Why RealFoodMBA?

I’ve been reading a book called The Power of Story.  It’s been challenging me to think about both the story that I tell myself about myself in life–and about the story that I want to write moving forward.  Even though I started this book weeks ago, I’m still only on page 107 as it’s prompting me to prod my soul and self with questions like: What is your Ultimate Mission in life?  What (or who) would you be willing to die for?  How would you want your gravestone to read?  Even though these questions are tough enough on their own, the real power in this book lies in the fact that it also asks us readers to consider what aspects of our current story are not working for us.  What lies are we telling ourselves? What silly beliefs do we have that are preventing us from realizing our new story, our Ultimate Mission in life?

There is a lot that isn’t working for me right now.  I’m not crazy about my job (though it’s been a great opportunity); I’ve been in a relationship that features a downside as strikingly low as its upside is high; and I’m bored out of my mind.  Jeez.  I want to do something big.  I want to change the way that people think about food.  And I’ve been knocking on doors for the last year, looking for my way, my path, my in… and so far the doors do not knock back.  (For my paleo and alternative food blogger friends, you’re all familiar with the recent story of Steve Cooksey, or the Diabetes Warrior; NC doesn’t like entrepreneur-foodie-blogger types dishing out nutrition advice without a license.  And I’m just too proud to endure the practice of memorizing answers only to regurgitate them so that I can pass their silly exams to become a registered dietician or nutritionist such that I might qualify to provide such nutrition advice–power to Ancestralize Me, Sean Croxton (of Underground Wellness), and Diane Sanfilippo (of Balanced Bites) though.)

And so, on a business trip this past week, I had an amazing realization while sitting in a restaurant overlooking a misty Seattle: I thought I couldn’t go to business school because I couldn’t afford it.  I’m still paying off that pesky loan from my (amazing) Reed College education and recently took on a car payment because I wanted to feel like a big dog when I pick up clients to take them to dinner.  It was at that restaurant with a view that my friend Javi reminded me that I can always take out loans to cover living expenses in addition to whatever the cost of tuition is.  For some reason it hadn’t registered that I could borrow for living expenses.  I could afford to go get my MBA.  Hey!  Talk about a belief that’s been getting in my way, preventing me from creating my new story.  I’ve been talking about getting an MBA for years–and hedging my talk with an “I can’t afford to live at the same time” attitude.

Now, as I look at and examine the top business schools in America, I find that many of their admissions essays pose a similar question to that The Power of Story has been asking.  What do I care about more than anything?

Enter this here blog, RealFoodMBA, and everything it stands for.  To understand my path and how I got here, you might want to read About Me and/or Real Food Credo, perhaps in that order; but here’s the point: I care a lot about food.  I hate the way that Americans eat.  I watch diabetics pull into fast food restaurants and want to cry.  Hippocrates nailed it a long time ago: “Let food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” He also brought us another nugget of wisdom: “All disease begins in the gut.”  And then there’s this Ancient Ayurvedic proverb: “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”  (You can only imagine how thrilled I was to find this last quote on a traditional doctor’s office wall in Chapel Hill, NC.  Amen.)  Somehow our American culture has created a funny and incompatible story where what you eat doesn’t change the disease you have (medical community) and yet what and how we should eat is a highly regulated industry (think MyPlate and the way that our public school systems mandate what does and doesn’t show up on our children’s lunch plates).  Both can’t be true at the same time–and yet they have a common thread: Business.

I realize that I might be biased and even exceptional to boot, but I cured my autoimmune disease through diet.  I’d never felt more helpless, powerless or desperate in my life as during the two years I spent subject to the textbook medical exams that a long series of doctors put me through–and could come back from with nothing more than: “You’ve got an autoimmune disease.  We don’t know what it is.  But there is medicine for that.” (Full confession: I went to a rheumatologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, the number one hematologist in the world, countless family practice doctors, and an integrative medicine doctor before I tried alternative medicine like acupuncture and body talk before settling on a thorough exploration of diet.)  It was through diet that I eventually found the ability to control my chronic low-grade fevers, arthritis, rashes, GI symptoms, and the memory loss I had been experiencing.  This, of course, was a blessing in and of itself; but I think that the most important thing that I found in eating right for my body was a regained sense of self.  The tragedy of my disease was that I could no longer do what I put my mind to; and the miracle of diet, that I could once again dream, and live out my dreams.  My destiny is no longer dependent upon what my doctors say I can and can’t do; and as long as I remember to treat myself right, it’s not dependent upon what my body can do, either.

I want to put this power of self and health through real food into the hands of the world’s people.  I have no illusions.  There’s no one-fit-for-all diet.  But there are basic principles; and I do believe that more diseases are related to diet than our medical and food industries would like to admit.  According to the International Association for the Study of Obesity’s 2012 report,  an astounding 38.4 and 27.9 percent of male and female American adults, respectively, are overweight; and 35.5 and 35.8 percent are downright obese.  The World Health Organization reports that 346 million people worldwide have diabetes; and that more than 80% of diabetes occurs in low- and middle-income households (2011).  Diabetes is one of those diseases (especially type II) where our medical community is ready to concede a correlation between health and diet, but it’s limited.  Most of us know on a core level that there is a correlation between how we eat and how our bodies look and feel–but I suspect that we don’t understand the impact that certain foods are having on us.

One of the things that I’ve learned in my last four years studying food (because I wanted to understand how to heal myself) is that food is a business.  It’s a big frickin’ business.  And I think that the best way that I can realize my dream of changing the way that people think about food such that they can change the types of lives they lead is by marrying my love of food with my love of business.  Give me an excellent business school education and I will figure out the best way to combine nutrition with food industry with food policy with farmers with the people who depend upon access to healthy, real food in order to start making my difference in the world.  Bring it on!

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