Let's begin by assuming that the readers have not heard about your organization, they know nothing about your school, but they do know something about health. Can you give a brief introduction to what you're about, and why people might be interested in it?
Joshua Rosenthal: Hi Mike, it's a pleasure to talk with you about Integrative Nutrition. We are a nutrition school that teaches all the different dietary theories, from the latest trends to the ancient traditions. We do not advocate one way of eating or being. Instead, we teach students to understand the concept of bio-individuality, that one person's food can be another person's poison. We also train our students to become health counselors, sharing this information with family and friends, communities and the public. Our mission is to play a crucial role in improving the health and happiness of people in America, and create a ripple effect that transforms the world through that process.
Mike: What motivated you to found this organization, and where do you aim to take this?
Joshua: My parents worked in the medical field, so from the time I was young I was in the company of physicians. I noticed that these doctors didn't actually look healthy. It was weird. Many were overweight and smoking. It was a puzzling thing to be growing up with.
Later, I had my own health concerns and they were not successfully addressed by the medical system, so like many people today I had to look for alternatives. I just knew there had to be a better way to do this.
Mike: When was the Institute founded?
Joshua: In 1993. Before that, I had started a similar school in Canada. I felt the interest growing, so I moved to New York City, which I saw as the center of the world.
Mike: So did you envision, from the very beginning, founding an organization that would help educate people to transform the health care system?
Joshua: It was and is an evolving process. I have a Master of Science degree in education, specializing in counseling. While in school, I learned a lot about education and counseling and at that point, I encountered someone on a vegetarian diet. I was not very evolved in my own eating, but this person seemed remarkably different than anyone else I had known. It was through him that I pieced together the link between food and mood, and through that process, the connection between food and health.
I realized that to help people with their emotions, I would also have to help them improve their diets. By upgrading the quality of the food they were eating, they were able to become more clear, optimistic and healthy. I started to become clear that emotional counseling had to be preceded by counseling on food and diet, because if the diet was healthy and happy, the person was healthy and happy. If these people are eating unhealthy food, they're never going to change.
Mike: At what point, then, did you decide to found an institution of learning about food and health?
Joshua: For many years I followed the macrobiotic diet. I studied with Michio and Aveline Kushi. I traveled with them to Japan. I was fascinated by a diet that was also a way of life. They didn't just say, "Eat this, and avoid that." They also taught about me about world peace, happy relationships, and how to live in harmony with nature. They encouraged me to go out and help others; to share the news that being healthy is a birthright.
To be honest with you Mike, when I began seeing clients, I was surprised that the basic dietary recommendations I made could so effectively help people heal themselves, by themselves. These were usually people with insurance, with access to the best doctors and the biggest hospitals, but they just were not getting well. Then there was me, in my 20s in jeans, suggesting to people, "Well, why don't you cut out X-Y-Z and add in more vegetables, and have three hugs a day?" And suddenly, mysteriously they would start getting better. I was amazed.
Mike: So I assume you did a lot of counseling of individuals, helping them reshape their dietary habits?
Joshua: Yes, I counseled hundreds of people. I witnessed them become healthier, happier and clearer, and I became deeply motivated to train others to do this work. Today, I'm responsible for the quality of the counseling of each of our students. When students come to the school, besides having huge classes -- which are kind of like a rock concert and very exciting -- we balance it out with one-on-one sessions with an individual mentor. My job is to supervise that, but initially I did all the sessions. It was absolutely fascinating. So yes, I've worked with thousands of people.
Mike: In doing that, you must have acquired a lot of information about typical patterns you see in people, for example, certain dietary habits correlating with behavior or mood patterns. Can you share just a few of the more common ones that you see?
Joshua: A common occurrence today is eating on the run. People are in a rush, so they tend to eat on the run; whenever it's convenient, whatever costs the least. Food is kind of an afterthought: "Where am I going to get some food? Maybe I'll have a coffee and bagel for breakfast." Sometimes people never catch up to eat until it's time to go to sleep, and then they eat late at night. They're starving because they haven't eaten during the day, end up overeating, and go to bed on a full stomach.
A lot of these people are very educated yet eat very uneducated diets. It doesn't matter what their level of schooling is. Almost nobody in this country has any schooling about what to eat. Their behavior and schooling is either cultural -- from their friends and family -- or stuff they picked up from the government.
Something that boggles my mind is that the life expectancy of people in the United States is about the same as people in China and Cuba, but America spends so much more on health care than either of those countries. In America, there are more people on medication, more operations, and earlier rates of cancer and other food related diseases, from diabetes to ADD. It should be clear to anyone who looks at the facts objectively that America's current eating habits and medical system are broken.
(Want to learn more about Joshua's philosophy on health? Click here to visit the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.)
Mike: And that's, in part, what's so exciting about your Institute of Integrative Nutrition. It is part of a revolution in healing and medicine, almost like a Copernican type of revolution. In my view, it's that monumental -- teaching people how to activate their own healing potential, rather than treating them as victims or patients who must be healed from the outside.
Joshua: Exactly. Humans are mammals. All mammals, all species -- if they're not well -- get well by themselves. If you see hurt animals in the wild, they'll just lie still, or they have an internal intuitive knowledge that they probably should eat this bush, or this berry, or this plant. The plants in my home will lean toward the light, because they want to make themselves as strong as they can. For sure, we as human beings have that innately within ourselves.
Given half a chance, all beings want to live and live healthy. We simply have to get over listening to the outside forces that try to tell us what to eat, such as advertisers, big business and government. Millions of dollars are spent every minute of every day trying to influence people's food choices.
People must learn to listen to their body, understand the messages it sends about what to eat and what not to eat, and then the body will learn to balance itself, by itself. This process of unraveling old patterns and adopting new, healthier ones takes time. People need support along the way, which is why the system taught at Integrative Nutrition works. We teach our students to address the individual needs of each client, based on his or her age, sex, ethnicity and lifestyle. Then the clients have consistent support in transitioning to a healthier diet and lifestyle in a process that is joyful and rewarding.
Mike: So, today your Institute of Integrative Nutrition has grown to quite an organization. How many graduates do you have who are actively educating and counseling?
Joshua: All of our graduates are health counselors. Some are active with friends and family, some are active in their church group and local community. Some do it part-time -- they have a day job, and see clients on weekends and evenings -- some are full-time health counselors who work with very famous people like heads of major corporations, politicians and movie stars, and earn more than $100,000. These people increasingly choose our graduates because their position in life demands the highest health possible, what we call high-level wellness.
We have alumni improving food in schools, doing group programs with low-income families, working with new moms, even working within the FDA and many government organizations.
Just yesterday I bumped into a graduate and she said, "You've got to come to my office." She's working with a well-known physician in New York City, an OB-GYN, helping women who can't conceive, and they work side-by-side. All the doctor's clients go and see her to talk about nutrition and lifestyle.
Mike: Can you describe, in more detail then, what exactly your graduates can offer these clients?
Joshua: Two things are unique about our school. One is that we're the only school in the world that teaches all the different dietary theories. Almost everyone in nutrition only teaches the theory that they are into, so the raw foods people teach about raw foods, the macrobiotic teachers teach about macrobiotics, the blood type diet teachers are into blood type. They all say, "My way is the right way. "If you're going to work in the field and want to reach and influence a lot of clients, you need to have a broad understanding of the world of nutrition. So our curriculum covers all of the different dietary theories and talks about the pros and cons, what's right for whom, and for how long. (Click here to learn more about the Institute's curriculum.)
The second unique concept is our distinction between primary food and secondary food. Undoubtedly, the food you eat is incredibly important to your health. You digest the food, it gets assimilated into your body and into your blood stream, and that is what creates your cells, new tissues, organs, skin and hair; even your thoughts and feelings are very closely linked to what you eat and drink.
This food that you eat off a plate is just one source of energy that we call secondary food. Most people today consider this the only aspect of nutrition, but the philosophy of the school is that this food is secondary to other elements in life that nourish us on a deeper level. Those are healthy, happy relationships, physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice, what we call primary food.
When I had a natural food store, I noticed that a lot of people who came into my store did not look that healthy. And a lot of people who I saw on the street who didn't eat health food looked really healthy. Being a scientific-type person, I started to think to myself, "How could that possibly be?" And that's how I started to piece together this idea of primary food and secondary food.
People who exercise, have healthy, happy relationships, fulfilling careers and spiritual practice are by themselves going to be healthy, and they are less dependent on the quality of food that they're eating. It's a really interesting concept that almost everyone can resonate with.
Mike: I saw this in your food diagram. Food is surrounded by these other elements: the spiritual, career, relationships and so on. I was really happy to see that, because too often in nutrition people focus on the cold facts of phytochemicals. It really is about much more than that.
Joshua: Exactly. If someone is in an abusive relationship, all the broccoli in the world isn't going to solve their problems.
Mike: That's right. So how do you teach this part of the curriculum?
Joshua: I'm one of the few people in the field of nutrition with a degree in education. That's been the love of my life, how to teach things to people creatively and effectively. You see, just because something is taught doesn't mean that something is learned. The magic of our school is actually in our unique educational methodology, which is unlike anywhere else. It's very avant-garde, and is based on the concept that we are all born as spiritual beings in a material world.
When you see a baby, even the most casual observer can tell that baby embodies everything. They have a certain knowledge and wisdom that they come into the world with.
What happens if you actually study the education process, is that unconsciously, the educational system takes that away. We strip it away step-by-step. So the child, instead of being in the big-picture world -- what we'll call the macro world -- is pulled into the micro world at five or six years old. The micro-world says, "You're going to go to sleep at this time, you're going to wake up at this time, you're going to go to this classroom every single day, you're going to sit in this same chair, and we're going to call you Mike." And then you start doing, "C-A-T, cat. D-O-G, dog. Three plus three equals six."
Before that, children don't have the concept of themselves as individuals, separate from everything else. It starts to build a part of the brain that is undeveloped, which we'll call the logical side, or I call the micro side. That develops at the cost of the macro side.
Much of our curriculum is designed to reignite to the macro side; to help people remember their original self and once that connection happens learning happens at a remarkable pace.
Mike: Is it fair to call it holistic education?
Joshua: We are a holistic organization. The foods we recommend, the educational method, but also the way we interact with our students.
Mike: And so in practical terms for those reading this, when they attend your institute, will they be sitting down in desks for eight hours a day listening to boring lectures from stodgy old professors?
Joshua: Human beings all learn in different ways. Our school incorporates diverse educational approaches, including exciting talks by world-class faculty and one-on-one coaching by mentors. Tuition also includes a library of books, CDs and DVDs as well as optional instruction by phone and on the internet.
Some people like reading. Some people like writing. Some people like talking. Some people like listening. Some enjoy watching videos, while others like listening to classes on their iPod. We present an array of learning methods so students can pick and choose which is most matched for them. It is very creative and well thought out. We're big on details and student satisfaction. I hope you come to the school and experience it.
Mike: Well, I like hands-on experiences, and I notice that you have a strong emphasis on that in your curriculum.
Joshua: Our goal is to have students creating health for themselves, their loved ones, their clients and their communities for many years to come. Telling everyone how to do it won't instill lasting change. They have to figure it out for themselves. So, it's the old "teach someone to fish" scenario.
Mike: I saw the list of all of the dietary systems that you cover. It's quite a list, of maybe 40 different systems or so?
Joshua: We cover close to 100 dietary theories in the school. (Click here to see what else is offered at the Institute.)
Mike: I even saw five element systems from Chinese medicine. I'm very happy to see that as part of the coverage as well. It reminds me of some of the books of either Paul Pitchford, or Dr. Elson Haas, I think he has one called "Eating Healthy with the Seasons." Are you familiar with that book?
Joshua: Yes. Both of those authors are on the faculty of the school. You can go to other schools, and they cover certain material and the teachers are people who are the local nutrition experts. At our school, we bring in the best and the brightest of the teachers. I am personally very appreciative that Walter Willett, who is the head of Harvard University's School of Nutrition, teaches at our school. If you look at our faculty, we have the who's who: Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, the very best, most inspiring teachers.
Mike: What is a graduate able to take with them when they complete your program? What happens next?
Joshua: Different people come to the school, like I said, for different reasons. Some people really just come to get themselves well.
You can go to law school and not really live your life in a legal way. You can go to medical school and not really be looking after your own health. But a basic premise of the school -- for me, for the staff and the students -- is to walk the talk. A big thing people take away is that their own health, no matter how good it is when they come in, is significantly improved while attending our school. We do that through the one-on-one sessions with the mentors. If you ever meet our graduates, you've just never seen a healthier, happier group of people, because it's a basic foundation of the school.
If graduates chose, they also have all the tools to start a practice as a health counselor, sharing this information with others and developing a career that is in alignment with their personal values.
Mike: It also seems to me that it's a basic credibility issue when you have so many doctors graduating from medical school who aren't able to demonstrate that level of health.
Joshua: It's the norm to have what I call "burnt-out" health care providers. They're giving, giving, giving all day, and they don't know how to create a sense of balance.
The yin-yang, five elements is a huge thing for me. When you have that, you have a compass. You can triangulate where you are and how to get back to center. If you don't have that, you don't know where center is. You just think climbing higher and higher up the corporate ladder -- or up the knowledge ladder, whatever it is -- is best. People just think bigger is better, higher is better, but they don't have the compass of balance.
Mike: With these kinds of advanced or progressive ideas, what has been the acceptance of either your school or your graduates from the conventional medical practitioners?
Joshua: It's huge. We're definitely a New-York-based phenomenon, but we're starting to be more. That was my focus. There are, I don't know, about 30 million people in the New York area. The focus was to think globally, act locally, so my focus was to start here. But in New York, you go anywhere -- we give out these red bags to people at each weekend -- and whenever I'm out on the street, I see people carrying these red bags. It's kind of a phenomenon here.
We have graduates in many yoga studios, health spas, doctor's offices and government offices. We have people working in Whole Foods, and mainstream corporations. Just this week I got a call from a woman from a major food corporation. Something like Kraft, but not Kraft. She said, "We've decided we want to work with you. With all of the nutrition people, the medical people, we always end up in the same place. We realized, we are the problem, and we want to fix it."
She went on to say that her daughter has certain diseases that are not going away, and they were not inherited from her or from her husband. Nobody knows how to help them. So whenever something like that happens, I think, we are definitely getting our name out there, and people are paying attention.
Mike: That's an opportunity for tremendous positive influence. I understand that you also have students attending from all over the United States and even around the world. That seems unusual, that people would fly to New York to attend classes. What's the explanation behind that?
Joshua: People are hungry for this information. People understand that there is a global crisis looming. Some of it is environmental, some of it is nutritional, and some of it is political. On the nutritional side, many people see us as the future of nutrition.
If we can get this message out, then instead of seeing rising health problems, we can find a lid, and then gradually get people to be healthier. We have a lot of people coming in from Europe, Asia and South America. We're all spiritual beings in a material world, so at some point you wake up, like you did, and you're like, "Okay, I get it. I want to dedicate my life to who I am and what I'm about, and have no separation between my work and my spiritual practice. All is one." When people get that, then they mobilize themselves, and they do what they need.
We give huge discounts to people. There's a $2,000 reduction in tuition for people traveling from overseas and anyone who has to travel more than 500 miles to get here within the United States gets $1,200 off. We really do what we can to encourage people to study and develop a new career. Then they go home to their local area and make a big impact on their community.
Mike: It seems to me that even beyond the impact you're already having in New York, eventually we could see your institute in every major city. Imagine the impact of that, if it were that much more accessible to people. Is that in the works?
Joshua: I don't know. The school expands so much every year. We don't have a five-year plan. We have a one-year plan. I want to do what is sustainable for me and for the staff of the school. We've been unwilling to expand out of New York because the demand here is so strong, and we're not willing to compromise on quality.
Mike: That's a relief to hear, that you're not about just cookie-cutter corporate expansion.
Joshua: Yeah, we're not Starbucks.
Mike: Who are your students?
Joshua: Our student community is very diverse. We have rich people, poor people, white people, people of color, young people and old people alike. It's a fascinating mix: people with Ph.D.s and M.D.s studying with yoga instructors and massage therapists. We have native New Yorkers and people who fly in from all over the world and are shy to speak English. (Learn more about the students and classes at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.)
Fundamental to our school is the fact that students attracted to us tend to be unique, exceptional, intelligent people.
Mike: What is the total time commitment for a student to complete your program?
Joshua: Our course begins each year in the Fall and ends in June. There are 10 weekends in all. Our classes meet from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the time commitment while in the program is different for different people. We have a lot of people who come and have no time to put in time.
It's a single mom with three kids, she's just happy she's there. She's getting information she needs, she has a counselor, and she's creating a community of people who are her partners in making her life work. Then we have other people, young people who do our school instead of college, and they have all day every day to focus on this. They're reading, they're doing all of the optional courses and assignments, and getting out there and practicing, working with others while they are still in school. On average, a good measure would be 15 hours a week. So part of the motto of the school, we always say, is, "Use me, and use the school in whatever way works for you."
Mike: So it is essentially a nine- or 10-month course? And are there assignments that people do?
Joshua: The course is given in a variety of ways. Some of it is in person -- the weekend classes take place in New York. The counseling sessions happen by phone. You don't have to be in New York for that. A lot of it happens on the internet; where there are classes, chat rooms and things like that. There are recordings you can listen to on the internet, and there are optional teleclasses.
A lot of the course occurs outside of our walls, where people are fine-tuning and upgrading their daily diet. They are reevaluating their existing relationship patterns. They're increasing their exercise and going to the gym. They're looking at their career. They're remembering their spirituality and looking for ways to build it into their lifestyle, and they're seeing clients.
The philosophy of the school is, rather than wait for graduation before you share your wisdom with others, the time to begin doing that is while you're in the school, because then any challenges or questions can be answered while you're in the school. Most students start seeing clients while they're still in the school. A lot of them pay for a good portion of their tuition before graduation, because they start seeing clients, and we encourage them not to do it for free. This is America. If they're giving it away, people want to know why.
Mike: I find that very interesting. It's certainly the way I like to learn, because teaching and sharing is part of learning as well. This may be a redundant question, but where do you see the institute going? You said you only have a one-year plan, but with the growth rates you're experiencing, how do you handle that?
Joshua: We are a very subtle and sophisticated organization. We're not naive. We're very good at what we do, and part of what we do is to stay in the present, and not build castles in the sky. There are many options, but we take it one day at a time, step by step.
Part of the way we set up graduates is training them to teach people what they learn in school, so they're spreading a lot of the information just in their work. We set them up with a whole variety of resources. There are a number of optional programs for students who have more interest or time.
Since our weekend classes are in New York City, we created local study chapters where successful alumni work with students in their home regions to facilitate community and delve deeper into the content of the course, like how to do an initial health history, where to find people they want to work with, and the wide range of options they can work with -- everything from group programs for disadvantaged populations to helping large corporations provide better health care options to their employees. This way people in all parts of the country get localized learning with people who understand the culture of their area.
Mike: Well, we are about out of time, but Joshua, I just want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. The website is www.IntegrativeNutrition.com, and you can find out more about the school, its methods, and how you can get involved. Joshua, again, thanks for talking to NaturalNews.
Joshua: Thanks for having me, Mike. I really value the work you are doing.