Thoughts on Leadership: How Not to Die

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home with my typical WIG calls then flying to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Berkshire Hathaway Energy 2022 Executive Leadership Conference. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I attended conference sessions on topics ranging from the vision and plan for the future of energy to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Today, I’m on my way to Las Vegas for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2023 Sales Convention Creative Review hosted by Corporate Magic, and as the clouds roll past my airplane window, I write this post to you.

I’ve been listening to nutrition expert Dr. Michael Greger’s compelling book, “How Not to Die,” as I implement healthier changes into my diet and lifestyle. (Remember, it’s all about continual improvement!) Dr. Greger, with extensive research, explains the importance of whole food, plant-based nutrition.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: How Not to Die

I first learned about the book on a recent WIG call with Martha Mosier, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.

With the HomeServices philosophy of continuous improvement, we end every leadership call with the answer to the question, “What am I doing to improve so I’m better this week than I was last week?” And in Martha’s response, she mentioned the book.

Her brother – an anesthesiologist in San Diego – was a fit, healthy individual who rode his Peloton every day, but at 60 years old, he was faced with an extremely serious heart condition that required heart surgery. His cardiologist told him, “The only way you will live with this condition is to read the book, ‘How Not to Die.’”

He was (rightly) scared, and he read the book cover to cover and is now transitioning to a plant-based diet. Dr. Greger’s book was an eye-opening experience and launched the family into a new phase of a healthier lifestyle and nutritious eating. In fact, he’s become such a follower of Dr. Greger’s nutritional philosophy that Martha said they will have a vegan-style Thanksgiving!

After Martha’s moving story, I got the book and listened to it every night before I went to bed. Like Martha’s family, reading “How Not to Die” had a similar impact on me.

Dr. Greger says 85% of the leading causes of death in the U.S. can be directly tied to nutrition. He also believes the answer to proper nutrition is through whole (or minimally processed) food and a plant-based diet.

There are so many popular diets and fads and food trends but according to Dr. Greger, what’s far more important than any number on a scale is your overall health. And the dietary choices we make directly contribute to what that overall health will be. Dr. Greger says nutrition isn’t about a quick juice fast or a week-long program, it’s about making sweeping lifestyle changes that will benefit your wellbeing forever. He believes:

  • Poor diet is a huge problem that goes largely ignored.
  • Proper diet must be balanced with daily exercise (90 minutes of moderate exercise or 40 minutes of intense exercise).
  • Eating fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water will help thwart off disease.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should run to the grocery store and switch out all your meat for broccoli (if you know me, you know I love my steak) and you should always consult a medical professional before making any major dietary changes, but the premise of Dr. Greger’s argument is solid: Eat healthier, be healthier.

The typical U.S. diet contains dairy, meat, eggs, and a ton of processed foods. Dr. Greger points to a study that showed when Japanese Americans switched from the Japanese diet – high in vegetables and low in sugar – to a more American-style diet, their risk for heart attack increased. He also names countless groundbreaking studies that show how detrimental processed food can be to your health.

Dr. Greger says any healthy diet should consist of whole, plant-based foods to avoid these harmful, toxic processes. He recommends four servings of fruit, and one of those servings should be berries, which are high in antioxidants and have immune-boosting properties. He also recommends five servings of vegetables each day as vegetables keep cells healthy and aid in liver and lung functions, among many other beneficial qualities.

Overall, Dr. Greger advocates for:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating beans, or bean products, like lentils, miso, and chickpeas
  • Having berries like cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries
  • Adding cruciferous vegetables to your diet like broccoli, kale, and cabbage
  • Putting greens into your meals like kale, spinach, and arugula
  • Eating nuts and seeds like flax seeds, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
  • Flavoring your meals with healthy herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and pepper (with an emphasis on the health benefits of turmeric)
  • Exercising each day (moderately)

So, what’s the message? Even a small change like drinking more water, adding moderate exercise to your morning routine, or having a few servings of berries throughout the day can make a huge impact. And healthier eating could make you happier! Dr. Greger cites a review in Nutritional Neuroscience that found eating a significant number of fruits and vegetables positively supports brain health, which means being a happier, healthier leader for you and your team.

P.S. If you’d like to purchase the book, click here. Dr. Greger generously donates all proceeds from the book to charity!

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