Rollins has a new antivirus program for the human body called “rebooting.” Taught by Professor of Psychology David Richard, Rollins offered a new, innovative class this spring called Mental Health and Nutrition, which aimed to teach students how to reboot their systems. What made this class unique is that it was taught from a scientific perspective and it incorporated an unusual practical aspect: every student enrolled in the course had to commit to eating a plant-based diet for 10 days, dedicating themselves to either a juice fast, a vegan diet or a combination of the two.
Students were required to watch two documentaries: Forks over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Both documentaries deal profoundly with the concept that what we eat significantly affects our bodies physically as well as mentally.
Richard practices what he teaches. After watching both documentaries, he began a juice fast called “rebooting,” in which he consumed only juice he processed from his own juicer. He lost 64 pounds in 42 days. His blood pressure numbers went from 150/86 to 130/66 in just eight days. Richard says he is getting a huge response about the new Mental Health and Nutrition class. “People are searching for a more natural system for weight lose that makes sense. Plant-based diets are very beneficial on many different levels. Healthy diets are going to lead to more long term health benefit,” he said.
According to Richard, it is the medical industry, insurance companies, the meat industry, and cancer clinics, that benefit most from people’s unhealthy nutritional habits. Changing how we eat is a win-win situation on many different levels. Science teaches us that cholesterol is derived from animal products and our own metabolisms. Unhealthy high cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular disease. Plants do not carry cholesterol. It is Richard’s opinion that no-carbohydrate, high-protein diets can do more harm than good, and in the long run they do not make you healthier. “The greatest benefit derived from a plant based diet is that you actually begin to get healthier.”
Presently, Richard is teaching two sections of Mental Health and Nutrition: one in the Arts and Sciences and one in the Hamilton Holt school. “Anyone can learn out of a book; my goal is to elicit behavior changes through Mental Health and Nutrition. You can’t unlearn this.”
Richard sees two challenges to the adoption of a healthy initiative process for Americans today. The first lies with the medical profession. “The first thing my doctor wanted to do when I was diagnosed with hypertension was to give me a prescription for high blood pressure medicine. Why not a prescription for a plant-based diet?” The second challenge, from Richard’s standpoint, is the nutritional message American children receive through school lunches. “The nutritional value of school lunches is a travesty and hypocritical. We need to remove the relationship between cooperate entities that are making money feeding our children junk and the schools,” he said.
Entrepreneur Joe Cross, the creator of the documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, was diagnosed with a painful auto-immune disease that required him to take copious amounts of medicine daily. For nine years, Cross dealt with the pain, gaining weight in the process. Once he began to “reboot” his system with only plant-based nutrients, he lost 90 pounds in 60 days and was able to stop all his medication.
On April 4, Cross spoke in the Bush Auditorium, an endeavor made possible through the efforts of Richard, President Lewis Duncan and the Winter Park Health Foundation.
According to Richard, the health care crisis is manufactured from the way we eat. “We choose what goes into our mouths. If you want to effect change from a grassroots level, start with your own mouth.”
My side of the story: Dr. Richard’s passion for this subject was extremely infectious. I walked away from this interview asking myself two questions: “What if?” and “Why Not?” My body is in pain 99.9 percent of the time. I have rheumatoid arthritis. I do not sleep more than four hours at a time and I take medicine that I wish I could stop taking. I watched the two videos Richard requires for the Mental Health and Nutrition course. After consulting with my doctor, I officially became a “juicer.” I do not need to lose weight, but it happened anyway. It has been three weeks without meat. I am sleeping better, I do not hurt as much, and I have more energy. It is amazing. The passion for juicing perpetuated by Joe Cross and Dr. Richard transcends Rollins College. Seeing the miraculous results in their mother, my five grown children are now “juicers.”