Dan’s Story: A Personal Look into the Beginnings of Nama
I was born in 1964, the last year of the “baby boomers”. The “space age” of the 60s and 70s saw a change in many cultural norms including the shift to consuming processed foods. I remember eating all kinds of crazy foods that were popularized at that time.
Pop Tarts, powdered chocolate milk, Tang, TV dinners, Frosted Flakes, margarine, Wonder bread, Twinkies, Chef Boyardee—if it was sweet, salty, quick and came from a box or can, we ate it. We didn’t know any better. Looking back, and knowing what I know now, eating in this way was most certainly a leading contributor to health issues that I have encountered later in life.
Zoom forward to college, I found myself overweight and suffering from anxiety and an irregular heartbeat. This was scare #1.
I didn’t change much in how I lived, but I certainly began to develop the first glimmer of awareness of my body and health.
In my late 20s and early 30s I put on a bunch of weight, was generally unhappy and burned the candle at both ends. I was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat. Scare #2.
The fear of my own mortality was enough to send me in the direction of improved health. I lost a bunch of weight and began to run. This started me on a 10 year path focusing on a fitness and life change that culminated with me completing an Ironman distance triathlon when I turned 40. The dramatically improved health and confidence that came from this experience catapulted my life forward in a totally new direction.
I was wasting away. It got so bad in the end that I could not get up the stairs. I was gaunt and gasping for breath.
While I dialed back the extreme fitness between 40 and 50, I amped up my diligence around a clean, organic and locally sourced diet. In 2006 (at age 42), my wife and I began juicing as part of our dietary practices. I was drinking and eating many more vegetables than at any other time in my life. I think that our first juicer was made by Breville. Soon after, we transitioned to a Hurom brand juicer. We embraced juicing for ourselves and our children and it became part of our daily ritual, which still remains to this day. When we traveled, we would bring our juicer with us, often hand carrying it onto the plane or packing it on roadtrips. Alternatively, we would research juice bars or health food stores at our destination where we might be able to get our daily fix of healthy juice.
In 2011, our family left Los Angeles for Vancouver Island in search of a more balanced lifestyle, community, family, clean air and water, and better access to locally sourced ingredients. Eating foods grown by local farmers, picking fresh vegetables and fruits from my mother-in-law’s amazing garden, and enjoying the abundance of our many farmer’s markets ultimately inspired my wife and I to want to own farm land. After an exhaustive search, we bought 18 acres of pristine agricultural land that we are now developing as an organic, sustainable, regenerative permaculture inspired farm. Thankfully, our children and extended family are in good health and have embraced healthy lifestyle principles and rituals into their lives.
That’s the good news.
The not so good news is that in September 2015, at age 51, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This condition is an autoimmune disease in which my own immune system attacks the insulin producing cells in my pancreas. For six months prior I had been losing weight. I was tired, thirsty and miserable. I was mean, moody and irrational. I was a jerk. I thought that this was a side effect of my “low carb/paleo” diet coupled with a crazy work schedule. Boy, was I wrong.
I ended up hospitalized with acute diabetic ketoacidosis. This is a condition caused when your body is unable to process the glucose (sugar) in your blood. In order to get energy to function, your body literally eats itself. I was wasting away. It got so bad in the end that I could not walk up the stairs. I was gaunt and gasping for breath. My wife (and I) thought that I had pancreatic cancer. I booked myself a visit to the Mayo Clinic.
I call everything that has happened since my diagnosis as “Dan 2.0”. These last five years have been the best years of my life.
I never made it to the Mayo Clinic. I was rushed to the emergency room where they quickly discovered my diabetes. At least I now had a diagnosis. And using “Dr. Google” I was quickly able to determine that, if managed properly, I could live a long and healthy life as a Type 1 diabetic. But I was scared. My family was scared. What did this mean? How would we manage? What would our life look like? This was a really tough time. But this was also a time for exploration and rethinking what I wanted the rest of my life to look like.
I refer to everything that has happened since my diagnosis as “Dan 2.0”. These last three and a half years have been the best years of my life. In a strange way, this disease has been the biggest gift. It has brought me closer to everyone and everything that I love and that has meaning, while also veering me away from those people, things, and experiences that are not in alignment with my priorities and how I want the rest of my life to look.
In 2016, we decided that we wanted to own farmland, grow our own food and move our family to a more rural setting. We began envisioning what our farm might look like. During a trip that summer to Long Island, New York we found ourselves visiting a farm stand on Shelter Island. On the wall in this farm stand was a picture of Joe Cross (from the documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead fame) with a message promoting a screening of his new movie that very night at the local library.
Being interested in health and having 10 years of juicing under our belt, we were well aware of the influence that Joe had on the explosion of juicing into the mainstream. We jumped at the chance to meet Joe and see his new movie. The six of us (my wife and I, our two kids, my sister-in-law and her daughter) went to the library at the appointed hour. We found our way into a room in the basement of the tiny Shelter Island library where there might have been 8 or 10 other people… and the 15 or so of us watched Joe’s newly released film, The Kids Menu, which was then followed by a Q & A with Joe.
It was during that Q & A that I was struck with the idea of finding a way to partner with Joe to bring his message to a much wider audience. I gave Joe my business card, and to my surprise, the next day I had an email from him. Shortly thereafter we started speaking by phone. A few months later we met in person. We shared our hopes, dreams and aspirations with one another and worked closely in the subsequent months to find a way to align our shared objective of touching millions of lives around the world by educating, inspiring and sharing health and wellness rituals. Nama was born.
I believe that the road to better health starts with knowledge coupled with an internal desire for a different outcome—a shift. We are all familiar with the adage, "you are what you eat", but unfortunately, most of us are unaware of the side effects and consequences of the foods that we consume on a daily basis. We are bombarded with advertisements from multinational food companies and drug companies and messaging from talking heads, so-called experts and doctors. There is a multitude of conflicting messages.—eggs are good, eggs are bad, butter is bad, actually butter is good, eat a paleo diet, go keto, go low carb, fast, sugar is the devil, cholesterol is bad, follow the food pyramid—the lists go on and on. To say it's confusing is the ultimate understatement.
One thing that I know with certainty is that our species has evolved and thrived for millions of years by eating and enjoying real food, surrounded by people we love. Eating food grown by our family and friends, sharing a meal and stories and experiencing a real sense of community.
Sadly, over the last 100 years, we have drifted away from these 'traditions". But change is possible as we've seen over the past 10 years with the explosive growth of the organic food movement, fresh juice and smoothie bars, community supported agriculture (CSA's), local farmers markets and the local food movement. As consumers we "vote with our dollars" and the more that we demand healthier options, the more that corporations and governments will need to shift to meet these needs.
I have learned from personal experience that the more real food that I drink and eat, the better I feel. And the better that I feel, the more likely that I am to be a better father, husband, friend, boss and coach. I am not suggesting that you should follow any particular diet or lifestyle. That is your personal choice. You have to do what feels right for you. No judgment.
But what I am suggesting is that you consume more real food, and specifically more food that comes from plants including fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, and that you reduce your consumption of processed food. Real food nourishes us. Processed foods tend to make us more sick.
In Nama, we dream of creating a collective enterprise where we can share what our partners and the community know about healthy lifestyles. We hope that through the products, services and information that we make available, we are able to inspire our community to begin moving along the path of personal wellness. And that through personal growth, they are able to touch and impact those around them.
Life truly is a journey. Nobody is perfect, me included. At Nama , we embrace this imperfection. To be human is to be an imperfect being. It is through little steps, taken daily, that we can move closer to the person that we know we are destined to become. It is through daily rituals that we can become better, every day.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope that by sharing it, you might feel inspired today or in the future to explore the road ahead through a different lens. I wish you every success in your journey.
With much love,
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