Michal Siewierski: After a year on a whole-food, plant-based diet, I lost 60 pounds and kept it off to this day, and all my blood work went back to normal, and, you know, felt great, more energy, more vitality, and just started digging deeper and deeper.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Welcome to the Mastering Diabetes Audio Experience, where we teach you how to sit in the driver's seat of your diabetes health for the rest of your life. We'll teach you how to reverse insulin resistance, achieve your ideal body weight, gain energy and get your best A1c following more than 85 years of evidence-based research in the Mastering Diabetes Program.
Robby Barbaro: Our program teaches you how to reverse prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and how to simplify your life with type 1 diabetes by maximizing your insulin sensitivity, using food as medicine.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: We're on a bold mission to reverse insulin resistance in 1 million people. We're glad to have you joining us.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: We're super excited to be here today with me Michal Siewierski. Michal is the genius behind the upcoming movie “Diet Fiction”. Diet Fiction is a groundbreaking feature length documentary, that's made by the award winning filmmaker, and producer, of a previous movie called “Food Choices”, which you can watch on Netflix.
Now, in Diet Fiction, Michal, the movie follows him as he journeys into the controversial world of weight loss, and dining, which is a billion dollar, multi-billion dollar industry. And in this movie, he uncovers several shocking facts and confronts many common misconceptions that have been propagated for years. There's a lot of misleading information, which this industry has propagated for the last 30 to 40 years, which he encounters directly and interviews experts to refute.
Diet Fiction is a phenomenal movie. I've seen it, Robby has seen it, we love it. And it shows the true devastating effects that both obesity, and chronic disease has on people's lives. And it exposes the viewer to the sort of disruptive ideas, and shows the true science-based evidence that can actually create long-term sustainable weight loss for the first time, and for the rest of your life.
Now, the movie stars many of the popular plant-based physician that you've seen hundreds of times before. Including people like Dean Ornish, Neal Barnard, Garth Davis, Michelle McMacken, Rip Esselstyn, John Mackey, Pam Popper, Michael Greger, Matthew Letterman, Ray Cronise, Kim Williams, Johnny Juicer, Bobby Sud, and it actually features three members of the Mastering Diabetes team myself, Robby and Adam Sud.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: So, thanks so much for being here today with us, Michal. I really appreciate it.
Michal Siewierski: Hey, my pleasure, guys. Thanks for inviting me to your Podcast.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Absolutely.
Robby Barbaro: Yeah, we're really excited to be talking to you today. You have a very rich background in creating content, winning awards, really influencing people with your media. So I'm curious, what got you interested in making a movie about the weight loss industry in the first place?
Michal Siewierski: Yeah, so, that's a great question. It started a while ago, my interest about nutrition and health, with my first movie Food Choices. That was about, right now, almost five years ago. And I was kind of going through a transformation in my own life, when it comes to my diet and my health, I used to be a borderline type 2 diabetic. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and I tried every single diet that's out there. And, you know, typical scenario, I go to the doctor, and tells me the story of how bad my health is, and tells me I have to be on this medication. So I didn't want to go that route.
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So, I started digging a little deeper. Just trial and error. Trying all these different yo-yo diets, gaining weight, I mean, losing weight and gaining it back with vengeance. I'm going through that whole yo-yo diet cycle, until I stumbled upon information about the plant-based diet. I believe it was The China Study one of the first books I read, and watched Forks Over Knives. And, you know, typical plant-based story. And just went down the rabbit hole, and I got hooked, I saw the results after a year on a whole-food, plant-based diet. I lost 60 pounds and kept it off to this day, and all my blood work went back to normal and, you know, felt great, more energy, more vitality, and just started digging deeper and deeper.
And then with my first film, Food Choices, I saw an opportunity there to create a documentary, because I've been wanting to make a film for a while, because I've been working in the video production world for the last 15 years, making TV commercials, and corporate videos, and was kind of tired of the whole TV commercial world. I just couldn't find a topic that would motivate me enough to embark on a journey of making a feature film, because I mean, it's a huge, it takes years of your life, it's expensive, it's super time consuming. But this whole plant-based topic, diet, nutrition and health really interested me.
And I saw that there was an opportunity to create something quite unique back then, now, there's a lot more films about this, but back then there weren't that many films that talk about the health aspect of our food choices, and also combine that with the environmental aspect, and the ethical aspects of the impact that our food choices have on all of those things. So, I wanted to kind of to make a film show people a wider perspective on the impact that our choices of food have on our health, on our planet, and the lives of other living species.
So, that was Food Choices. And after that was done, of course, you can't talk about, cover everything in a 90 minutes film. So, there are other things that I wanted to explore. And one thing that it was sort of really important to me was talking about weight loss, because that's something that I went through, that I experienced, and I felt like I didn't talk enough about a lot of the misconceptions about weight loss and food choices. So, I decided to dedicate a movie just to focus on that aspect. Helping people that are struggling with obesity, and all the misconceptions. Tackle the misconceptions and empower people with the right information.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Now, Diet Fiction is considered a controversial movie because exposing the truth about a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry that may actually be just a whole load of hogwash. So, can you go into a little bit of detail here about, was it actually dangerous to film this movie, to get expert advice and to start to expose the truth of the weight loss industry?
Michal Siewierski: Well, I think shooting the movie it's not as dangerous as launching it. Once it gets out there, fingers crossed, and nothing happens. But, we try to protect ourselves in any way we can. But whenever you're dealing with such powerful forces, you always kind of wander. So, it is sort of in the back of your head, so you've got to be careful. But you've got to know what to say, what to not say. So, I think we have good enough balance there not to get killed or something, I don't know. But we definitely wanted to get as much information out there as possible to our people with the truth, so.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: So, I guess one of my questions here is, are there certain things when you were filming this movie that you decided that you could not talk about because maybe it was too dangerous, maybe it would lead to much controversy, maybe it would expose some element of truth that could put danger on your life or any of the experts lives? Or, in this process, did you just say, “You know what? I'm going to tell it all, and I don't really care what happens”?
Michal Siewierski: Yes, there are things that I ended up cutting out of the film. It's just not the right timing. I still have a, hopefully, a long career ahead of me, and there's just some things that are too dangerous to talk about right now. And just for the sake of myself, and my family, there were a couple things, not too many, but there are a couple things that I ended up removing by the advice of close friends in the industry, and my attorneys, I ended up removing, so.
Robby Barbaro: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And, along this topic, are there any conspiracy that you uncovered that you can tell us about?
Michal Siewierski: Well, I wouldn't say necessarily that I covered, but I talk about these things, and I don't know if they're necessarily conspiracies or just a product of the way our society works. The way that all the corruption between pharmaceutical, the health industry, the government, the subsidies, all of those things, it's out there, it's just not talked about enough. So, the job that I did was basically compiling all that information and presenting it to people, because really, you don't find that information. You won't hear about this on CNN, and Fox News, and it's not really widely publicized. So, I thought it was important to talk about a lot of those things and present that to the viewer.
It's basically, I mean, it comes down to money. I mean, people that want to make money corporations don't necessarily care about the end user, they care about making money, and they have a very strong lobby in the government. It's kind of, in a way it's common knowledge, like most people kind of, maybe know or suspect that these things are going on, but it's not talked about enough, and it's connected to so many things in our dietary guidelines, and the education that dietitians and doctors receive. And it's just this sort of crazy spiral that doesn't seem to have an end, unless we intervene, unless we expose the information, and empower people with the truth and hopefully we start generating change from there.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: This might be a question that seems a little too obvious, but I'm going to ask it anyway. In this process of making the film, you had a choice of anybody that you could interview, and you chose to interview people in the plant-based world, rather than interviewing people and the low carbohydrate, ketogenic world. So, you interviewed doctors like Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Garth Davis, Michelle McMacken, Dr. Matt Letterman, the list goes on, and on, and on. But, despite that, there's a lot of people in the low carbohydrate world, of lot of doctors, there's PhDs, there's nurses, you name it, that are saying the same thing. They're saying, “I can reverse diabetes, I can reverse obesity, I can reverse hypertension. All you have to do is eat a diet that's rich in saturated fat, and eat more butter, and eat more cheese, and don't touch carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are bad for you, don't do it” right. They're claiming that they can get the same outcome, but yet they're doing it using a completely different approach.
So, my question to you is, in this process of coming up with the film, and deciding who you were going to interview, did it ever occur to you at any point that maybe it would be worth interviewing some of those people just to get an alternative perspective? Or were you just sort of, you know, went into it thinking “I want to expose the truth about plant-based diets. That's what I’m interested in, that's what I'm going to do.”
Michal Siewierski: That' a great question. It did cross my mind to approach some of the people in the paleo/keto world, but I had to make a decision. It was either focusing more on exposing the truth versus kind of, you know, maybe it would have been better for the film, from a production conspiracy type of thing. But, I don't need to make any more enemies that I already have in the nutrition world, and interviewing someone, and then trashing them on camera, and I kind of didn't want to go that route. I thought it was more important to focus on talking to people, and let them explain the truth about things.
So, instead of talking to a doctor that promotes the ketogenic diet, and lose precious minutes, precious real estate in the film there, I'd rather talk to someone like you, that can explain to the viewer the right science, why things work better on a plant-based diet, why they should be cautious when trying a ketogenic, or a paleo diet. And then people can do their research on their own. But I didn't want to waste precious film real estate on that aspect. So I focus more on just the truth, the facts.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Very cool. So, in your own personal story, as you were deciding what you were going to do to reverse prediabetes, and to lose weight, did you ever consider adopting a low carbohydrate diet yourself? And, since that time to now, do you think that there's any validity to the message that the low carbohydrate world is putting forth?
Michal Siewierski: I was on a low carb diet for years for 5 or 6 years, and I tried all the different variations of it, from Atkins to paleo, and you name it, I mean, or keto, I did it all. And it was something that, yes, I would lose weight, but then I would gain the weight right back after I stopped that diet. And I never felt so miserable in my life, during those years. I kept losing weight, and then gained it back with vengeance. So, at the end of those, that cycle of trying different diets, I was 60 pounds overweight, like I said, borderline type 2 diabetic, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and that was at the age of like, 32.
So, I think that low carb diets can be extremely dangerous. And I don't think the message has changed, maybe the whole paleo concept it’s a little less intense than Atkins diet, for example. Now they changed, they’re trying to become more like paleo. So, I think there is validity to someone that's completely unaware, and is eating a standard American diet, lots of fast food and things like that, and they transition to a paleo diet, that's a good step. You're eating less processed foods, you're incorporating more whole foods into your diet, you're consuming a lot more plants. So, I think it's a step in the right direction, but it's not ideal. And it doesn't mean that it doesn't come with any risks on its own.
Robby Barbaro: Yeah, couldn't agree with you more. There's a lot, you know, one of the things we like to do, is emphasize the similarities. There's so many similarities amongst these different diets, and just focusing on the basic logical steps, people do get better. And that's good. So, progress should be celebrated.
And, we're really excited to tell people about your film, and have people see it, because you have picked so many amazing experts, and it’s really in complete alignment with what we teach here at Mastering Diabetes. Very solid sound guidelines here, low-fat, plant-based, whole-food, I'm sure when people see the film, they're going to sort of see the common sense element around this. But I’m curious, in your experience and all the people you've interviewed, why do you think the public is so confused about what to eat?
Michal Siewierski: Well, there's just so much information out there. I mean, you go online, and you see there's this guy that looks like a credible doctor, and talks about all these credentials, and has a super cool video, and he’s telling how, talks about how you shouldn't eat beans, and you shouldn't eat tomatoes and you should buy his $80 probiotic bottle. And it's confusing to people. I mean, if you don't have a slightly, more scientific background, or you're really interested in this topic, and dig deeper, it's really easy to get confused. I was confused for years, I was confused for a long time. And, it was not until a few years ago when I really empowered myself with real science-based, evidence-based information, that I was able to change the course of my diet and my health. But there's just so much out there, that it's super easy to get confused. And those people have a lot more money and resources than people promoting the stuff that is real. That's still kind of unfortunate.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: One of the things that we see all the time is that, if you look at the statistics, and almost seems like no matter what year we're in, whether it's 1985, or 1997, or 2018, the statistics are always grim, they say, “Oh, well, you know, by 2020, we expect 15% of the US population to have type 2 diabetes. By 2050, we expect 29% of the US population to have diabetes” And the obesity trend follows the same direction. The heart disease trends follows the same direction. And so right now, there's more information available to people around the world than there has ever been in the history of humankind. Thanks to filmmakers, like you, who are actually interviewing experts, and trying to promote the most informative research-based content possible.
But yet, these statistics, they can be grim, and they can be kind of frustrating at times. So, I tend to stay really optimistic about the fact that, over the course of time, people are changing, people are starting to become informed, they're starting to educate themselves, they're starting to make changes to their diets, regardless of what diet they choose, whatever approach they actually utilize, people are potentially moving in the right direction, I hope and I think. Are you optimistic? Do you actually think that at some point in your lifetime, or in our lifetime, that this obesity crisis is actually going to get solved?
Michal Siewierski: I try to stay optimistic. And that's kind of what keeps me going, keeps me motivated. Because, I mean, I wouldn't be doing all this work if I thought it was just work done in vain. So, I try to empower people, help educate people, motivate as many people as I can through my work. There are some things happening out there that make you feel motivated, like, for example, Brazil, actually, I grew up in Brazil, and the plant-based movement is huge over there. Now, we have some of the most popular celebrities in the country endorsing a vegan diet. And it’s just growing super-fast, much faster than in the United States, at least in this initial sort of stage there, now. And countries all over the world, it's becoming very popular, especially in developing countries.
But one thing that worries me, and that's something that I have learned when I was interviewing Jim Hicks for my first film, Food Choices. And he talked about his book, Healthy Eating, Healthy Planet, I believe that’s the title. It talks about, you know, we're seeing all these changes in the developing world, and that's great. I mean, the developed world, and that's great. But in the third world countries, the story is a little bit different, because over there, you have people that are just coming out of poverty, just are crossing the poverty line, and they are at a stage of their life that’s, you know, they've been living under the bridge for the previous generations. Now, they want to go to McDonald's. They want to try the burgers, the pizzas, the fast food, the meat, that it's still kind of like, something that’s still connected to having a certain level of wealth, in many parts of the world.
So, despite the fact that it is getting better in the first world, more developed countries, in the third world, the scenario is very different. So, for every new vegan that we see, let's say, in North America, or Europe, we have 10 new non-vegans popping up in Africa or in Asia. And that's just the reality of it. So I think, we shouldn't be discouraged by that. That should just service extra motivation for all of us, to keep doing our work, and empowering people with the information. Because information is power, and truth is power. So we got to keep doing that.
Robby Barbaro: Yeah, you're exactly right. And kudos to you for all the hard work you've put in, to get information. I think, a lot of people don't fully understand how much work it takes to make a documentary like Food Choices, and Diet Fiction. It's an incredible amount of work. So, you’ve interviewed a lot of people, gotten to talk to amazing experts, I think our audience would be curious to know, what have you decided to eat? What does your diet look like? Walk us through your day.
Michal Siewierski: Sure. So, I eat so many things. My diet is so diverse, I really don't have like a favorite thing. And I'm super lucky because my wife, she went plant-based almost the same time that I did, and she became a wonderful plant-based chef. So, I'm really pampered here in the house. She's always cooking some delicious new plant-based contraptions. And I cook as well. So, we're always coming up with new things.
But overall, when we're not experimenting in the kitchen, we usually like to keep our diets very simple. So, we usually batch cook, you know, some brown rice and beans, and chickpeas, and quinoa. And have that as a base of our diet. And I love bowls. I love like getting these gigantic bowls full of greens and plants. So, we use brown rice and beans, or chickpeas, and quinoa, and things like that as the base, and just put a bunch of colorful veggies on top of that, and just mixing different flavors, different spices. Some soy sauce on top some tofu.
So, that's kind of like the day to day thing. We also make vegan pizza. Even now and then, we indulge in the not so healthy vegan foods, like some of the burgers, and some of the cheeses. But we try to keep that to a minimum. Probably, I’d say 10%, 15% of our diet is the junk vegan foods. That’s just so delicious. It is so good. But the vast majority, like 85%, 90% of our diet is a whole-food, plant-based diet.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: That's great. So, since you conducted so many interviews in making Diet Fiction, were there any interviews that you left thinking like “Oh, man, I should really change what I'm eating” Not on a grand scale, but like, are there certain foods that you decided to start incorporating, certain foods that you decided to start reducing or eliminating, once you had learned from other experts?
Michal Siewierski: Yeah, absolutely. Every documentary for me it's a learning experience. I started with an idea, but what's really cool about documentary filmmaking is that, it's a process. It's not kind of like a scripted fiction film, where you know everything from A to Z, what's going to happen, you have the storyboard. With documentaries, you start, and the journey can take you in many different directions.
When I started the film, I didn’t really know all the people that I'm going to interview, and where that's going to take me. So yeah, definitely, I learned a lot during the making of Diet Fiction. And some of the things that I learned, that kind of helped me lose a few extra pounds, were being aware of calorie density. I think that's a concept, and that's something that we really try to focus on in the film, because it's really important, understanding this concept of caloric density of foods. Because like, for example, after I learnt that, I started minimizing some of the processed vegan foods that are more calorie dense. We almost completely removed oils from our diet. And having that awareness of caloric density, and also the importance of fiber when it comes to weight loss. That's super important. So, we just started incorporating more starchy foods, and basically removing oils, and minimizing processed vegan foods in our diet. So, that helped quite a bit, actually.
Robby Barbaro: Yes. When I saw the movie, and saw the emphasis and the graphics that you included to teach that concept, I was like, “Yes, yes! That's such important information.” So, people have got to check out the film to learn more about that from the experts. It's really, really important concept. So I'm curious. What's the next move your plan to make?
Michal Siewierski: Yeah. That's a great question. It's kind of a secret, right now. We're already in production. We already shot three interviews. I can't tell you too much about it, for different reasons, for safety reasons, and other things. But this one is going to be more focused on the environmental aspect of our food choices. So yeah, we're going to tackle some of those issues with this new one. So, I’m hoping, you know, by mid-2019, we’ll start giving you guys some sneak peeks about, or even earlier, about this new film. But I'm super excited. And we're actually covering a lot of really interesting and important stuff.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: I like it. You're sort of like, “I'm sworn to secrecy right now. I can’t really talk about it, but…” So Diet Fiction comes out in January, correct? January 1st of 2019?
Michal Siewierski: Correct. January 1st, that's the release date. And it's already available for pre-order on iTunes. Anybody that wants to reserve sort of, save a few bucks and pre-order.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Good. Okay, so I was just going to say that, if you're listening to this Podcast, right now, and you're excited about being one of the first people to watch Diet Fiction. Trust me, Robby and I both saw the movie, Michal gave us opportunity to watch it, it's fantastic. It's one of the better food documentaries that I've ever seen before. And I'm not just saying that because we're on this Podcast together, I really do mean that.
So, if you're getting your hands on it, it's currently on presale until January 1st. So, go to iTunes, you can order it directly from there. I literally just did that the other day, because I'm going to watch it over, and over again. And you can get your hands on it. And just like he said, you can save a little bit of money doing so as well. Post January 1st, after that point, how can people watch this movie? Is it only going to be on iTunes? Or is it going to be elsewhere as well?
Michal Siewierski: Yeah, that's a great question. We have a great distributor Gravitas Ventures, who’s sort of the largest indie film distributor in the United States. And they did a great job with Food Choices, and they are in charge of getting Diet Fiction widely distributed. So, we go for a typical distribution cycle. It starts with the streaming platforms such as iTunes, and Vimeo On Demand, Voodoo, and there's literally dozens of platforms. I mean Google Play, Xbox XFINITY, DirecTV. So, close to 25 different streaming platforms.
And after that initial stage of the distribution cycle, then the film goes into subscription platforms. It takes a few months, probably, 3 to 4 months until you start seeing it in some of the subscription platforms, such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu. So, we go through that whole distribution cycle process. It starts with iTunes, and very quickly, it's going to be on between the subscription platforms and the streaming platforms, it will be over 30 different digital platforms out there, and multiple languages.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Wow. So, you're really sparing nothing. I feel like the way the internet works these days, it's like if you visit a website, then the next time you go on to Facebook, all of sudden, that website appears, and it's like talking to you, because you're getting retargeted. And if you're in the whole-food, plant-based world, which a lot of our listeners are already doing, then they start to get followed by a whole bunch of different things. So, I wouldn't be surprised if Diet Fiction starts to just find its way to you, and appear in your online universe. Because it sounds like it's going to be everywhere. And I know there's going to be a lot of people talking about it. But even if that's not the case, then the next time you go to one of these platforms, and it's a Friday night, you got nothing better to do with your time. Check it out. I think you're going to be really pleasantly surprised.
Michal Siewierski: Thank you.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Absolutely.
Robby Barbaro: You don’t want to miss this one, guys. Mark your calendars, get the pre-order, you're going to like it.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: Michal, if we haven't already said this, we totally appreciate not only your time today, but also just, you know, how many hours does it take to make a movie? Give me an idea. Like, what 5.000, 10.000, what are we talking about?
Michal Siewierski: I haven't measured the hours, but my first film took me 3 years to make. Second one, about a year and a half. So, it's a full time job, pretty much. Even, you know, I'm pretty much a full time filmmaker right now. But when I was making my first film, I had another full time job. So it’s just, you know, it's a labor of love. I tell some aspiring documentary filmmakers is, just pick a topic that you really love, that you're really passionate about it, because that's why we see so many people fail with film is because they start a project, they don't realize how labor intensive it can be, and they sort of get discouraged in the middle. So finding a topic that you're really passionate about is key, because it takes years of your life to put something together like that.
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD: No question about it. So, I'll set the bar at between 5.000 and 10.000 hours, easily. So, thanks from Mastering Diabetes, from Robby, from myself, from our audience. Thank you in advance for deciding to make this film, for putting the time into it, for interviewing experts, for really like putting so much of your own personal TLC into this, and really putting your heart and soul into it. Because, the information that you’re bringing to the table is stuff that, you know, it’s 2018, I feel like this stuff should have been talked about for the last 30 years. Like, why aren’t we talking about this in the 1980s? Why aren't we talking about this in the 1990s? And unfortunately, I feel like it's taken a long time to get out. But fortunately, it's taken a long time to get out. And now there's millions of people around the world that are really excited about getting true evidence-based research, and being able to implement it today, and make dramatic changes to their health right off the bat.
So, that's a long winded way of me saying, thank you for taking the time to do this, you're truly changing lives. You're probably going to change more lives than you will ever, ever know. And that's a cool position to be in. And we really respect all your hard work. So, thanks for doing this.
Michal Siewierski: Thanks, guys. And really big kudos to you as well, all the work that you guys do with Mastering Diabetes. I think you're doing, really it's a public service that you're providing to the community out there. It's tremendous. And it's something that, the information that you guys give to people struggling with diabetes is something they're not going to find on the ADA conference. It's not out there. It's a big conflict of interest with all the pharmaceuticals, and all that, so you're not going to find it through the traditional channels. So, thank God you guys are doing what you're doing, and helping people with the right information.
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Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, and Robby Barbaro are the co-founders of Mastering Diabetes, a coaching program that reverses insulin resistance via low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition. Cyrus has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002 and has an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from UC Berkeley. Robby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000 and has been living a plant-based lifestyle since 2006. He worked at Forks Over Knives for six years, is studying towards a master’s degree in public health, and enjoys sharing his lifestyle on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
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MDAE E58 – From Prediabetic Junk Food Vegan to Marathon Runner
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MDAE E56 – The Irrefutable Power of Consistency in Lifestyle Change – with Nimai Delgado
MDAE E55 – Are You Ready for the 31-Day Food Revolution? – with Ocean Robbins