the manuscript on the staff at the publishing company
- using the book as his own reference book
- the audiobook and his poor vocal chords
- and much more…
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
How Not To Die on amazon
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Big thanks to iTunes user DoctorKingArthur, who wrote a very kind review of the podcast on iTunes, as follows:
“Thanks Howard for bringing important and influential players to your interview table; and for sharing and inspiring those of us walking the path to enlighten and support people to recognize lifestyle as medicine. I echo the comments that highlight your great listening skills, and am grateful for your kind, thoughtful nature which shows up in the way you ask questions, interpret comments, and pay attention to your guests.”
Also huge gratefulness to new patron Aunty Val, as well as stalwart supporters Kim Harrison, Lynn McLellan, Anthony Dissen, Amy Good, and Brittany Porter. And those of you who wish to remain anonymous.
Check out my online TV show, Triangle Be Well. This week I talk about how to get your partner to support your dietary improvements, even if they are actively fighting you and sabotaging your attempts to change. Watch it here.
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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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