From Fat Flush to the First Lady of Nutrition

Learn more about Ann Louise from this Mindful Mavericks Magazine article…

“Continually breaking new ground in traditional and holistic health, Ann Louise is a top nutritionist who is internationally recognized as a pioneer in dietary, environmental, and women’s health issues. I learned about Ann Louise’s work over a decade ago when I was searching how to detox from the Standard American Diet that was when I discovered her book, The Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet. My husband and I both followed the book and felt AMAZING. We had never realized before how toxic our bodies were and how much food controls your energy levels.

Ann Louise is truly an inspiration when it comes to living vibrantly and growing a business through all the industry changes  over the course of her 40 year career. Read Ann Louise’s incredible story below…

Tell us about your business – what’s your mission; your soul’s purpose and why you created your wellness business or service?

For more than 40 years, my career has centered around rewriting the rules of nutrition – championing new ways of thinking about weight loss, women’s health, men’s health, nutrition, the environment, and beauty. Weight loss is only successful with detox; true healing is found only when you address the root causes; and when it comes to the environment, that which you cannot see is often the most harmful to our health. In the 30+ books I have written, I have been dedicated to blazing a trail through the science of nutrition, detox, weight loss and holistic healing; the late Dr. Atkins used to call me The First Lady of Nutrition – a name which has followed me all these years!

I think in many ways my mission -which has so significantly shaped my business – actually found me!  It most dramatically revealed itself through a classroom experience I had at Teachers College, Columbia University where I was studying for my master’s degree in nutrition.  I remember my professor relaying a story that goes something like this:

A gentleman goes out for a walk on an extremely dark evening and arrives at his destination, only to find he has lost his wallet somewhere along the way. He immediately retraces his steps and starts looking for the wallet under the lamppost, where there is light. But he is unable to find his wallet because he had lost it in the dark, where the light didn’t reach. The moral of the story is the answers you are searching for are out there somewhere; you just have to look in the right places that haven’t yet come to light.

This simple by eloquent metaphor really inspired the trajectory of my future career. I always made it my “business” to find solutions in the uncharted territory when it comes to health.  I’ve devoted my career to searching for answers where there is none by tapping into the underlying root causes of disease whether they are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or environmental.

In this day and age, we have to become kitchen chemists and health detectives to put our finger on the trigger behind the etiology of any dysfunction or imbalance.

I am also a firm believer that regardless of your genes, your biology is not your destiny.  You can override your genes through the new science of Epigenetics.  So, regardless of what you may have inherited or your inherited tendencies toward diabetes, heart disease, cancer or Alzheimer’s, with the right diet, the right thoughts, the right exercise routine and the right stress relief, you can mitigate, control or reverse most outcomes.

In my business, which includes the writing of health books and personal consultations, as well as being a brand ambassador for several companies, I try to combine the best of both worlds – both traditional and alternative.  I use the most current, non-invasive evidence based testing, like DNA stool tests, Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis and Adrenal Panels to assess a variety of issues.  I also may suggest a thorough evaluation of toxic environmental contaminants in the home and work place where mold, electromagnetic fields, air quality and volatile organic chemicals are measured.   I implement both homeopathy and energy medicine evaluations when appropriate to search for the proper diagnosis and treatments.

Tell us about your journey and your story….what got you to this point today?

There were four incredibly remarkable women who got me to where I am today in my evolving journey.

The most important of these was a woman whom I never actually met – my paternal grandmother, Anna.  She was the woman I was named after.  From what I heard growing up, she was a very kind, eloquent and gracious lady.  She died at the age of 42 from a mysterious illness with circumstances that were most unusual at the time – but certainly not today.   As the story goes, this robust woman went on vacation with my grandfather to the Catskill Mountains in New York one summer.  She returned with some type of virus or bacterial infection that the doctors could not identify, let alone successfully treat.  She went from doctor to doctor suffering from joint pain, brain fog and neurological symptoms.

In those days no one could find the underlying cause of her malady.   One very poignant recollection stands out in my memory that was related to me by my father.  My father told me that one day he came home early from school with his little brother and went up, as usual, to their second-floor tenement in New York City.  They searched high and low for their mother, only to find her on the roof ready to jump off because she was feeling so desolate, depressed, and hopeless.   She was clearly at the end of her rope and, in her despair and hopelessness my grandmother was willing to leave behind five loving children and a devoted husband.   Needless to say, my father and his little brother eventually coaxed their mother back into safety.

When I finally heard this story as an adult, from my dad, it seemed to underscore my passion to help people who were suffering and in distress.  I feel that being my grandmother’s namesake gently guided my life’s purpose to uncover the underlying root cause of illness or weight loss resistance.  Knowing the cause could help set people free.

My grandmother’s name – which means ‘devotion’ in Hebrew – was a foreshadowing of my own destiny.  My soul’s purpose prompted me to rewrite the rules of nutrition so that everyone in our modern day toxic environment might find hope, empowerment and ultimate wholeness.

The second most important woman came into my life unexpectedly when I was at Connecticut College as a sophomore.  I remember going into the cafeteria in the wee morning hours of a very cold wintry morning after pulling an all-nighter studying.   I was truly exhausted but not tired enough to overhear two coeds enthusiastically talking about a book called Let’s Get Well by Adelle Davis. At that time – during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Adelle Davis was a lone voice in the nutritional wilderness writing about healing with a variety of vitamins and minerals and how to overcome stress.

I immediately went out and bought all of her books, I started integrating everything she wrote about.  I traveled with safflower oil for my linoleic acid; I ate Tiger’s Milk bars for energy; I put Brewer’s yeast into my Dannon yogurt for more B vitamins; and I started taking pantothenic acid, the stress vitamin, on a daily basis.  As a college student at Conn College, I was always under the gun in a very competitive academic environment with my double major in English and religion at the time.

The third woman who was most helpful along my journey was Linda Clark. She was a very prolific author who wrote for Keats Publishing.   Shortly after my discovery of Adelle Davis, I began picking up Clark’s books, which were very cutting edge and avant garde back in the day.  She seemed to have a pulse on all the areas of health that I never even considered or heard about to be important for personal healing.  She introduced me to topics that expanded my health horizons: color therapy, magnetic healing, radiation toxicity, radionics, heavy metals, hydrochloric acid and essential fatty acids.  I was enchanted, to say the least.

I remember staying up late at night in those early years reading as many of her books as possible, books like Color Therapy, Get Well Naturally, Are You Radioactive? How to Protect Yourself, Know Your Nutrition, and others.  I especially enjoyed all the alternative therapies and modalities that she reported on to heal the most common diseases of the day.  At that time, hypoglycemia was trending as well as adrenal burn out.  Autoimmune disease had not yet reared its ugly head.  So, there was nothing written about Hashimoto’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, autism or ALS the way there is today. Linda Clark really sparked my passion for looking outside the box and I wanted to grow up and be an author just like her!  Interestingly enough, her publisher, Keats, was bought out by my current publisher, McGraw-Hill, the publisher of my popular Fat Flush Plan series of books.

My last mentor was Dr. Hazel Parcells whom I was introduced to through a health-conscious friend who shared an advertisement with me about the Parcells School of Scientific Nutrition in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The ad promised “Five days that would change your life.” That couldn’t have been truer for me because Dr. Parcells was the capstone of all of my experiences and pointed me in the direction of where and how to search for the underlying causes of disease.  She touched upon many of the topics that Linda Clark had written about and that had fascinated me.  She put a magnifying glass on areas like parasites – which I had never in my wildest dreams considered as a factor in modern day disease.  She also expounded upon heavy metals toxicity like lead, aluminum, arsenic, nickel, mercury and cadmium.  She discussed radiation, mold, fungus and yeast toxicity.  Dr. Parcells had worked with Los Alamos and The Manhattan Project with the developers of the atom bomb. She determined ways to neutralize the nuclear radiation from the fall out after the detonation of the testing they were performing.

She was also the reason I that I couldn’t eat out in restaurants for over two years. This was after I learned about all the parasites and worms Dr. Parcells was collecting from individuals who made a habit of eating out with delicacies like sushi or undercooked meat, chicken, fish or pork.   Dr. Parcells was 84 years old when I met her – and lived to the incredible age of 106 with all her senses and intellect fully intact.   A true pioneer and the grand dame of alternative medicine, she was a woman far ahead of her time. She truly motivated me to go back to school and further my studies at Columbia University with a foot in both clinical and integrative nutrition.

How are you changing the face of healthcare and/or the wellness industry? How do you create, innovate or break the rules in healthcare?

I was privileged to be exposed to the writings of early pioneers and innovative healers who paved the way for me.  They inspired me to try to change and raise awareness in healthcare through my books.  My books track my journey and personal discoveries and revelations over the past 4 decades of my career.

Many years before the Paleo, Keto, and Vegan diet trends, I wrote how obesity and diabetes were caused by a lack of the right type of fat and an excess of the wrong kind of carbohydrate.  This was the premise of my very first book, Beyond Pritikin in 1988, which became a best seller and established me as a “nutritional heretic” because I dared to question the high carb, low fat nutritional diet model that was making everyone fat, sick and tired.

Always a believer and staunch supporter of health freedom, in the early 1990s I spearheaded a rally in Santa Fe, New Mexico prompted by pending legislation to expand the power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate dietary supplements.  My “Health Warrior Freedom Rally” caught the attention of US Representative Bill Richardson who became a strong advocate for the passage of the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA legislation).

Before the current awareness of gluten, I wrote about its many perils and discussed the blood type theory and metabolic typing in 1997, boldly proclaiming that one diet may not be right for every body in Your Body Knows Best. That book became a best seller in Germany.

Thanks to my early training with extraordinary women healers, I became a committed crusader for women by offering natural solutions to menopause and perimenopausal symptoms in my award winning Super Nutrition for Women as well as Super Nutrition for Menopause, and my New York Times bestseller Before the Change.  Super Nutrition for Women was awarded the Excellence in Medical Communications Award upon its original publication.

In my Guess What Came to Dinner? Parasites and Your Health I sounded the alarm about the “uninvited guests” lurking in food, water and daycare centers, and how to prevent, treat and diagnose them. The book gave birth to an entire industry of parasite and colon cleansing programs, I am proud to say.

In the early 2000s I asserted that the liver was the body’s primary fat burning organ (and detoxifier) in the first edition of The Fat Flush Plan—which became an international best seller and helped to launch the diet detox revolution and cleansing craze.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to appear on 20/20 which featured my Fast Track Detox Diet, a book that presented the relationship between weight gain and toxins in the environment, a concept which foreshadowed the science behind “obesogens” that is coming to the forefront today.

In 2010, I led the early charge against the hidden biological hazards of cell phones, iPads, smart meters and WIFI in my book Zapped—an issue that has recently gained momentum.

In 2016, I was greatly honored to receive The Cancer Control Society Humanitarian Award.  When my award was presented to me I was very touched by the dedication.  “From the time of your graduation from Columbia University to the second decade of the 21st Century, your impact on the nutrition and health of society spans over 40 years. As a visionary, you saw new directions necessary to restore and maintain health years before they were recognized by the academic world. As a health advocate and pioneer, you were at the forefront of efforts to educate patients in new ways of thinking.

“Your efforts, through your books, public presentations and media appearances, have organized and transformed the way we view diets and how the body utilizes hormones. Your advocacy for freedom of choice in health matters made major contributions in the options available to all of us today. For your passion and dedication to health and nutrition, we recognize your outstanding achievements in the field of health, nutrition and especially health education. We salute you and extend our gratitude to you as Humanitarian Extraordinaire!”

What personal and professional legacy or impact do you want to leave on the world?

What means the most to me is to empower people to take their health back into their own hands.  I want to leave the world with a message of hope and healing.   There is a way.  There is an answer.  You simply may not be looking in the right place.  And you may have to do an inventory of every aspect of your life and figure out where the dysfunction or imbalances are occurring by being brutally honest with yourself.  I believe that most disease is your body, mind or spirit calling out for some type of realignment.

In your opinion, what is the most significant factor in healing or overall wellness?

I believe the most important factor in healing and overall wellness is a miracle mindset.  Set your mind and heart on doing whatever it takes to get yourself healthy and stay well. What everyone needs to understand is that you can’t go back to the lifestyle, thoughts, and ways of thinking that made you sick in the first place.  Sometimes you just have to make a radical change and shift courses.

I am a big believer that persistence is the key.  You make the commitment to yourself to be healthy and stick with it no matter the cost.  Because I can assure you, the cost of being sick is much higher than the cost of prevention.  Stay the course and don’t give up!  One of my favorite quotes from all time is from Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

What do you wish people realized when it comes to their health or about the wellness industry?

Let me answer this by sharing a saying I used for decades when I completed my presentations.  It goes like this: “Health is the greatest gift to mankind.  Health is that which we use up for the first 60 years of our lives to obtain wealth, after which we use up our wealth to try to recapture our health!”  So, remember when it comes to your health, nobody cares more about your body than you do.  You need to invest in yourself and make your health a priority. Put yourself on top of your “to do” list!  It’s so much easier to prevent disease than it is to cure it, but unfortunately prevention simply doesn’t sell.  It behooves each of us to read widely and be discerning and discriminating in choosing any type of alternative methods.

The best thing I can tell somebody about the wellness industry is to establish yourself as a trendsetter, not a trend follower.  Web and social media marketing has us all focusing on what’s trending in health news day after day and responding to that to gain popularity and a following. You can play the game to get attention and a following, but the key to lasting success is to be authentic – the person who is setting the trends, not the one who is searching for what to follow.

I try to keep a balance between the wisdom that was passed on to me by my mentors – all of whom were masterful healers, and what cutting edge research is discovering. I know my audience; I know what my people are looking for from me and I focus my attention there. It’s really important to know who you are and what people want from you and don’t give a second thought to what everyone else is doing.  That’s my best advice, as someone who has four decades of experience on the front lines.

How long did it take you to reach important milestones in your wellness business?
And, what has really helped you move the needle in making your vision a reality?

My mission keeps finding me.  It also keeps reminding me of my true path North again and again.  I went from Connecticut College to attending Teacher’s College at Columbia University to becoming the Chief Nutritionist for the Pediatric Clinic at Bellevue Hospital in my early years.  Whenever I needed guidance, I asked for direction.  Sometimes the answers would come at 4:00 am in the morning with a voice that would direct me about what to write or what do.  This was especially apparent when I started writing my first book Beyond Pritikin. It also occurred during The Fat Flush Plan.

I think what has helped me move the needle most is being very self-directed and self-motivated.  I was blessed with many outstanding role models in my formative years, and especially on the home front.  My father, even when he retired, had three jobs instead of four!  So, I’ve always known the value of hard work.  My mother, up until her early 80s, was a religious schoolteacher and the president of a multitude of volunteer organizations.  Both parents were always working, yet extremely devoted to our family.

I live by the principle that you don’t strike when the iron is hot – you strike until the iron is hot.  So, thanks to my early teachers, I have been aware of many of the alternative trends and modalities in healing, so this became second nature to me when the world finally caught up to holistic medicine.

Tell us about the start-up scares: Was there a moment where you ever seriously contemplated giving up?

I can honestly say that I never seriously contemplated giving up. I’ve always believed that opposition was a sign that I needed to change course, or the timing just wasn’t right.  When I’ve been challenged or mischaracterized by conventional, traditional or more mainstream professionals, I regard this as a sign I must be doing something right.

Did you ever fail or make a substantial mistake in business or organization? Any serious challenges? How did you overcome and resolve it?

Yes, I have had many challenges throughout my career.  The first came early on after I graduated Columbia University.  I became the Chief Nutritionist for the Pediatric Clinic at Bellevue Hospital.  Basically, to make a long story short, I was called on the carpet and ultimately fired for saving a little boy’s life. A mother came to me one morning after prayer and said that she was led into my office at the WIC Clinic at Bellevue.  The mother tearfully told me that she had a little boy that was very sick and receiving chemotherapy.  I said I thought I could perhaps help her find a nutritional adjunct to what she was doing and immediately contacted my mentor, Dr. Parcells, who took a blood sample from the six-year-old boy and found that this child did not have leukemia but had been suffering from arsenic poisoning.  As it turned out his mother was a cleaning fanatic and routinely used many arsenic based sprays which were on the market at that time.  When the little boy stopped the chemotherapy, and started using the natural remedies that Dr. Parcells prescribed – he experienced a complete turnaround in his health for the better!  His family was so grateful, and I was overjoyed.

My employer, however, had a different view.  I was told by the medical director of the clinic that I had “some nerve” going outside of hospital boundaries.  Bellevue Hospital was a conventional medical center with an excellent reputation and they simply didn’t tolerate deviation from their norm, regardless of the outcome.

Well, to say the least, I learned a lot from this situation.  I learned I couldn’t satisfy my life’s calling to find the root causes of disease within a paradigm that excluded evidence-based/non-toxic answers that work.  The test didn’t lie, and the treatment worked, but it wasn’t their established protocol. If the little boy had continued their treatment, I’m not sure he would have lived through it.

For a year after Bellevue I didn’t want to work in health care anymore and it took me quite a while to get back into the swing of things.  Ultimately, I moved back to my native Connecticut and became a bilingual nutritionist for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program at Hill Health Center, a Yale University satellite health clinic in New Haven, Connecticut.

What action has the most impact that you’ve taken to reach your goal/s?

Well, first and foremost I learned to listen…to Higher Management and to my mother!  After a short time into my stint in the public health field as a bilingual WIC nutritionist back in Connecticut, after leaving Bellevue Hospital, I was growing frustrated with the apathy toward change regarding the high saturated fat, high sugar, and low fiber content of the hospital and federal food programs.  It all changed in September of 1980. I was at a family gathering, a high holiday dinner, where my uncle Jack, a pharmacist, asked for my help in locating hoop cheese and apple butter for a special diet plan.

Knowing how conservative and traditional Uncle Jack was in terms of diet, I was surprised and intrigued by his interest in these unusual foods. When I questioned him, he told me he had placed himself on the Pritikin diet—the ultimate low-to-no fat, high carb diet of the day. The purpose was to help balance his blood sugar, and it was working – he was having excellent results controlling his adult-onset diabetes. He felt better than he had in the previous twenty years!

I became familiar with the diet several years earlier when I read Nathan Pritikin’s first book, Live Longer Now. I was impressed with the positive results Pritikin reported that his diet and exercise plan had on the management of coronary disease. It was ironic that Jack’s inquiry would rekindle my interest in the diet-disease connection and ultimately lead me from Connecticut to California, where I would begin working with Nathan Pritikin himself.

But it was my mother who got me to take the first step. She told me I should get in touch with Pritikin and see if they had a job opening on the East Coast. She inspired me and got me excited. I compiled a very detailed resume in which I carefully expounded on every job and experience I ever had and wrote it in such a way that my resume would stand out from the rest.

Much to my surprise, several weeks later, I received a phone call from the personnel manager at the Pritikin Longevity Center who asked me if I was planning to come to California because the center was in the market for a new nutritionist.  I immediately told her that I was planning on coming in three weeks, so we scheduled an interview right then and there.  Three weeks later I showed up on her doorstep and within two months I became the new Director of Nutrition for the Pritikin Longevity Center, Santa Monica, California!

As the director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center, I was very much a part of the growing self-help health movement that was sweeping the country. This led me to ask questions, and my perspective on nutrition was changing as I was learning to embrace the leading edge of a new emerging science behind nutrition. This questioning has shaped the entire rest of my career and led me to meet my goals – and my calling – to help others find the root causes of their diseases and symptoms and truly heal.

What would you tell your younger/earlier self about following your dreams?

I was very blessed to have good role models, but have always taken myself a bit too seriously. I would tell my younger self to lighten up and live a little.  It’s progress that’s important not perfection, and what’s worth doing may not be worth over-doing.  You’ll live to see your dreams truly fulfilled without being perfect or taking yourself so seriously.

What’s the best piece of business or personal advice YOU’VE ever received?

To identify what I really wanted as my heart’s desire and go for it.  I knew with my teaching, speaking and religious background, I needed a larger platform where I could lecture and have influence on a larger number of people.

What’s the #1 piece of advice you would give a new Wellness professional who really wants to make an impact in healthcare and people’s lives?

My advice is to learn everything about functional/integrative medicine.  It is especially important to learn to read blood tests accurately, but not by looking at what is the norm; rather look at what is optimally healthy – where the functional medicine values lie.  I would tell a new wellness professional to get the book Blood Chemistry and CBC Analysis – Clinical Laboratory testing from a Functional Perspective by Dicken Weatherby. This book can be found online which is a good way to begin thinking outside of the box.  It is important to be able to understand both conventional and natural therapies to balance blood chemistry and help find appropriate remedies and solutions.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I have staff in three times zones, and I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I’m up early and on the phone. I take ¼ teaspoon of scalar salt, drink warm lemon water, have last night’s dinner leftovers for breakfast, and get to work at my standing desk. I’m very disciplined, both in my work and with my personal health. I have a wonderful group of people supporting me in what I do. Once they all have what they need for their work day, I do my rebounding, then it’s time for writing – any book edits or blogs that need to be written are done.  I also make time for lunch and dinner and am blessed to have a wonderful personal chef who creates many of my Fat Flush recipes with flavor and innovation.

Stevie Wonder or The Beatles? (this, I personally must know.) 🙂

Both are very talented for sure, but for me, as one who grew up and knew every lyric that the Beatles ever wrote, I would have to defer to The Fab Four!

Ann Louise Gittleman is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books on health and nutrition including The New Fat Flush PlanBefore the ChangeGuess What Came to Dinner, and Why Am I Always So Tired?  She has helped to formulate some of the most cutting-edge supplements for her distributor, UniKey Health Systems, including a Copper-Free Female Multi(for hormone balance), a parasite cleansing kit, a yeast cleansing formula, and Bile Builder (for those without a gallbladder or with a sluggish metabolism).

As one of the world’s foremost experts in functional and integrative medicine, Ann Louise holds an M.S. in Nutrition Education from Columbia University, has the title of Certified Nutrition Specialist (C.N.S.) from the American College of Nutrition and a Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition. She has also served as the Chief Nutritionist of Pediatric Clinic at Bellevue Hospital and is the former Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Monica, CA. She has won numerous awards, including The American Medical Writers Association Award for Excellence.

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