Hi, I'm Howie Jacobson, host of the Plant Yourself Podcast.
In my day job, I help leaders increase their impact, vitality, and joy for the benefit of their organizations and the world. I also help clients implement lifestyle changes that support vibrant health and fitness.
But 15 years ago I was overweight, unhealthy, stressed out, and constantly taking my sick kids to the doctor and giving them antibiotics.
I couldn’t find time to exercise, and wasn’t motivated anyway: I was usually suffering from back pain and just really tired most of the time. It killed me when my kids wanted to wrestle, or jump on me, or have me carry them, and I was too exhausted or in too much agony to play with them.
At the age of 35, I felt like an old man.
Even though I knew better, I still fed my kids lots of junk: McDonalds chicken nuggets, pizza, chocolate-flavored yogurt, pancakes, sugary cereals, candy, you name it. And I was the human garbage can, eating all their leftovers in addition to cleaning my own plate.
I can’t even count how many courses of antibiotics I gave my kids for their recurrent ear infections. We even got a prescription from a specialist to put tubes in my son’s ears to help them drain.
And boy was I stressed out. My blood pressure was through the roof. Which is ironic, because I got my PhD studying stress management.
Knowing Isn't Enough
My problem was not lack of knowledge. I knew very well how to eat, how to feed my family, how to be physically fit, and how to de-stress and relax. What I lacked was behavioral know-how: how to change my behavior and make it stick. And how to bring my family along so we could all be healthy and fit together.
Things changed when I read T. Colin Campbell’s book The China Study in 2004. When I really understood that our food choices would determine whether or not my kids, wife, and I developed heart disease, cancer, MS, diabetes, and dozens of other life-threatening conditions, as well as the chronic infections of childhood, I got motivated to clean up the way we ate.
I hired a wellness coach, read everything I could on behavior change, and started changing my habits. I removed most animal products and processed food from my diet. I started running 3-5 miles six mornings a week. I found moments throughout my day to breathe deep and relax.
Over time (a couple of years, actually), I discovered how to lead my family to fitness and health. I had to become a role model and cheerleader rather than judge and jury, and I had to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Valuable lessons!
Three Necessary Tools
Why did I succeed this time, when I had failed to maintain my healthy behaviors in the past? Because I used three tools together:
- Knowledge (what to do)
- Know-how (how to get myself to do it)
- Marketing (how to broadcast empowering messages to myself that drowned out the negative messages in my environment)
The three tools correspond to the three facets of my professional career: researcher, coach, and marketer.
Researcher (not doing this at the moment)
As the contributing author to three hard-hitting investigative books on health, I've spent thousands of hours poring over research studies. It turns out that modern medicine, far from being the miracle that most of us think, is still largely mired in treatments and diagnostic tests that are totally unsupported by evidence.
Almost no doctors prescribe the most powerful medicine of all: diet and lifestyle improvements.
And the big money that indoctrinates practitioners to prescribe and perform these mostly useless and often harmful treatments isn't going away any time soon.
So I help my clients go through the published research and weigh their options. Then they go back to their health care practitioner and inform them how to proceed.
That way, my clients don't have to find themselves in the position where they look back and say, “If only I had known then what I know now.”
As a coach, I help people identify their goals and take steps to achieve them. We overcome obstacles and resistance, and apply principles of human psychology to stay focused even when motivation wanes.
My clients have included Equifax, VNR (one of Europe's largest direct-to-consumer publishing houses), and the Center for Creative Leadership, among many others.
But it was only when I started applying my marketing skills that I rapidly got the results I wanted.
I've been a marketing consultant from 2001 to the present. I've written three editions of Google AdWords For Dummies, spoken at many international conferences, and in 2014 was named one of the 50 most influential online marketers by Entrepreneur magazine. So I know something about the topic.
Why is marketing so important when it comes to adopting healthy habits?
In 2004, junk food manufacturers spent more than $20 billion to promote disease-causing crap to Americans, while allocating less than $10 million to the “5 a Day” campaign to get us to eat more fruits and vegetables. That’s a 2000 to 1 difference!
It just wasn't a fair fight. And that's when I decided to level the playing field by becoming my own marketing agency.
I had to advertise healthy living to myself, because almost everything in my environment – billboards, commercials, restaurant options, what others around me were eating, what doctors were telling me – was undermining my motivation.
I had to become a ninja at what my friend Peter Bregman describes as “sneaking fruit into the movies.”
Over the past 10 years, I’ve helped thousands of people improve their diets, fitness, and mental states: kids and adults; entrepreneurs and busy parents; family members and strangers I may never meet in person.
Full Circle: Writing WHOLE and PROTEINAHOLIC
In 2013, I had the great privilege of helping my own mentor, T. Colin Campbell, write his second book: WHOLE: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. That experience reinforced my commitment to spread the message of the power of a healthy lifestyle as far and wide as I can.
I work with individuals and groups, families and corporations, taking people through a simple process toward better and better health habits. They discover:
- that big lifestyle changes don’t have to be hard
- that eating better doesn’t mean deprivation
- that movement can be joyful rather than painful
- that vibrant health is our birthright
- that our bodies are always moving in the direction of wellness
After that, I helped Garth Davis, MD write Proteinaholic, another epic look at the evidence linking diet with disease and health. With 699 references to published research, it's the most comprehensive resource ever to be published.
In both cases, the evidence is overwhelming:
Using the triple tools of knowledge, know-how, and marketing, we can make changes that last, so we can stop struggling with our health and habits, and finally enjoy life to the fullest.