Eat to Live – An Exclusive Interview With The Author Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Nowadays, people are getting obese and sick because of the way we eat and because of our lifestyle. Food addiction, craving for foods and overeating are some of the causes to obesity and being sick. Today, we have invited Dr. Fuhrman to share with us his book “Eat to Live” to share with us how to overcome these problems.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a board certified family physician, specializing in nutritional medicine, and nutritional researcher.  He has authored 7 books on human nutrition and my #1 NY Times bestseller is Eat To Live.  For more information see Dr.

1.   Why did you choose this name “Eat To Live” and what motivates you to write this book?

Although the book is primarily focused on weight loss, I teach that weight loss is simply a side effect of eating healthfully. Our food choices determine not only the size of our waist, but our potential for longevity and our ability to enjoy life. “Eating to Live” means primarily eating foods that have protective effects against chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer; it means eating according to my health equation:  H = N/C – your health is predicted by your nutrient intake divided by your intake of calories.  Eating to Live allows you to live unencumbered by disease, and not dependent on medications.

When you Eat to Live, your diet is made primarily of high-nutrient foods with disease-protective properties (a “nutritarian” diet), and your body will reach its ideal weight automatically.  I was highly motivated to write this book, by the tremendous need in our society of confused and misinformed dieters, the preponderance of evidence about the potential of superior nutrition to afford dramatic protection against illness and of course combined with my 20 year history utilizing these methods and the miraculous results obtained.

 2.    You write that Americans are addicted to food and that it is the addictive withdrawal symptoms that drive people to overeat, creating obesity. Could you explain?

High-calorie, low-nutrient foods (cheeseburgers, fries, processed foods, cake, ice cream, etc.) activate pleasure pathways in the brain, similar to addictive drugs and produce withdrawal symptoms often misinterpreted as hunger, leading to an addictive drive to eat more.

Indulging in high-calorie, low-nutrient food (foods high in sugars, white flour, animal protein, and/or oils) can feel mildly pleasurable, but once digestion stops, we will feel ill as the body mobilizes cellular wastes and attempts to repair the damage caused by the exposure. This is called withdrawal; similar to the withdrawal you would experience if you drank 8 cups of coffee every day and then abruptly stopped. To feel better, you could have more coffee or eat, because this would stop detoxification (withdrawal).

Delaying a meal brings about the symptoms that most people call ‘hunger’ – abdominal cramping, weakness, light-headedness, etc. This is not hunger. The standard American dietary habits are so stressful to the detoxification systems in our liver and kidneys that we start to get withdrawal symptoms the minute digestion finishes. I call this “toxic hunger.” Weight gain becomes inevitable, because if we stop digesting food, even for a short time, our bodies will begin to experience these uncomfortable symptoms. Therefore we eat heavy meals that require a long period of digestion, or we eat too often and keep our digestive tract busy and overfed almost all the time to lessen the withdrawal discomfort from our stressful diet style.

In addition, research is now showing that the low-nutrient, high-calorie foods typical of the Standard American Diet produce the same biochemical effects in the brain that are characteristic of substance abuse.  These foods activate the dopamine reward system in the brain, intensifying the desire for more, contributing to a cycle of overeating.

 3.   What are the main factors that have resulted in the obesity epidemic in the modern world?

The American diet is primarily processed foods and animal products. Health-promoting, natural plant foods make up less than 10% of the calories consumed by Americans.  On a diet like this, primarily high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, high rates of obesity are inevitable. Low prices and ubiquitous availability of these foods and their addictive properties of these foods are the major contributors to the obesity epidemic.

 4.   What kind of success have you seen with your dietary recommendations and what scientific support do you have for them?

We are in the midst of an epidemic of diseases primarily caused by poor nutrition: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, allergies, and cancers.  My clients do not merely lose their excess weight, even when overweight by more than a hundred pound, but also  routinely make complete recoveries from serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, migraines, and autoimmune diseases using the nutritarian diet I recommend. These patients and readers did lose weight, but it was the striking reversal of disease that truly changed their lives.

My recommendations are based on a careful review of more than 10,000 scientific studies over the last 25 years.  In  other words, it is my career to carefully evaluate all the relevant science on human nutrition and teach it in a practical, understandable and delicious way.  The foods I recommend focusing on are the foods that are consistently associated with significant health benefits in scientific studies – greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds (G-BOMBS).  My own discovery on the nature and remedy of food addiction and toxic hunger was published in Nutrition Journal Nov 2010, The changing perception of hunger on a high nutrient density diet.

 5.  What are the unique features that make Eat To Live different from other diets and what are the main features that account for your successful results?

A distinguishing feature of Eat to Live is that it does not use portion control or calorie counting. There is no hunger – usually, people eat more food than before when they switch to a nutritarian diet. High-nutrient, low-calorie foods contain a great deal of fiber and takes up a lot of room in the stomach; you consume a smaller amount of calories, but you are eating a greater amount of food, which promotes satiety and blunts your appetite. In addition, meeting the body’s micronutrient needs helps to suppress food cravings and what I call “toxic  hunger” that drives people to consume more calories than they require.

The beauty of the Eat to Live diet-style is that eating more high-nutrient foods reduces the desire for low-nutrient foods.  After a few months on the Eat to Live plan, people lose interest in the low-nutrient foods they initially thought they couldn’t live without.  Their taste buds change, and Eating to Live becomes their preferred way of eating.

People who eat this way feel more satisfied on fewer calories than they were eating before. This has been documented in a peer-reviewed study as mentioned above.  (Fuhrman J, Sarter B, Glaser D, et al. Changing perceptions of hunger on a high nutrient density diet. Nutr J 2010;9:51) The result is permanent weight loss – many of my readers have lost 100 pounds or more following my recommendations, and have kept the weight off for years.

 6.   Besides losing weight, what other benefits should a person expect to derive following “Eat To Live”? Is it for everyone?

If you decide to follow this eating plan, you can expect to become slimmer, healthier, and younger looking; you can expect to sleep better, feel better physically and emotionally, and have more energy; you can expect to reverse diseases and reduce or eliminate your need for medications; you can expect to dramatically reduce your chances of developing serious diseases in the future; you can expect to lose most of your food cravings and also lose the drive to overeat.

The Eat to Live Plan will work for everyone, but it is not for everyone. In addition to the desire to lose weight, you must also have the willingness to make a serious commitment to excellent health. Not everyone is willing to make the commitment – to give up addictive foods and follow the plan precisely for the first six weeks in order to break free of addictive drives.  It can be adjusted to accommodate different needs of athletes and various disease states, without compromising the basic health principles of micronutrient adequacy and richness, with reduction in disease-promoting foods.

 7.   Why are the popular high-protein diets dangerous? What are their major risks?

A high-protein diet may lower your weight, but at the same time it dramatically increases your chances of developing cancer.  A diet heavily burdened with animal products places a toxic stress on the body. High-protein diets often exclude fruits and limit vegetables, and as such they do not offer the protection from cancer and heart disease inherent in a diet richer in plant-derived micronutrients.

Meats cooked at high temperatures produce toxins that can cause carcinogenic changes in the colon; plus red and processed meats are now considered a probable cause of colon cancer. High animal protein consumption also raises blood concentrations of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that promotes tumor growth and is associated with increased risk of several cancers, including breast and prostate cancer.

 8.   How do you address the nay-sayers that say that most people will have a difficult time sticking to a dietary program that seems restrictive?

This eating plan is not restrictive for those who really read the entire book, study the program and implement it completely.  Eventually your preferences change.  Once you do that and lose your addictive drives, it becomes easy.  Plus, Eat to Live allows you to eat large quantities of food, which is certainly not restrictive – in contrast, trying to eat smaller portions of the same addictive foods is restrictive, and doomed to failure.  Many people claim this information set them free from their prison of food addiction.

Now, we eat what we want and as much as we want, we have just learned to prefer healthful choices and the fantastic recipes and options for these choices are almost endless.  My goal is to teach people to prefer to eat this way, and enjoy eating this way more, not less than their old diet.  However, it takes knowledge and time to achieve that.   For others who prefer to sacrifice their health, with a disease-causing diet, I say, that is their right to live their life as they choose.  My goal is to offer the best information for those who want the best health.  This is not a popularity contest and I did not write the book to get the most votes by the public, I wrote it to be the healthiest and most effective.

 9.   What are the difficult aspects for a person to switch from their normal diet to “Eat To Live”? Could you share some of the experiences that your clients gone through with the diet? (if it’s not confidential)

The first two weeks are often difficult – the standard American diet of processed foods and animal products places a stress on the detoxification systems of the body. As with stopping caffeine, cigarettes, and heroin, many people observe withdrawal symptoms for the first week or two, usually including fatigue, weakness, and headaches.  It is also sometimes difficult socially when the vast majority of people (SAD food addicts) can pressure other people to eat like them.  It is helpful for  many to get the social support offered on my web membership site at

10.   As there are readers and subscribers who are struggling to lose weight to help them shed the fats, do you have anything specific or advice that you want to say for them?

Sure, this may not be easy or fun in the beginning, but the results will astound you, and if you continue onward towards your goal, you will find it becomes the most natural and pleasurable way to eat and live.  Your health is your greatest wealth, and your future self will thank you. Protect your future now.


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