Recently, we announced that Anomalie has been acquired by David’s Bridal (the industry leader which sells 30% of US wedding dresses) – there’s an article about this in Forbes here. I am so grateful to everyone I worked with and supported us on this journey. My co-founder (and wife) Leslie will be joining the company as an executive – and for the first time in 5+ years, we won’t be working together. I am excited to report that our marriage made it through this experience intact! 🙂
Looking to the future, I wanted to share about a topic I have become very passionate about. I am planning to write a book about and start a company focussed on this space.
The Root Cause
In the past several years, I have become convinced this is the largest problem facing society:
11 out of the 12 leading killers of Americans are caused by or worsened by processed food.
Healthcare is the only industry where “innovation” (more drugs and procedures) equals higher costs and worse outcomes – spending is outpacing inflation and yet outcomes are getting worse every year. This is because we’re addressing downstream, separate symptoms rather than addressing the connected root causes of disease. These trends are causing violence to our bodies and brains to a degree I don’t think we fully appreciate.
Four experiences led me to this conclusion:
- Last year, my mom abruptly died of pancreatic cancer. I always thought cancer was largely random, but I was surprised to learn pancreatic cancer is essentially a food-borne illness — heavily tied to my mom’s challenges with blood sugar (which was preventable and caused by food). We know food is directly tied to conditions like heart disease (#1 cause of death), many leading forms of cancer (#2 cause of death), stroke (#5 cause of death), Type 2 Diabetes (#8 cause of death), kidney disease (#9 cause of death) and liver disease (#10 cause of death). I was also surprised to learn Alzheimer’s (#7 cause of death) is now called Type 3 diabetes – and is in large part preventable (and even reversible) through food. Simply eliminating sugar and seed oils from your diet dramatically reduces your chance of dying from nearly every other leading disease – and will almost certainly improve mental health along the way. It’s not just life-threatening illnesses: PCOS, the leading cause of infertility, literally is insulin resistance (metabolic disease) of the ovaries largely caused by food and can often be quickly reversed through a targeted diet/lifestyle intervention; depression is highly tied to diet and exercise (95% of our serotonin is produced in our gut, not our brains). In fact, 150 minutes of exercise a day for 3 months was equally effective as antidepressants, which are currently the most prescribed class of drugs in America (and which have serious side effects).
- As a new parent, I’m concerned about the world my son, Roark, is going into. The status quo for children right now is scary, and getting worse: 25% of young adults have prediabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes), 14% of teenagers have fatty liver disease, 40% of children are obese or overweight, 25% of teenagers report they contemplated suicide, and 18% of kids have a developmental disability. These statistics are obviously just the tip of the iceberg of what is happening to our kids’ brains and bodies, and food and other environmental factors are a key root cause. Kids are eating 150 times more sugar than they did 100 years ago. The simple action of reducing sugar and inflammatory foods in our kids’ diets would save trillions in health costs and dramatically improve the physical and mental health of kids.
- Several years ago, my sister abruptly quit her job as a surgeon after thirteen years of higher education and training. I thought she was crazy at the time, but she told me that the system is broken – that most surgeries she and other surgeons perform could have been avoided by dietary and lifestyle interventions – but she was not offered a single dedicated nutrition class at Stanford Medical School. She went on to start Levels, which provides people data on how food impacts their health, and now is impacting millions of people through her product and content creation. Casey’s story and Levels (both their mission and how they run their company) has had a huge impact on me. I’m actually very optimistic – there are thousands of leaders pushing for change to become more focussed on the root causes, and I want to join those efforts.
- My experience in startups has led me to see how healthcare is the most dysfunctional industry that exists. Companies that add a digital layer to the current system (like startups enabling Viagra or Adderall to be sold online, or helping patients more easily schedule doctors appointments) are sometimes confused for innovation, but those are marginal efficiencies to the same broken system. They are part of the problem. It seems that millions of people are profiting from the medical system, but nobody is taking responsibility for questioning the system itself.
We all know the statistics about mental health, obesity, and chronic disease aren’t good and are getting worse — but I think we gloss over the implications.
Our brains and bodies are breaking due to the modern industrialized food system and the $4T healthcare system has virtually no incentive to fix it. 88% of American adults now have metabolic issues, which means a fundamental problem in how our brains and bodies are powered. Metabolic issues show up as the rising rates of Alzheimer’s, depression, attention disorders, heart disease, infertility, and more, and this has been the defining feature of poor COVID outcomes.
It is impossible to overstate how evolutionarily unprecedented our modern diet is – some 70% of our calories now come from ultra processed nutrient-depleted products that are known to damage our brains and bodies. I used to think nutrition was a “wimpy” subject, but I am now convinced this connection between the healthcare industry, food, environmental factors, physical health and mental health is at the root of most other issues we face. With our brains and bodies becoming increasingly dysfunctional due to our food system – starting in utero – I believe it will be impossible for us to overcome the global challenges facing us today with focusing on the connections between food and our physical + mental health.
Our sick-care system is unsustainable, and must eventually change by definition. I think this change – from a reactionary approach where money is spent on “band aid” interventions after people are sick – to a root-cause approach that incentivizes food and habits to build a fundamentally healthy body to prevent/reverse disease, will happen sooner than people think. It will have trillions of dollars in ramifications, in addition to unleashing an astounding amount of pent up human capital that is currently stifled by chronic illness that now spans the lifetime.
Here is what I am planning to spend my time in order to be a small part of this change:
Over the past several months, I have been writing a book with my sister to describe the above thesis and provide tactical steps to feel better energy today and eliminate your chance of chronic disease. The book will use my sister’s story, interviews with experts, and the latest research to provide actionable tips on everything from what to eat / not eat, when to eat, how to most effectively use bio-wearables, sleep optimization techniques, how to review your blood tests, microbiome optimization, psychedelic use, cold exposure, misinformation about exercise and sunlight, and reducing environmental toxins.
We developed a proposal with the help of an incredible agent who has represented paradigm shifting thinkers including Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, Sal Khan, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Michael Greger, Sal Khan, Angela Duckworth, Arianna Huffington, and many others.
We’re pitching the book to publishers soon and hope to release it next year!
I plan to devote the next 10 years of my life to building a company around the problem statement of incentivizing root cause solutions (healthy food, exercise, stress management) over band-aid symptom management solutions (pills and procedures that only mask the symptoms and don’t cure anything- which is there the bulk of spending now goes).
Americans are sick and tired of being lectured about food and exercise – especially when the incentives of the $6 trillion food system and $4 trillion food system are stacked against them.
It is gaslighting to say patients are “making bad health decisions” with their nutrition and habits. They are actually just following the incentives of our current systems. Right now, the ingredients of processed food (sugar, corn, vegetable oils) are subsidized, making unhealthy food the cheapest option. If you are lower income, this is often the only food an American can afford given these billions in government subsidies. Meanwhile, preventative care isn’t subsidized at all – but end-of-the-line care is.
For example, there are no incentives to eat organic vegetables and exercise (which prevents heart disease and diabetes), but statins, insulin and a triple-bypass surgery once you’re sick will be covered (once you are already sick). When it comes to mental health, meditation and therapy often aren’t incentivized and psilocybin (a safe and natural compound that research shows is also more effective than antidepressants by helping patients get to the root cause of their trauma) is still stigmatized. Meanwhile, ineffective and costly antidepressant pills are considered “serious” medicine and subsidized.
We won’t improve the problem until we incentivize healthy food and good habits. If we don’t focus on incentives, we will never solve the problem of our processed-food illness epidemic.
Again, if these ideas resonate with you or someone you know, would be great to chat!
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