In 1987, fresh out of college, I took a job as a teaching intern at a fancy prep school in central New Jersey. One of the students who never made it across my radar was a quiet, blonde fifth grade boy named Dave Wiskowski.
In his class photo, he’s not smiling, unlike many of his classmates. He told me that he was struggling with depression at that time, any for many years later. Like many people who find themselves overwhelmed by life and negative emotions, he became adept at self-medicating through food, alcohol, and self-pity.
In his early 30s, Dave found himself pre-diabetic, miserable, obese, and ashamed of himself.
Now, Dave is an impressive plant-based endurance athlete; fast as hell, determined, and committed. And along the way, Dave discovered that helping others achieve their goals was even more fun and meaningful than chasing his own.
Now Dave crews and volunteers and supports more than he competes, and his influence on the world has magnified a thousand-fold. Our interview came about due to a series of what you might call coincidences: people who knew people who met people whom Dave has helped, guided, and encouraged who then mentioned to me what a wonderful guest Dave would be.
And then came the prep school coincidence, and my discovery of that photo.
Also, we had an amazing conversation. For some reason, my mixer got mixed up, and the audio settings exporting to my primary recording device were, to put it kindly, shit. As in unlistenable.
Luckily, I made a backup on Skype. But Skype is a temperamental friend, and while Dave's part of the conversation came out fine, my own voice is very soft and sometimes disappears altogether. The good news is, Dave is the one you want to listen to 🙂
In our conversation, we covered:
- childhood depression and the double-edged skill of self-medication
- the low bar of “managing” depression
- how depression makes any change more difficult
- looking at impossible goals
- the boring strategy of putting things into practice
- it’s simple: committing to a healthy path and practicing day in and day out
- “that period of time is not that long”
- you can achieve the impossible in a year
- gaining expertise from making mistakes
- “if I was wrong about diet, could I be wrong about everything?”
- compartmentalizing eating and alcohol use
- the 5-year-old treadmill in the basement with 20 miles on it that started it all
- “after 30 minutes on a run, I couldn't possess a negative thought”
- letting go of ego and sarcasm – and wondering what to replace them with
- how to get to the “right way” when there's a middle ground of unknowns
- “peace, kindness, and love”: just words until you go do them
- crewing for other ultra runners and being behind the scenes
- the blessing of doing significant work and not getting the credit
- 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.
HOWARD [Intro to the interview]: Dave Wiskowski and I have known each other since 1987. That was my first job out of college at Princeton Day School as a teaching intern. And Dave was in the fifth grade. Which now makes two podcast guests who were students when I was teaching there, including also the eminent cardiologist, Dr. Rob Ostfeld.
So Dave and I became Facebook friends, not because of the Princeton Day School connection, but through Josh LaJaunie, who really looks up to Dave as an accomplished athlete and runner, and someone who went plant-based and turned his life around. So in keeping with that theme, which I have been really hammering home on this podcast over the last several months, here's another installment.
And interestingly here, Dave was not dealing so much with obesity, although he was quite overweight and unhealthy, but the main issue that he was facing, was depression. And so it's really cool to see how plants and running, helped him deal with that. So without further ado:
HOWARD: Dave Wiskowski, welcome to the Plant Yourself Podcast.
DAVE: Thanks so much!
HOWARD: You are a runner, I follow you on Strava. We each do the monthly distance challenges, and I'm really proud of myself [to be] somewhere in the three to six thousand[th place]. You were number nine for a while, and I think you're now like number 134. You run a hell of a lot! What's your running look like these days?
DAVE: Yes, I've been a running a lot. And this year especially -- in 2016 -- I decided to ramp up the mileage quite a lot, and just see what happens -- just kind of test my body out with very high mileage. It's not something that I've done before. So this is a new thing.
I guess I started in February of this year. I just decided to run ten miles a day. Every day. And see how my body responded. And it was a bit of a struggle at first, and then my body kind of adapted. And then I started running way more than ten miles a day every day.
And then I starting finding myself up high on these Strava lists, which seems pretty silly to me,. But, you know, I'm actually more concerned with how my body responds to things. And my body was fine with what I was doing. So I just kept doing it.
Yeah, people have seen me up high on the Strava lists and they always have things to say about it. It's an interesting thing.
HOWARD: Yeah, it's funny, what we can adapt to. Right now, I'm training for a marathon in the spring. And I'm looking at the time that I want to finish in. And -- it seems impossible. But for you, looking back, the ability to run ten miles in a single day -- a few years ago, that might've seemed out of reach.
DAVE: Oh, no doubt. I can remember feeling like that, because it wasn't that long ago. I've only been running for about five years total. Yeah, not even five years total now. So, I mean, when I hit five miles a day, that was unbelievable. The first time I ever did ten miles, I was just astonished that that was even possible. So, yeah, to just commit to something and keep going -- it's incredible what our bodies can adapt to.
We still have to be kind of smart about how we do it. I think I do have a conservative approach. People probably wouldn't think that about me, but I definitely do have a conservative approach. I really do listen to what my body is telling me, but yeah, there's just no limit long-term.
And it's interesting that you say that the time you want to run, you find impossible. That's exactly how I felt for the first few years of running. Those marathon times are your goals, and you just say, "I don't even know how that's possible. I can't do that." But then within a certain period of time -- maybe a year later -- you're doing that pace and those distances with ease. It's a pretty phenomenal thing.
HOWARD: So when we were chatting prior to starting the recording, I asked you whether there's a theme to what you've been doing these days. And you said that your theme is just Putting Things Into Practice. That seems like such a boring idea! Y'know what I mean?
DAVE: Yeah. Well, that has taken me five years -- I'm five years into my plant-based journey as well -- my whole kinda life-changing journey -- and I'm only realizing it now, the simplicity of all of it. Of turning around my health. Of becoming a runner. Of changing many other things for the positive as well.
It's really just about committing to a healthy path. Committing to the things we know are good for us. And then practicing it! Having a regular practice of it. Not going crazy. Just doing it day in and day out.
It is astonishing what happens after a period of time. And that period of time is not too long. In one year, you can achieve what you used to think was impossible, I would say. In a year or possibly less. No doubt.
HOWARD: Yeah. And let's get into your journey and your backstory. You and I have sort of a tangential intersecting connection -- I have here in front of me the Princeton Day School 1988 yearbook. That was the year I was a teacher there, and I found you in the yearbook pictured in the fifth grade classroom, next to Miss Forcina in the school picture.
And so for years and years, you've been Putting Things Into Practice. All we do in our lives is, we Put Things Into Practice. And the question is just "What things?" And "Are those things challenging us to grow or not?"
DAVE: Yeah, that's an excellent point. It IS very funny how when you contacted me, we found out that we were both at Princeton Day School at the same time. It's just so interesting how we are all connected to one another in some way, and old connections really do re-emerge. I mean, I think about those things regularly now, because I just have so many connections with strangers that I meet, who are not really strangers -- they're people you've known, but you just don't know that yet.
But yeah, we do Practice Things Regularly whether we know it or not. I've spent the bulk of my life practicing certain things, but not realizing that I was. And not realizing that there were other options.
I think that's really the key -- that once you really break away from what you've always been doing and you do something else, you realize, Wow, I could always have done something else -- anything else.
And it's not just that there's the option between this one bad thing that I could do and this one good thing. It's not just two options. There are countless options in life. But I think we very rarely see that. And we very rarely see that we're sort of committing and recommitting to one choice, all the time. There are just other options out there that we can choose. And then commit to. And just see where that path goes.
HOWARD: I'm looking at the photo here, of ten- or eleven-year old Dave. And it's kind of grainy and small. But there are kids smiling in this picture, and you are not one of them. I know you mention that you don't really remember those years very well --and I know you've talked very publicly about struggling with depression. Can you give me a sense of where your depression came from or how it began to manifest in your life?
DAVE: Yeah, that's really interesting. I'm glad you have a photo there to show that. These things that we're feeling inside really do show on the outside. We don't always know it, and when you are in your own life and your own head, especially when you're struggling, you don't necessarily have a great perspective on what's going on outside of you.
I would say that I definitely struggled with depression at that time -- in fifth grade. And even prior to that, I'm sure. It was always something quietly under the surface. And as I got older, it just grew stronger. I think it's what we've already talked about, that it's a Practice in a sense. That is sort of a new perspective for me, that depression was a Practice of mine. I always thought it was something that I was just born with and was stuck with.
I definitely sought help for it throughout my life, seeing therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, being medicated for depression, anxiety, all kinds of things like that. But only much more recently in my life did I even make any significant progress with it, and that's when I determined that I was CHOOSING those thoughts. I was repeating those thoughts to myself, over and over again, and if I wanted those thoughts to go away, I needed to change the master message.
I needed to change the message in my mind from something negative, to something positive. And that -- that's kind of what I've been focusing on a lot in my recent years. And it's tremendously powerful. You can change almost whatever you want, about your life. I'm not going to say you can change anything, but you can change a tremendous amount of things in your life, just by committing and practicing.
HOWARD: So when you were first seeking help for depression, I'd imagine that lots of therapists say that exact same thing -- tell you to change your thoughts. Like, that's the basis of cognitive-behavioral therapies, right? You question your beliefs. So what was missing for you in those approaches?
DAVE: I can't remember receiving great input from any therapist. What I remember mostly is, [spending time in therapy] dwelling on the struggles. And maybe it was me doing it. I'm sure it was to some extent.
I wouldn't say that I knew I had depression back then, especially in fifth grade. But I knew something was wrong. I knew I just wasn't happy, and you know, you've got a great example in the photograph there, of other kids smiling and me not smiling. But I didn't know it was depression, and I didn't know what depression was.
But in terms of input from therapists, I don't remember a whole lot [of times that anyone tried to teach me] about how to change things. I remember the assumption that depression's there, and it's something that you just keep, and try to manage. And you manage it with medication, and you manage it with psychotherapy.
It's funny, because it's very similar to things that I've learned recently about the general approach the medical field takes with cholesterol, with diabetes, with things like that. Like, "Well, you're just going to have it forever, and you're going to need to be medicated forever now to manage it." You know?
There are other approaches and other paths that kind of blow all of that out of the water. Which I've also come to learn. But yeah, I can't remember ever in terms of depression, seeing or hearing anything that would work. Now, it's very likely that I just wasn't open to anything, and that I literally wasn't hearing anything outside of my own head. That is a very distinct possibility. I think I just spent all of those years inside of my own head.
HOWARD: As soon as you said the word "manage", I went right where you went -- that this is the medical view. We live in this country that has traditionally been crazy optimistic. Put people on Mars! Cure hunger! And even genetic therapy. And yet, our approach to our most prevalent and significant problems is pretty piss-poor, in terms of ambition. You know?
DAVE: I love the way you said that, and I'm now going to say that people. We have the ambition of putting people on Mars, but if you have Type 2 diabetes, we're just going "manage" it. We're not going to be a little more ambitious and look at what you're eating, or shake up your diet and lifestyle a little bit and see if we can't eliminate this problem.
HOWARD. Right. I mean, when I hear the word "manage" -- it's got some kind of a slightly positive connotation, but when you think about asking somebody, "How's your marriage?" And they say, "Oh, we're managing!" -- then you can see that that's not a really high bar.
DAVE: It's a low standard. Yeah. So if we're going manage our marriage and manage depression, then it means we're not doing very well -- we're struggling.
HOWARD: For many years, I was an entrepreneur and a teacher of entrepreneurs, and there was always a subset of people who were really eager to hear the message to Learn the tools, to Roll up their sleeves, and to Apply the skills. But most of them -- most people were vaguely offended by the idea that you could become anything you wanted to be, that you didn't have to be stuck, that their depressed realism wasn't a virtue. You know what I mean?
DAVE: That's another great point. I have lived in that life, and I think that exactly what you're talking about -- in terms of a career -- that was the next phase I did -- trying to break out of that. Because I think when you're stuck in that mold, you're in that in all aspects of your life.
It's rare that you can be one type of person in one aspect, and another type of person in another aspect of your life. You're kind of the same across the board, but again, you don't necessarily know that. You're just in your own mind, and you don't see another perspective. But as I've made some changes, it has been shocking to me, that you can step outside of [old paradigms and beliefs]. And the model that you thought existed, doesn't need to. So one by one now, I'm kind of knocking those out.
HOWARD: That is so profound. I mean, I've thought about it, but I've never thought about it so focused, the way you just described it. Like, if we're stuck in one aspect, we're stuck in all aspects. It's like a kaleidoscopic mirror.
Which leads to the idea, then, that if you can go downstairs and run 3.1 miles on your treadmill, whereas before, you've never done more than three that you've just broken through something globally, and everything now has to shift by a tenth of a mile, in terms of your self-image, in terms of how you see your worth in the marketplace, in terms of what you can bring to a relationship. It all has to shift.
DAVE: I'm with you -- it's profound. It's almost mind-boggling. But on the other hand, it's as simple as it could possibly be. It makes total sense, it's just not the way we think. It's not the way we're CONDITIONED to think.
And I'll tell you, how I came upon this. It was pretty straightforward. I'll get into my backstory a little bit here. I was very overweight. I was unhealthy. I was just living an out of control lifestyle and things were not going well. I adopted a whole foods plant based diet, even though I was always opposed to vegans and vegetarianism. I didn't believe in it. For all of my life, I thought it was a terrible thing. But then one day I did it. And it changed everything. Rapidly!
And that showed me that, first of all, I was wrong about what I believed. So could possibly be wrong about everything I believed.
And it showed me that there are other options. There are other models out there. There are systems, and I must just be in one particular system, but that can change. And it can be a profound change. It was astonishing to me.
I am not trying to take credit, that I knew that that would happen -- not at all! I was almost a bystander in the process, even though I was doing it. But I was watching these changes happen and I thought -- WOW, if I was wrong about this, I might just be wrong about everything. And so all I did was, I opened up every area of my life and just said, "Let's look again. Let's see if there's another way." And kind of, one by one, I started trying different things in different aspects of my life.
HOWARD: I think there's huge power in being in the bystander role. [It can mean] being willing to have things go wrong. Being willing to have things go in the wrong direction. Being willing to kind of let go and not be ego-attached about every decision you make.
DAVE: Yeah. A lot of the words that you used just there, are things that run through my mind on a daily basis now. Letting go. Not being attached to the ego. That is all very, very difficult. That's been the hardest process.
I think that's what holds a lot of people back from any kind of change in life. You're not willing to do something that you might fail at, that you might be wrong about, or do something that goes against what you've always done. You have this sense of ego or pride or attachment, and it's really letting go of any attachments [that's the key], and it doesn't have to be with any judgment.
So saying "letting go" is perfect. And again, it's only accidentally that I stumbled into this whole concept of just trying something else and seeing what happens. And man, the thing I tried -- I tried a whole foods plant-based diet -- and it was just profound. It was beyond words, beyond anything I could've imagined, the way it changed my life.
HOWARD: And was the whole food plant-based diet the first thing you had tried in terms of diet? Or was this just one of the bunch?
DAVE: Oh, so, yeah, throughout my life, I've tried all different kinds of diets. I mean, as an adult, I was gaining weight -- I had been a high school athlete, and then I played a little bit of sports in college, but I kind of stopped doing that as an adult and starting gaining lots of weight and getting more into indulgence -- eating bad food and drinking more alcohol.
And those things keep going. You don't really stay static in life, so whatever path you're on, you're kind of going farther on in that path as the years go on. And so, I tried all different kinds of diets throughout my adult years, and I tried working out and exercise. And I would have some moderate success, but keeping it up always felt like a major struggle. It always felt like a lot of work and sacrifice and suffering. So it was not sustainable. At all.
And really, if you have a negative mindset -- and if you're suffering from depression, you already have negative messages inside your mind -- then when you realize "This isn't working" or "You're slipping backwards", you begin beating yourself up even more. So you're not getting the results you wanted from your diet, you're working out, and on top of it, you kind of hate yourself even more for struggling with exercise. It's this awful cycle that is so easy to be trapped in. I was trapped in it for the majority of my adult years, and I'm sure many other people are as well. It's a very sad thing.
HOWARD: I'm wondering, what was your goal in saying, OK, let me try this diet, and let me go to the gym and work out. Was it, "I'm going to get in shape and have this attractive body and then I won't be depressed anymore"? How did you think your physical appearance and capabilities were going to affect the deepest issues of your depression?
DAVE: That's a really good question. I definitely thought that some amount of my happiness or depression, was tied to my body and being overweight. I wasn't yet at an age where I was having health problems. But my doctor had said that I was probably going to get diabetes if I didn't lose weight.
And so my solution to that was, I just stopped going to the doctor. I just didn't go anymore for years. I was like, That's not the kind of thing I want to hear, and so I'm just not going back. And you can get away with it -- I was in my twenties and thirties, and you don't need a lot regular medical care at those ages necessarily.
But yeah, I tried to work out, because I wanted to not be overweight. I felt really ashamed of it, and I guess I felt out of control. I felt a loss of control in my own life, and I felt like my body was revealing to the world how out of control I was. Or it was giving a hint into what was going inside of me, that I just couldn't control this life. I was losing [at life], was basically what it felt like. I was losing, and things were slipping away. And I thought that losing weight would make me feel better about myself, that it would make me feel happy.
I guess the interesting thing is, I guess it does help in small ways [with feeling good about yourself], but it's not real -- it's not real happiness. When I did adopt a whole food plant based diet -- and when I did that, I went all in -- it was a last resort thing -- I lost seventy to eighty pounds in less than a year. So I went from being a guy who was 230+ pounds, to weighing 160. That was way more than I ever could've imagined.
And I remember kind of looking at myself at the end of that and thinking, "Well, OK, now I've gotta be happy, because look at this amazing thing I've done." But I looked in the mirror and was like "Oh man. You're still the same person." I weighed seventy pounds less, but I was the same person. Losing weight didn't do what I thought it was going to.
And then I embarked on Stage Two. I took this to another level. But yeah, I thought they were more connected than they are, the physical and the psychological well-being. It turns out, you kind of have to work on both of them, you can't disregard one.
HOWARD: You had lost the seventy or eighty pounds on a whole food plant based diet?
DAVE: Yeah. Prior to that I was eating all processed foods. I like to tell people that I was eating everything that's sold in the Costco frozen section -- like frozen pizzas, taquitos, pot-stickers. I was buying all that stuff and just eating junk all the time, so I got pretty overweight by doing that.
And then by coincidence, one weekend my wife and I were on Netflix, and we watched this documentary Forks Over Knives. Had never heard of it, and at the time, I had had no intention of watching anything about diet, or considering changing my diet.
I had gotten interested a little bit in food and diet, because I had read some of Michael Pollan's books. And so that had kind of opened my eyes to, "Well, there's SOMETHING about food." Like, it's not just about how many calories am I putting in. Like, there are different types of foods, and they do different things to your body. But I still didn't have a deep understanding of it.
So, yeah, we watched Forks Over Knives, and that hit me hard. And I'm sure I was eating pizza or chicken wings while watching it. I'm sure I was having a feast, because that's what we would do. Just watch TV and have a feast. Regularly.
Essentially, I went overnight, from having pretty much one of the worst diets, to in my opinion, to having one of the best if not THE best diet -- to having a whole food plant based diet. I bought Dr. Esselstyn's book Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease, the very next day, and switched to his way of eating, the very next day. And went to the strictest possible version [of a plant-based diet].
HOWARD: And what was that like, to suddenly go to a really strict version of eating plant-based? Did it feel like enhancing, or a little punitive?
DAVE: This all happened so fast that I didn't have a chance to think about anything. I didn't plan anything out. I was riding this wave of inspiration. I felt this jolt from watching Forks Over Knives! It's hard to describe, but I felt something really click inside of me. And I said, "We HAVE to do this." And my wife was on board. And so the next day, we packed up all the food in our house, and we gave it away. We gave it away to family -- all that junk food -- and bought brown rice; beans; vegetables. You know, healthy stuff.
As far as going the strictest route, I didn't KNOW I was going the strictest route, because I didn't know much of anything about the plant-based world. But I knew that I couldn't hurt myself with vegetables. I knew that if I ate a lot of vegetables, maybe I wouldn't enjoy what I'm eating, but I wouldn't hurt myself. This wouldn't be dangerous.
Because you know, there's all these bizarre fad diets, and I think a lot of them are dangerous and just irresponsible. But I was not afraid of vegetables. Or brown rice. Or things like that. So I kind of had some ignorance [about how strict Dr. Esselstyn's recommendations were considered]. I didn't have a chance to think about how strict it would be and what other options there were. I just kinda said, "Nothing I've been doing has worked. Let me see what happens with this."
And I just said, I'm going to commit to a year of it and see how that goes. And it became very clear within a couple weeks, that this was something immensely powerful, like nothing else I had ever experienced. Just incredibly rapid weight loss. And incredible energy levels that showed up. Out of nowhere.
HOWARD: And it's interesting, I just listened to a lecture by Dr. Neal Barnard last weekend about our cheese addiction. And he has a whole thing about addiction and dopamine. That the reason we get addicted to things is that they give us this dopamine rush, and the pleasure-reward parts of the brain light up, and that if you want to get off of cheese, you can't just get off of cheese, you have to enhance your life.
He talks about [getting your dopamine from] -- you know -- intimacy, and having relationships with people, and moving your body, exercising and music. And here you were -- a lifelong struggle with depression -- and all of a sudden, you're giving up all your drugs. I mean, every source of dopamine that you had known, has now been cleaned out of your cupboards, and you're not only not going for those things anymore -- you're going for the grim fare! You mentioned in your Big Change interview with Jason Cohen -- you said it didn't even have to taste good. I mean, what the hell did you do?!? What did you do to make up for that huge dopamine drop?
DAVE: Well, first of all, I was just sick and tired of who I was and how I felt. I felt like I was at the end. I mean, I'll be honest, I felt like life could not keep going the way it was going. And I was only 34 years old, but I felt like, life was going to have to come to an end, soon. Like, very soon. So there was an element of desperation present. Like, I just can't keep going down this path, and I can't try any sort of B.S. approaches.
But I also did had not gotten rid of all my drugs, because I still had alcohol, and I was definitely drinking alcohol in those first few months after I had adopted an Esselstyn kind of plant based diet. But yeah, the food that I was making -- it did not taste good -- because I didn't actually follow any of the recipes. There ARE, like, two weeks worth of recipes in Dr. Esselstyn's book, but I'm kind of lazy. I don't like putting a lot of effort into my food -- at least, I didn't at the time -- and so, I didn't really care what it tasted like. I was just like, "I just need to put it in me, it just needs to fit within his rules", and it did.
And it was just a lot of brown rice, and vegetables, and some vinegars and spices. And some beans and things. And it took me a little while -- a few weeks -- before I found some combinations that worked, that tasted good. And also for my body to adapt. Because yeah, I got rid of very intensely flavored foods, and replaced them with foods that just seemed like dry cardboard -- stuff that I had never liked in my life.
But Esselstyn talks about how your tastes change. I think he says it takes twelve weeks for your tastes to change. I would say, in my experience, it was like four to six weeks for me. And that stuff -- the brown rice that I had hated for most of my life -- all of a sudden started to taste delicious. So I didn't need to get better at cooking -- I just needed to let my body adapt to these natural foods. And then I really started to appreciate what they tasted like, and then I got this surge of energy.
So you know, the dopamine, those "drugs" that I took away from myself -- I think we know that those don't really work. Like, you get that small hit and then you crash. And you feel worse about yourself afterwards. That was not the case with all these healthy foods. The energy that shows up is amazing and it's present all the time and it just keeps building. It really has this positive quality to it. There's no downside at all, other than maybe you don't like the taste of what you're eating in that moment. So, Oh well! You'll survive. And the taste of the same food, days later, you'll adapt to it and love it.
HOWARD: I find it fascinating that you were able to compartmentalize the alcohol and keep it in [your diet]. I mean, I don't know whether Dr. Esselstyn mentions it specifically, but you know, if you think about it for a few seconds . . . [laughs] . . . You know what I'm asking?
DAVE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Clearly, that wasn't something that I wanted to think about, so I definitely compartmentalized it -- it wasn't something I was willing to address [yet]. And Dr. Esselstyn DID say something about alcohol is permitted in -- I'm sure he didn't use the term moderation, because he has a whole chapter called Moderation Kills -- so he probably said, "in small amounts" or something like that. But obviously I took it to a much higher level -- I was probably drinking ten to twelve beers a night. Obviously a very, very excessive amount!
HOWARD: And you were still able to see and feel these incredible gains in health, even on two six-packs a night?
DAVE: Yeah, that was what was so crazy, because I knew what it felt like to drink that much and eat terrible food -- you feel awful -- about as awful as you can feel, at all times, essentially. And so, I kept the alcohol, but I changed the food, and I felt amazing. And I was losing weight rapidly. I mean, like, twenty pounds a month. And this was with no exercise. No running. There was no exercise in my life at that time. This was all dietary changes -- again -- while consuming maybe eight to twelve beers a night -- a significant amount!
But it didn't take long before that separate compartment of the alcohol, really began to move more into the main part of my mind. It's like, "Well, I don't know if this is compatible with the rest of the changes that I've made in life." I mean, obviously I knew the answers. I'm not that ignorant. But we can fool ourselves, we can hide things from ourselves, or we can just ignore things for a long time, that we don't want to deal with.
But it was too obvious. It was too blatant. There was tremendous success from the plant based diet. There was tremendous energy. Rapid weight loss. And just this increase in health! And now there's all this alcohol here, and I thought, "This doesn't fit. This doesn't work. And I think it's time that we take a look at that now, and see if we can do something about that."
HOWARD: What did you do next? It sounds to me like you could've been clinically diagnosed as alcoholic.
DAVE: I would have to say yes. I think I probably -- I drank regularly since college but at that point in my life, when I adopted this plant-based diet, I had been living a lifestyle that I felt wasn't going to last long. Like, I felt my days were numbered. So I had probably spent a good two years drinking, honestly, like twelve beers a night. Which is -- I mean, that would fit any definition of alcoholism that there is, I'm sure.
HOWARD: With food, we don't really know what to do when we're going to change our diets. But with alcohol, there's a cultural understanding that what you do is, you go to AA. Did you do that? How did you deal with reducing or eliminating alcohol?
DAVE: Well, I did not go to AA. I guess the change that I had made through my diet taught me a lot about life. And I was mentioning earlier, that that kind of woke me up and gave me a new perspective that there are options. And so my dietary change was very extreme. That's what everybody would say.
Everybody kind of wants you to ease into a healthy diet. They want you to moderate things. They want you to have multiple cheat days, where you're still eating garbage all the time. But I didn't do that. And what I did do, was a profound change had a profound impact.
And so that was kind of the new model for me. It had worked -- that's the thing -- and it felt sustainable. Whereas nothing else had ever felt sustainable. So I kind of took that approach to other areas of my life, and it sort of came into this alcohol area of my life, where I went, "OK, I know the answer isn't going to be moderation", because moderation -- again -- Dr. Esselstyn was my guy at this point -- I was really just hanging on every word he had to say. And I can kind of hear his voice in my mind, and I knew that moderation was never going to be the answer to anything in life. You're all in, or you're not in at all.
And so that was just in the back of my mind, and I knew that one day I'd just have to completely let go of the alcohol. So I guess I got very lucky. One day I got on my treadmill -- I had a treadmill in my basement. And I probably had lost thirty pounds or so by then, just from dietary changes. But again, I was still drinking. So one day, I felt pretty crappy from drinking too much. And I just got on the treadmill to kind of run it off.
I mean, I hadn't run for many years -- I had never been a runner and I hated running -- I bought a treadmill years earlier out of desperation to lose weight. It was a nice treadmill -- probably five years old -- and it maybe had twenty miles on it. It just did not get used. But I got on that treadmill that one day and ran three miles.
And I had never run three miles without stopping. I was astonished. It's kind of similar to Dean Karnazes's story about being drunk and and leaving a bar and running. But he ran 40 miles. I ran, like, three miles. But it was the same impact -- it was like, "Oh my God! How did that just happen?" But then I did it the next day. And the next day after that. And I started doing five miles.
And I was drinking each of those days, but then it really kind of came to a head. It was like, "OK! This running thing is awesome." It took me three days to realize that. But this drinking thing does not fit. They are really opposed to one another. Each one is making the other much harder. So one of them has to go. I was like, "Well, the new things in my life are really awesome. They are really rocking my world. So I'm going to pick running, and let go of the drinking."
So I feel like I got very lucky, because this was not part of any plan. As you said, if I were to have followed a plan, I would've gone to AA. But as it was, I just kind of figured it out in my basement by running. Running really took the place of drinking. But in a much more fulfilling and positive and sustainable manner. So I made the decision to let go of drinking. And it was compatible with what I learned from my dietary change, from Dr. Esselstyn. That this is a significant change. That you're going with this strict approach. I had learned that that worked. I don't know if that has something to do with my personality type -- I don't think that's appropriate for every personality type. But it did work for mine, and that was something that I became aware of and then leveraged that ability.
HOWARD: So did you find that running did the same things for you that drinking had?
DAVE: It did, yeah, but in a better way. Because I was struggling with depression for so many years, alcohol had calmed the negative voices in my mind. Soothed the negative feelings. It gave me a break, basically. It made me feel at peace for a period of time.
And it's kind of fleeting -- it never lasted long. Before you know it, the negative parts showed up again. You have maybe an hour or two where you feel good. But everything outside of that, you feel absolutely awful. Then, once I stopped drinking and started running, then when I would have a bad day at work or was struggling in general, I learned I could just go for a run. I would go for a three-mile run, or a five-mile run -- for that dopamine rush. And I could feel it -- after maybe thirty to forty minutes of running.
I recognized the most amazing thing, that while on a run, I could not possess a negative thought. It just wouldn't happen. Whereas at all other times of my life, all other moments of the day, negative thoughts were constantly bouncing around. But if I go out for a run, particularly a decently intense run, the negative thoughts were just not possible. And then when I finished running, there was, like, a positive hangover. Like, this high persisted.
So that was something that was way better that whatever alcohol could ever do. And I recognized that. Quickly. And it was powerful, and so I used it. I knew, if I had a day, where normally I would be like, "I definitely have to drink to make this go away," I would instead say, "No, y'know, I have to throw on my running shoes and go out for a run." And then once I could get up to seven mile runs -- I was running for an hour -- it was just magical. I could make any issue go away. I could replace any negative thought pattern with just happiness from that. It was magic.
HOWARD: I want to ask you about your wife. You've mentioned her a few times, and from the way you describe yourself -- as having been severely depressed -- at the end of your rope -- basically alcoholic -- and sitting with her feasting and watching Forks Over Knives -- I get the feeling that this ride with you must've been very intense for her. And I'm wondering in what ways she was able to provide stability. Or resisted. Or enabled. Or supported. And I don't know if you even want to talk about it, because she might just want to be a private person and have nothing to do with [your public story]. But I'm curious.
DAVE: I'm curious too. I feel like I would want to hear her answers as well. I feel like we should just bring her in right now. I'm sure I was a very difficult person to deal with -- I know that we had fights about a lot of these issues. I guess I'm thankful that she did not enable any of [my self-destructive patterns].
Drinking was just never part of her lifestyle. It's not something that she was ever familiar with or cared about or did in any way. She could have one drink and not care in the slightest bit [about getting a second drink]. So there were many fights over that, because she would just say, "Why can't you have a couple drinks and then stop?" And I literally didn't know why I couldn't, but I knew that I couldn't.
So I'm thankful that, as many fights as we had for a lot of years, I'm thankful that she did not enable my behavior. I think I would've been stuck forever. In terms of the poor diet, we definitely both shared the poor diet. She had a somewhat better diet than I did -- she was always eating more fruits and vegetables in her life and I was just [eating] processed foods all the time, or fast food.
But we both had the poor diet together. But then we both made the change together and switched to the whole foods plant-based diet. That was much easier, because I do often hear from people that one person is making a change, but the other person in the relationship is not, and that can be a struggle. But as it was, we did not go through that. We both made the change at the same time, and so we continued living a similar lifestyle.
She did not fall in love with running like I did and that was something that really catapulted me to even higher levels, but yeah, it was helpful to have made that [plant-based eating] transformation together. But I'm sure I was a disaster to live with, for a long time-- I was miserable, and depressed and an alcoholic, and out of control with food and lifestyle, and just a very negative, miserable person. I didn't even like being around me, so honestly, how could anyone else like being around me?
HOWARD: So once you made these shifts -- your dietary shift, running, giving up alcohol -- like, what was the next area of your life that you wanted to improve, or where you saw the possibility for improvement? Where did it go from there?
DAVE: Really quick story, when I was in high school, I played soccer -- I played a lot of sports then, but at the time, I was trying out for the varsity soccer team as a sophomore, and it was a competitive soccer program. So at the beginning of the season, you had to do a two-mile timed run. And you had to do it in maybe fifteen or sixteen minutes.
Well, I got a DNF on that. I did not finish. I quit. I couldn't do the run -- a two-mile run. As a high school kid. I mean, high school kids can do anything. They do not need to train for anything. I'm sure you've seen them in local 5K races. They'll go out and destroy you, and they've never even run before.
HOWARD: Yeah, I can remember doing a sub-six-minute mile in high school and I'd never run before. Sure, it hurt at the end, but I did it.
DAVE: Yeah. High school kids can do that. But me, I hated running so much, that I couldn't even run two miles then. So the running really, in my adult years, really opened up life tremendously to me. Because there's kinda no limit. Weight loss, there's a limit. You reach the point the body should be at, then [the weight loss] kind of stops.
But with running, it turns out there's not a limit. There's always a farther distance, there's always a faster time. And you can keep pursuing that. And when you do that, you kind of don't want to ever stop anything. So then I started looking at other areas of.my life and going, "OK, What's next?" What's the next to change?
And I guess running was giving me so many positive feelings and new experiences and new friendships and just new connections -- feeling so much more connected to the world -- that I just starting embarking on a path of positivity. Of seeking peace. Seeking kindness. Seeking love. Things that I would've never really felt because I had been trapped in this negativity and this misery within my own mind.
And so I started to break out of that. And that was a big one! That was one that -- I would say -- I kind of clearly avoided, much like I had compartmentalized the alcohol. There really were a lot of walls where I compartmentalized this one. I was like, "How am I going to get into my own mind, and take this negative person, which I've been forever, and stop being a negative person? I didn't have a really great plan for that, but it was really clear that that's where I needed to go.
That's definitely the area that I'm in right now. Just regularly, regularly practicing gratitude, kindness, peace, compassion. It's funny because these are terms I thought I understood. These are words we've all heard and so we think we know them. But they don't actually mean anything until you start to do them. You can't know anything until you've done it, and done it repeatedly.
And I was listening to a lot of podcasts, I got very into Rich Roll and was listening to Rich Roll's podcasts regularly. And he gets into this area a lot. And it just really inspired me to go in that direction of really all this very positive psychology and positive messaging. And I'll admit that sometimes at the beginning, some of it seemed like BS, but also, I had a lot of negative messages in my mind, and I started to see them dissipate, and I started to see the power of this -- I started to see the positively really take hold. And change how I felt. And change things around. Change how people around me related to me. And even changed WHO related to me. This was a fairly astonishing change and one that I very much find myself in right now.
HOWARD: It's funny because when I think about my own addictions and the things I've given up, the food has been easy compared to the thoughts. You know? I've been so addicted to my smart-ass, cynical self, that it feels really vulnerable, scary, and even shameful to even show up a different way -- especially around people with whom I've established some cred for being this smart-ass critic of everything.
DAVE: I love that you say that because that's exactly how it felt. And y'know, much like when I made these changes, when the alcohol was still present, it really started to stand out that it didn't belong. Big flashing neon signs, like "Hey! Look at this!", like, "This can't be here!" That aspect of my life started to -- like I was a very sarcastic, quick-witted, critical type of person -- and that's who I thought I was. I occupied that place in the world.
And I can remember the day when I chose to stop. I had hurt somebody with my sarcasm -- I had hurt a co-worker who was a friend of mine, but I hadn't intended to. Honestly, I think something about the new whole food plant based diet that I was on, just opened up new levels of compassion that I had never felt before. And when I inadvertently hurt her with some stupid sarcastic remark, I was upset. I was disappointed in myself. And in that moment, I said, OK, the sarcasm is gonna go.
I just removed it. And it felt really weird, because what the hell was I going to say if I couldn't say some sarcastic remark??? I didn't have anything else to say. I certainly wasn't going to reveal my true feelings!
But when you kind of live in that space of the unknown, it gets filled with the right things if you're patient, if you're understanding, if you allow it to. And that's something else very important that I've learned in life. You know, we think there's a wrong way to do things, and that we can immediately jump to the right way of doing things when we go through change. But there's this whole big middle ground that's unknown. And it's painful. And that's usually why we run back to what we know. Which is the bad thing.
But it's just uncomfortable, and you just have to stay there in that space and deal with being uncomfortable. And after a while, it stops being uncomfortable and it starts to be filled with more positive things, if you let it. But that's how I made that change in that personality aspect. And I completely agree with you, that the food -- I thought food was my struggle for my whole life. I also thought that losing weight would be the hardest thing in the world, but it turned out to be the easiest, and everything else that comes after that is harder. There's no doubt.
HOWARD: One of the authors and thinkers that I rely upon to keep me sane these days, is a guy called Charles Eisenstein, who talks about the space between stories. He says we have our story of the world -- the old story about human beings controlling everything. And now we're destroying the world, and we're destroying each other, and so the story is breaking down. You can see that in big ways and in small ways, that all of our comfortable twentieth century liberal assumptions have broken down.
And we're terrified, because we think we need to replace them right away. We need the new story. Like, what will the economy look like if we're no longer competing with each other cut-throat? His point is we don't know -- we have to live in the space between stories and we have to be comfortable with that if we're ever going to get to the new story. We can't build it from a place of any kind of knowledge, because we have none.
DAVE: That is so perfect. So perfectly said. That's exactly it. I have not read his work -- I would love to -- but I came to a similar understanding, just through my own process. The reason you can't jump from the wrong story [straight] to the right one, is because the wrong one, the bad one -- that's all that you know. You don't know anything else. You have to sort of remove that, and eliminate that. And exist really as an open book.
You have to clear the slate, and you have to then take things in and be out there, and -- going back to what we said earlier -- do so without attachment, without ego. And that's where you learn a new way -- in that big space. There's a large gap there, and you have to be OK with that level of discomfort.
But it's not actually painful, it's just that you're in an unknown area, and you will be OK -- just don't run back to what you know. And what you know, is the the thing you've always done. That's what's kept you in the cycle you've always been in. And really, running taught me that. Running, and ultra-marathon running, taught me that. Because if you want to be in a space where you don't know what's happening, then get yourself to the level to run an ultra-marathon. It will put you in that space for a lot of the time.
HOWARD: So we haven't talked about your running career or the many races you've done or the miles you've put on. But I'd kinda like to just skip over that. Because what I'm finding more interesting is, you've become kind of a servant of runners. You've moved to a place of pacing other runners -- like enabling the school teacher to run across the United States. Can you talk a bit about that transition? From you being a "holy cow look what he can do" runner, to kind of midwifing other people's greatness.
DAVE: It's been an interesting transition and one that I didn't expect. When I started getting pretty decent at running, it really was an experience of "holy cow look at what I can do!" -- it was feeding the ego and I was using it to feed the ego. I was running marathons and only cared about the time on the clock. And you can look at pictures of me finishing early marathons, and the look on my face was a look of disgust. Like, I would be getting a twenty minute personal record -- a significant improvement in my time -- with a face of disgust. And that's not the way running should have gone in my life.
And so, just getting into the world of ultra-marathon running -- just getting into these longer distances -- you realize that it takes more than just the runner. It takes a team of people. It takes crew members, pacers. And I can't remember exactly how I got into that, but once I started doing that, like, it kind of clicked with me that this is the right thing for me to do.
This [ultra-running and crewing and pacing for other runners] doesn't feed my ego. This is actually the exactly opposite. I will put in a significant amount of work, and probably not get any of the credit. And that hurt a little bit at first -- I wanted to be like "Whoah whoah whoah! I just ran with you for twelve hours. Can I get some credit for this here?!?"
But I knew I couldn't say that out loud because I knew that that was wrong. And so I had to keep telling myself, "You know it's wrong to think that way. Let go of that. Let go." And so I just kept doing more crewing and pacing of people. And really starting to fall in love with it to the point where I enjoy helping somebody else get to the finish line of a one hundred mile race, moreso than I enjoy getting to the finish line myself. I just fell in love with it.
A friend of mine -- Keilla -- a school teacher from New York, was running across the country and I decided to crew and pace for her among other of her friends who are very accomplished runners. She wound up not making it -- there were some injuries that took place, and so she had to abandon the effort, but still -- that taught me so much about people coming together to help someone else accomplish a goal.
And it's so rewarding -- I spoke a little bit earlier, how terms like kindness and gratitude -- we hear them and we think we know them. But we don't until we actually do them. We don't until we actually commit to them. Like -- generosity. And giving. And you always hear about -- especially people who are big in philanthropy -- that when we give, it gives so much more back to the giver.
And my whole life, I was like, wow that's BS -- until I started doing it. Then I started to realize that this is amazing -- all I have to do is show up and run with somebody else -- take care of them -- help them accomplish their goal, and I'm going to wind up feeling amazing.
Not only that -- I'll form this deep connection with this person. Because sometimes I do it for people I haven't met before, people I barely know. In fact, in most cases, I do it for people whom I don't know well, or sometimes have never met. I paced a girl at Western States this year -- I met her in the middle of the race -- I met her at 11pm on race day -- she met me in the dark and was like "Let's go." She didn't have a pacer, and my runner had already dropped out. And the crew people connected us. So the first time she met me was when we started running. And I spent twelve hours or so with her getting to the finish line.
These are amazing experiences, and when you open yourself up to that, it is just so rewarding that it's almost hard to go back -- it HAS been hard to go back to running for myself, because it doesn't give me that same feeling -- the ego pops back up, and I don't want that. I want the friendly running, and I want to help the person, and I want to guide them, and I want to be there for them.
HOWARD: It's like your life has been these concentric circles, ever-expanding, of identification.
DAVE: Yeah. Very much so.
HOWARD: You start with the appetite and the ego, and then move on to the spirit or the soul, and now it's some collective. There's a We out there, and the Me isn't so big compared to the We.
DAVE: And being stuck in my own mind for my whole life before this, there WAS no We. There was just Me -- What can I get for Me? What are other people trying to take from Me? How can I stop them? You know? Everything was very confrontational and very adversarial.
And now -- I have completely opened myself and it's very funny. I will meet people at races, at ultra-marathons, and within seconds, we're exchanging the deepest information and the deepest feelings within ourselves, things that I've spent a lifetime concealing. And it's a much better way of living life, in my opinion. Maybe it's not for everyone. But it's that sense of We. It's an approach of "How can I help you?"
I WILL just show up -- I'll show up at races -- I've done it -- I've shown up at races not knowing anyone, not having any plan. And then say, "I'm here to help. Who needs help? Let's do this. What do we have to do?"
And in that sense, it's like I've used my running career now, that this is how I've started looking at it in the last six months to a year. I use my running, my training, my top position on Strava -- I use all those miles to help somebody else get to the finish line. I use my races, my ups and downs, my dramatic collapses and struggles in my own races, to help people get through theirs. And I love it. I couldn't possibly be happier.
HOWARD: Yeah. Well, it's almost like you look back on the whole trajectory, the whole journey, and all the mistakes, and go like, "Thank god for them!" You know? Like, "Thank god for every stage along the way, because it's brought me to where I am now."
DAVE: Yeah, I think I said that to you at the beginning, maybe it was even before we started the recording, that my knowledge is not some sort of expertise. Like, I don't consider myself in any way similar to a Dr. Esselstyn or a Dr. Campbell. They are experts. They've committed their lives to their area of study, their area of expertise. Whereas I have just gone out and made a lot of mistakes. And then decided to learn from them. And then I go out and make more mistakes -- I go out and openly make mistakes, and learn from them.
And I just did it again this past weekend. I attempted a hundred mile race in Southern California -- the Chimera 100 -- and I, uh, I was doing quite well in it -- I was actually in third place -- I've never found myself doing so well in a race! -- not nearly so well. I was in third place but then I passed out at mile 92.
I went unconscious, and that was the end of my race. I was out cold. So -- I am really OK with whatever happens. Maybe some people would call them epic disasters, or mistakes -- but I learned that i did not have a good understanding of proper hydration in this very dry Southern California climate. And I'm not going to forget that lesson, because there was not a slow demise to the end of my race. I went from being in the top three, to being unconscious. And I'll remember that, and I'll learn that, and I'll use that for myself and for others.
And, yeah -- it's not really the path that I chose. I didn't choose that. That chose me. So I just kind of embrace -- I embrace that path. I'm not the one who's going to be the big expert knowing what I'm doing all the time. I'm going to be the one who goes out there and makes the mistakes, and then I'll come back and I'll share it with everybody else. I'll say, "Hey. Let's not do this. Here's what's going to happen if you do."
HOWARD: Yeah, and you know, there's that saying -- there's a Japanese expression -- all of us is smarter than any one of us. So, you know, not only you making mistakes but you coming back and sharing them and you being transparent and ok with it, makes space for the rest of us to make all of our mistakes too and share the knowledge. I think that's how we're going to move ahead as a species on this planet, is by not trying to be right. But -- just sharing around what we've sown and reaped.
DAVE: That is so true and we're very conditioned to hide those things -- to conceal those mistakes. And I definitely did that for a long time. But I'll say, somebody reached out to me once on Facebook -- somebody that I had sort of met at HealthFest -- at a plant based weekend seminar thing. He reached out to me on Facebook and said You know, I really loved when you shared your stories of what went wrong. Where you showed that you're not perfect.
And I think that on Facebook, it's really easy to look perfect all the time -- we really can control that image. And I was certainly controlling that image. And when he reached out to me and told me that, I was like, "WOW. If people want to hear mistakes, well, I have an endless supply of that! I could do that forever. All I have to do is open up."
So I made a conscious decision [to be more open, to be more transparent, to show my mistakes and imperfections more to others], and that was a major shift. And exactly what you said -- That is how we learn from one another. We learn what doesn't work. And we share it openly. And we collectively come together to find a better path. That was a profound change. It was a little -- no, it was very uncomfortable at first -- but now, I don't know what I'd talk about if I didn't talk about mistakes that I make. I really have no idea what I would say!
HOWARD: It reminds me of a crack Obama made about your old mayor, Rahm Emanuel -- he said, He lost his middle finger in an accident. He was rendered mute. [laughs]. If we don't have our mistakes to talk about, what else is there!?
DAVE: [laughs] I don't know. Because there's not much that I know beyond what I've done wrong and how to not do that exact same thing wrong again. Just keep finding a better way.
HOWARD: Right on. Well, Dave, it's been such a pleasure to talk to you and to hear your story. I just feel so hopeful and inspired both because your story is so unique in the world and also because it's so common and there's so many of us on this path, stumbling and finding our way, losing our way, sharing, growing. With your leadership and with all our leadership, I think we might make it through.
DAVE: That's incredibly kind of you to say. It's been a tremendous honor for me to talk to you. I actually forgot we were on a podcast, I started to think we were just having an awesome conversation. Because I've not had the pleasure of meeting you [in person] yet or speaking to you [live]. I have had that pleasure with some of my heros in the plant-based world, or in the running world, but I know that all of our worlds kind of intersect now, and that we work together on these things.
So everything that you were saying, I think, is right on. I just want to add one little thing to that -- I remember when I was at HealthFest a couple years ago, and I don't know if you've ever been to HealthFest in Marshall, Texas -- I highly recommend it -- it's tremendous. It's a tremendous gathering of all these plant-based people, but Rich Roll was there, and he was talking about the struggle of preaching to the choir. That he was there giving his message to people that already were on board. And I was talking to him and I said, "We are taking your message and your inspiration" -- people like Rich Roll; Dr. Garth Davis was [also] there. I love that guy now, having spent time with him over the last two years. But these are amazing people and they have amazing messages.
But [I was telling Rich Roll that] the regular people -- like, I take that message out and I share it on the street. I literally talk to everybody I meet about these kinds of things. So, you know, people like you [meaning Howard and Rich Roll and Garth Davis] are on those front lines; you're putting those words out there in the books, in the media, in the podcasts, for us to listen to. But then there's the rest of us, and I've met so many of us regular people who are just spreading the message on a grass roots kind of level.
So in that sense, we really do all work together on this. And that's amazing and I love that part of it. I love whatever part I can occupy, and whatever part everyone else occupies. And all of you guys are celebrities to me, in my world, but I'm so tremendously honored to have you as friends, too. It's a legitimate thing. And it's just an amazingly beautiful thing. I'm just really grateful to be part of it.
HOWARD: Well, Dave, I look forward to meeting you [in person] somewhere -- hopefully we'll be able to throw on our running shoes and go for a run together.
DAVE: I think we'll be past that. We'll be in the med tent in an aid station somewhere. That'll be a cool way to do it.
HOWARD: Sounds good. Hopefully both of us will be conscious. [DAVE: Sure, sure.] Thank you so much again for taking the time.
DAVE: Oh, thank you, I really enjoyed it.
Download the PDF transcript here (courtesy of Traci Scharf)
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Dave's video interview with Jason Cohen, director of Big Change documentary
Charles Eisenstein's New and Ancient Story – a resource for those of us “in the space between stories” in our culture
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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.
Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.
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