Vegetarians in Paradise proudly presents its 24 Carrot Award to filmmaker Mike Anderson who has brought the message of health and compassion to the public in his extensively researched films and books. Anderson's success can be measured by the number of people he has convinced to follow the RAVE Diet that is beneficial to their personal health, animals, and the environment. Information on his films and books can be found at his website at http://www.ravediet.com
What follows are the questions asked by Vegetarians in Paradise (VIP) and the answers by Mike Anderson (MA).
VIP: What circumstances led you to become a filmmaker?
MA: I should be called the 'accidental filmmaker' because if you had asked me about what I'm doing now just a decade ago, I would have called you crazy! The Reader's Digest version: I was a burnt out executive who quit my job in order to slow down the world. That gave me the luxury of reading books I would never had read under normal circumstances. It started with Larry Dossey's Reinventing Medicine which is about the mind-body relationship. That did not light a fire in me, but it had some interesting references, which I pursued. Some of these references included Diet For a New America by John Robbins, Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman and The McDougall Program by John A. McDougall.
I was flabbergasted to learn that heart disease, for example, can be completely reversed by making simple changes in diet. I asked myself, "Why am I just now learning this--on my own--when it should be headline news!" More importantly, why aren't doctors practicing this?? On top of that were the ethical and environmental arguments made by Robbins and Lyman which I found extremely compelling. I continued researching this for almost a year and a half non-stop. What really bugged me was the fact this information was not well known. Books were out there, but most people don't have the time nor interest to read them. I looked around and at that time, there were not many compelling videos. I had put together two short educational videos, so I decided I would make Eating in order to help get the word out.
VIP: Before filmmaking what other jobs did you hold?
MA: By background is in computers, primarily, although I have held jobs in the solar energy industry as well as an executive position in a non-profit school serving autistic and emotionally disturbed children and young adults. In the computer field, my biggest contribution was to make possible the navigation system you find in vehicles today. That was done in the 1980's by the company I owned.
Before my software design, it took literally 48 hours to calculate a route, and we brought it down to 20 seconds (on old 286 machines). My design was the breakthrough that made the current routing that you see today possible. The basic design was sketched out (literally) on the back of a napkin at a Denny's restaurant with a couple of other programmers. So, never under underestimate the power of a napkin!
VIP: Your first film Eating has a remarkable success story. Can you give us some of the highlights in its production and reception by audiences nationally and internationally?
MA: I'm actually astounded by its success. It is a home-grown production with low production values. When I finished it, I was hoping that I might sell 50 or 100 copies and perhaps impact that many lives. I sent out sample copies to various individuals and organizations to get their reactions. The first reactions were totally negative. These came from what I call vegan nerds who simply did not 'get' what I was trying to do. They nit-picked it-and actually had their facts wrong. About a month or so passed with only negative reactions and I thought, "Ok. I've got it out of my system. That's it! It's done and over with. I'll plunge back into areas I'm more familiar with."
Then I got an email from PETA. Bruce Friedrich--and others--who absolutely loved it. Needless to say, I was thrilled and that little bit of encouragement gave me some confidence in the film. I put up a web site and word-of-mouth has carried it ever since. Eating is now in its third edition and selling better than ever before. I give free broadcast rights, and it has now been seen by literally millions of people throughout the world.
It was shown on Ghana's national television station and after the presentation, the president of Ghana got on the air and said "We will never adopt the American way of eating!" The reason is because they can't afford it. Ghana, like other Third World countries, knows that if they adopt our way of eating, the health costs will bankrupt their country.
VIP: Your second film Healing Cancer from Inside Out is very critical of the medical profession. What negative reaction have you received from doctors? On the other hand, what positive responses have you have received from doctors and other viewers? Are there particular favorable comments you might share with our readers?
MA: So far, the doctors who have commented have both loved it and hated parts of it. I've spoken with some oncologists who absolutely loved the film--except for the statistics part. What I found frightening about that is the reason they did not like the statistics part: they did not know the difference between relative and absolute statistics! They were trying to tell me the statistics I used were wrong and cure rates were much, much higher. When they cited some studies, I told them those statistics were relative numbers, which make some cure rates seems as much as 50 times better than they really are. I told them that if those numbers were converted to absolute numbers, they would match the statistics I used in the film.
Even oncologists have been so brainwashed by the drug companies--or studies which use relative numbers--they do not know the difference between these numbers! I have told the doctors I have spoken with that if they present relative numbers to patients, they should be sued for fraud.
I was set up to participate in a radio show with a large audience and the producer wanted to have a conventional oncologist on so we would go head-to-head. I told the producer I would present cure rates in absolute terms and that the oncologist would have to prove me wrong. The producer never got back to me.
When you listen to mainstream medical authorities cite cure rates, these rates are absolutely ridiculous because they are using what I call "rubber numbers," which make it look as if conventional treatments are actually working, whereas in fact they are not. If they presented patients with absolute numbers, very few people would be getting conventional treatments.
VIP: Can you tell us about some of the awards and honors you have received for your films?
MA: I've entered Eating and Healing Cancer from Inside Out in only two film festivals and each time they received awards. In both cases, I was invited to enter the films as I don't really pursue awards. I try to focus on getting the product out to individuals who need the information, so the best awards I've ever received were emails from viewers whose lives were changed because of the films or the book.
VIP: You coined the acronym RAVE diet. Would you tell our readers about its origin and its principal features?
MA: The typical vegan diet can have many pitfalls which revolve around eating what I call vegan junk food, i.e., veggie dogs, burgers, etc. Years ago, I attended a lecture by Michael Klaper, M.D. at a VegSource conference. He was Disturbed--as well as a little nonplussed--because he was finding that many vegans were in poor health and he could not understand why. Well, I knew at the time it was because they were eating too much refined junk food. For that reason, I tried to make the RAVE diet more specific, which is the reason for the acronym. It stands for
In a phrase, it is an exclusively whole foods diet. Since everyone wonders about the No Vegetable oils, let me briefly explain. First off, vegetable oils are a refined food and have the lowest nutrient value per calorie of any food on the planet, so you're getting very little bang for the calorie buck.
Clinical studies have found oils (e.g., olive oil) actually cause damage to arteries. I'm telling people they can reverse heart disease by following the RAVE diet and if you look at the pioneers at reversing heart disease, such as Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn, they specifically prohibit vegetable oils in the diet, as do other doctors who reverse heart disease with diet. Until there is a bona fide study showing that a diet that specifically includes vegetable oils can reverse heart disease, I'm not going to recommend them. There are also other reasons for prohibiting oils, which I discuss in the book. It's easy to use substitutes that are healthier.
VIP: What information in the Rave Diet and Lifestyle book can the reader find that is not covered in the film Eating?
MA: A lot. I found that some people were viewing the Eating film (2nd Edition) that discussed the acronym, and believing they were following the RAVE diet--with less than optimal results. The book contains a number of sub-rules for the acronym (e.g., at least half your food should be uncooked, B12 supplement, etc.) that are absolutely critical to success with this diet. It also has a lot of information about ingredients to avoid and discusses other potential pitfalls when purchasing packaged products, which are so deceptive. There is, in other words, much more to the diet than just following the simple acronym guidelines themselves.
VIP: What criteria do you use for selecting entries you include in the extensive Newsworthy feature and Links on your website at www.ravediet.com?
MA: The criteria for Newsworthy are pretty subjective. The article would have to be supportive of what I'm preaching. I also like to bring to light articles that are under the radar that would not normally hit the mainstream press. In the Resources and Links section I want to provide people with additional resources they can access easily. Many people are hungry for more information and I try to provide them with the resources that will help them.
VIP: You obviously devote a considerable amount of time on medical research. How do you ferret out this information? What journals do you consult regularly?
MA: I really don't read journals, per se, on a regular basis. If I'm doing research for a project, I will then go to the journal sites and search for relevant information. Or, if I happen to come across an article which has a good reference, I may chase down that reference and purchase it for my own library. A lot of the research I do comes from reading books, and I will chase down references used in books if they look interesting.
VIP: You are a believer in the Pay It Forward concept. How have you used this principal in your efforts to spread your message?
MA: This has really been a powerful key to the success of getting my products out the door and into the hands of mainstream people who would not ordinarily be interested in the ideas I'm pushing. This actually started with customers asking me to provide discounts for multiple purchases. I used the Pay It Forward theme because it fit what I was doing perfectly. And it is very powerful! As I said before, word-of-mouth has been the engine pushing my products and that gets it into mainstream audiences (which have always been my target) because it will come from a friend, or perhaps a friend of a friend. I now have many people who are doing the RAVE who have swapped their barbeque foods for greens.
VIP: How have your films impacted your personal life?
MA: Each film has been very emotional for me to make and it probably shows because they move people, particularly Eating. Other than the emotional impact on me from making the films, the biggest impact has been from the correspondence I receive from people who have changed their lives for the better because of the films.
VIP: What event or events in your life led you to become vegetarian and then vegan?
MA: As I recall, I gave up meat, then a week later dairy, along with all other animal products. There was no specific event, per se, but a process of reading and researching which led me down that fork in the road. I came to the point where I saw this as a win-win-win situation. You win with health, you win with animals, and you win with the environment. I must say that I was as brain-washed as any mainstream person and in the back of my mind had worries about protein, that my ears would fall off, or some such nonsense.
Those fears are now, of course, completely gone and my ears are still firmly intact. I was recently greeted by a young woman who was raw vegan, and she told me that until she watched Eating, she also had fears about protein knocking around in the back of her head, but after the film, those fears were completely gone.
VIP: What benefits have you realized yourself by following the diet and lifestyle you espouse in your films and writing?
MA: Nothing really dramatic that I know about. I was, however, eating the Standard American Diet, and I'm sure if I had not switched, I would have had a heart attack by now, a bypass or stents inside me and would have been on Lipitor, not to mention cancer and/or other degenerative diseases raising their ugly heads in a sixty-something-year-old body. The most visible dramatic thing to happen was that I lost 35 pounds the first year after changing my diet, which drew attention from friends, who became interested in what I was doing.
VIP: How do your friends, relatives, and associates react to your plant-based diet?
MA: I mentioned the weight loss, which got attention from friends. But I, like many others, have lost friends as a result of the change in eating habits. I'm no longer invited to barbeques or other social events because of my eating habits. Although most express envy at the weight loss, they are not willing to go 'veg' to achieve it. Both of my sisters were very supportive of what I'm doing, although both said they could never change their diet.
Well, over a year ago one of them had a heart attack and subsequent triple-bypass. As is so often the case, it took a life-threatening illness for her to see the light. She's now following the RAVE Diet and doing excellent--off all her medications.
VIP: Of all of your personal accomplishments, which ones give you the most pride and satisfaction?
MA: I don't think I could point to a single accomplishment. I set out to raise awareness of plant-based diets and see that as a process, so whatever I do contributes to that process and ultimate goal. If you can look at the process of raising awareness as a single personal accomplishment, then that would be it.
VIP: Tell us about your education. How are you using your education currently?
MA: My formal education is primarily in philosophy, through graduate school. I believe that gives me a foundation for bringing some perspective into not only how I live my life, but also what I do. On the other hand, the School of Hard Knocks, has tempered my idealism with a sense of what can and cannot be accomplished.
VIP: What personal goals have you set for yourself in the coming years?
MA: I want to continue what I'm doing now, that is, raising awareness about the benefits of plant-based diets. I'm currently working on a companion book to the Healing Cancer from Inside Out DVD because there are so many aspects of this subject that cannot be conveyed in a film. I'm also planning on doing a broader documentary which would cover the environment and politics, among other things.
VIP: When you're not working on films, what leisure activities and hobbies do you enjoy?
MA: I don't have time for many as most of my time is spent working and researching. I enjoy sports, particularly tennis, and I run at least once a day, preferably twice when time permits.
VIP: Can you tell us about any organizations you belong to and support?
MA: I belong to and support too many to mention. I'm not active in them, but support them through financial contributions, as my budget will allow--primarily those organizations which support animals and the environment.
VIP: What person or persons have had the most influence on your life?
MA: In the beginning of this process, I'd have to say John Robbins and John McDougall as they made the deepest impressions when I was most impressionable.
VIP: Have we overlooked anything that you would like to share with our readers?
MA: No. And thank you for giving me this opportunity and award. I am both honored and humbled.