The Food Doctor and Impact on Health
Note: transcription provided by Otter.AI, which is a technology company that develops speech-to-text transcription and translation applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Today we have a very special guest on our show. His name is Dr. Colin Zhu. And before I read his bio for you, he’s extremely experienced and expert as a chef on how food affects your body immunity and he has a really innovative Summit coming out in the next few weeks. So he’s also written a book as well. So without ado, I’m going to introduce him.
Dr. Colin Zhu is Board Certified in Family Practice, OMT and Lifestyle Medicine. Passionate about the intersection of medicine, food and nutrition, Dr. Zhu trained as a chef and health coach at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health in Culinary Arts in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, following completion of his medical degree to share his unique blend of unique medical knowledge with a wider audience, Dr. Zhu launched The Chef Doc , an online wellness and lifestyle education platform, which has been featured in several publications.
Dr. Zhu is an international speaker, author of the book, thrive medicine, how to cultivate your desires and elevate your life, and is also the podcast host of Thrive bytes, in which he interviews the latest health and wellness experts about incorporating a plant powered lifestyle, enhancing emotional wellness and creating a thriving mindset, which we really need in these days. His latest venture is his signature event for 2021 is the first virtual summit experience called the Thrive Formula, where he combines inspiration, education and practical tools on how to thrive. So today you’re going to hear about all of the amazing work that Dr. Zhu is doing. And so without ado, welcome. Welcome to the show.
Colin Zhu, DO, DipABLM: Thank you so, so much. when I listened back to you know that intro, I’m just like, Who is that guy? Sometimes when you do so much you just don’t remember what you did. And that kind of takes the fun out of it. Right? You have to be able to relish at times. I’m sure you have a lot of guests that are very high performing achievers, and sometimes it’s good to kind of savor what you’ve done. So, Chris, thank you so much, Dr. Loo, thanks so much for having me on the show. I really appreciate you’re doing this and elevating your platform and sharing with the masses. So it’s a privilege to be here.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Absolutely. I think in these times and age, a lot of physicians need to hear our messages. And so just to bring on experts and people outside of your expertise and niche. So this was much needed. So tell us about your journey. Really. That’s the way now. The first question I ask is always wanting to know how you got to where you want to be. The journey is always the most Interesting part.
Colin Zhu, DO, DipABLM: It is. So I usually start off this question with talking about my mother and can’t, can’t really start without Mom’s right. So I’m Chinese and heritage, my mom is a Chinese Medical Doctor. And I’m born to immigrant parents, originally from New Jersey and based in LA, and I say reference her because she’s really the one that kind of taught me about compassion, empathy, and looking at people in a very holistic manner. And when I went into medical school, I wanted to blend Western and Eastern philosophies. And unbeknownst to me, in your school that’s where you need to be educated. When I follow a lot of my mentors, practices, and slash lifestyle related curricula, the most recent survey says that only about 25% is actually required. Personally speaking, I only received 10 credit hours. And it was mainly in the form of biochemistry, right.
And so I felt like there is something I could go deeper with this, right. So right after I graduated from medical school, I dove deeper and I wanted to learn not just about nutrition, I wanted to learn more about food, where it came from, how its sourced, how’s it grown, how to mix flavors together, and how ultimately, all those different things affected our health and well being.
And so I enrolled myself into Culinary School. And then I got certified in Health Coaching, because the styles of a doctor and patient’s relationship is very different than a coach versus a client. So I needed to understand that type of counseling, and coaching style. And so, after I graduated from my residency practice, in family practice, I basically used it, because people like to ask me, why did I go to school? So to call their school? Was it just a hobby, I was like, No, I really wanted to enhance what I’ve been taught, and I used it to publicly speak, hold demos and hold workshops. Nowadays, during the pandemic, it’s more with food demos, and things like that. So that’s pretty much in a nutshell.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s an amazing story. And what’s interesting is the whole osteopathic, allopathic medical model we were trained in a certain way: diagnosis, treatment, medication tests, imaging. But what’s interesting is that rarely do you have Docs, such as yourself, go outside into other fields, such as culinary school, and to learn the relationship between diet. We know that diet is affecting our health, but we know that our food is sourced, it’s controlled by food companies, so they have their motives. So I find that very fascinating.
So, and so, it’s very interesting, because, what were some of the revelations that were going through shift school, and how in terms of the distribution, the sourcing of food, what did you do? What did you find that was shocking to you?
Colin Zhu, DO, DipABLM: So, there’s this quote. I don’t have the original author off the top of my head, but there’s a quote, I’m going to paraphrase, where the food system creates foods and products, without regard to your health. And the health system dispenses services and therapeutics without regard to food.
And so that kind of encapsulates a lot if you look at our top 10 causes of death, diseases, disability, diet is like, at top. And what’s interesting about diet is that, unlike smoking and alcohol, which we know that it’s bad for our health, and we could live without it, we can’t live without food. It comes into how we need to understand food. How does that affect every organ system? How does that affect my mood? How does it affect my immune system, gut health, those are more things that we talk about now. And I and it’s just a larger amount of layers to food. There’s an emotional aspect, there’s the culture aspect, it’s very political, right.
So I went to school. I went to a school that was unique about my schooling experience. It was one of the very first schools that was health supportive. And it was one of various four schools that was plant based. A lot of culinary schools are actually grounded in French technique, right? Nothing wrong with that. Except the techniques really emphasize using a lot, learning how to use fat and salt and butter. And just making food tastes good, right? So without the actual intention of how’s this going to affect our health in the long term. And so I made a decision to seek a school like that. And so that’s how I ended up in school.
And honestly, Chris, it was one of the best experiences of my life, it was a very great, grand experience that I would never, never forget. And it’s in Manhattan, it was in Manhattan, it has since been acquired by the Institute for Culinary Education. So it’s no longer there. But it was a very small, two level kitchen and school. There were like three kitchens in general. And it was just hustle and bustle. As you can imagine, behind the scenes in a busy restaurant, a commercial kitchen, there was a lot of hustle and bustle, it was just a lot of fun.
Doctors we’re used to writing with our prescription pad, we’re used to doing surgeries and procedures, but it’s very different, where you’re using all these other senses, your smell, your hearing, your touch, everything you’re utilizing, and it forces you to be present. And that’s what I really loved about it, in addition to eating amazing food,
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Awesome. It’s so interesting that you incorporated this. You went to practice medicine, and then you took a leap of faith and you were doing locums work, and then you were also. Finally, I think in 2020 that a lot of physicians made a lot of changes, and took a leap of faith.
You had emotional freedom, and you also had health freedom, and now you’re creating financial freedom. So tell us about that story in terms of the traditional healthcare model, and how do you see your skills and experience fitting in, and also how you’re impacting your audience in the world?
Colin Zhu, DO, DipABLM: There was a lot in that question. So, my path through medicine was very non-traditional, like you said. You alluded to me doing locums. So after I graduated, I went straight into locum tenens work. And so, for those that are not familiar, it’s kind of like being a substitute teacher for doctors, right. And so I use that, because when I came out, it wasn’t that attractive for me to sign a very long term contract to a hospital system or group practice, right. But that’s all we know. It wasn’t until maybe, maybe my second year towards the second year of residency, where I was introduced to a professor that did a couple years of locums work, before she created her own private practice in New York. And she described it to me and I was like, huh,I didn’t know what it was.
Similarly, I didn’t go into this but, I didn’t know what osteopathy was, before I found a DO school and ultimately delved into it. So I was like, What is locums work? And long story short, I just went into it. I needed to know what kind of physician I needed to be to practice. And so I use that and I practice in four different states, and varying different types of practice settings.
So I went to my first experience in North Vegas and an Indian Health Reservation. So learning about Indian Health, tribal facilities, I went to the VA in New Orleans. So I learned and dealt with a lot of veterans, predominantly in the substance abuse, drug abuse, mental health arena. And then I went to Seattle and got more immersed into community health, and it’s very diverse populations. They’re from people from Western Eastern Africa and Southeast Asia and things like that.
And then ultimately, I landed in California where I started serving underserved Latino communities and then ultimately ended up in Los Angeles. And so those experiences really helped guide me on a personal level and also on a professional level.
And then over time, I started the platform The ChefDoc because I needed an outlet initially and passion to be able to funnel my creativity, number one. But number two, more importantly, was, I practice mostly outpatient medicine. I’m not really a fan of the hospital. And I needed a way to be able to educate and teach more effectively than one on one counseling. And so I said to myself, what can I do? So I created this platform to be able to reach as many people that I normally wouldn’t cross past otherwise.
And so, The Chef Doc is basically a wellness and lifestyle platform where it just introduces a lot of different kinds of resources. Right? Yeah. And then over time, I’ve written a book about thriving, essentially. So combining my personal professional experiences in terms of learning how to thrive and my experiences with thriving. Because, like you’ve been saying, Chris, I want to do my best to lead by example, I want to do my best to be a role model. I can’t preach it if I can’t practice it myself. And so I wrote a book about it, it’s very action oriented. And then that was in 2017. And then, in 2019, is when I launch Thrive Bites, which is the podcast, and I interview amazing people, amazing, passionate people. And, yeah, so that brought me into the pandemic, and I just pivoted, and did something new. Something new.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that’s awesome. Because, for a lot of physicians, the pandemic was a breaking point. And a lot of creativity came out of the pandemic, especially in terms of the online, the social media, people creating summits, and just a whole host of new business revenue models for physicians. And you did that. And then what’s interesting is that you took, really your experience, and you leveraged that into a platform. We talk about one on one physicians helping patients or coaching, but what your platform does is it can reach thousands and millions.
So you’ve written books, it’s called Thrive Medicine: How to Cultivate Your Desires and Elevate Your Life. So be sure to check that out. And you should also pay attention to Dr. Zhu’s mindset. So it really is just a holistic integrative approach and sort of combining your personal life journey into impacting others. So you can also check out his podcast as well, that he mentioned. And then also, which is really fascinating, because I interviewed a lot of doctors that did a lot of summits, which is to say that this is a different skill, you have to bring in experts from so many different countries. So tell us about that journey? Tell us feel free to promote it.
Colin Zhu, DO, DipABLM: Yeah, thank you for that. And I love the fact that you’re able to observe how I’m leveraging my podcasting experience, especially my podcasting experience, because, I mean, Chris, I don’t know about you, but you don’t go into medicine thinking that you’re going to do all these different other things, right? So like writing a book, I had no idea I was gonna write a book, I felt like reading and literature class in junior high and podcasting. Podcasting was more because I really thrived. Personally, I really flourish on having awesome, impactful, purposeful conversations. And so I wanted to share that with the masses. And I didn’t know that was going to reach 100 countries. It’s amazing what the power of the internet — the positive aspects, can do.
But more importantly, what I want to emphasize is the art of medicine, because we emphasize so much on the science of medicine, and that’s important, but it’s very few instances where doctors and physicians can exercise that right part of their brain, their creativity.
So the summit, yes, thank you. So the summit was really birthed during last summer, towards the end of last summer, early fall, where I needed to do more. People are hurting, people are suffering we’re in this common thread of humanity where we all share something essentially right, it’s like, besides knowing that we’re all human and we’re all really the same underneath it doesn’t matter what creed color belief value system we are, we’re still a humanity.
At the end of the book, I thought, how can I do more? How can I impact more? How can I inspire more? So I decided to create my own virtual summit. It’s more than a summit actually. It’s what I would like to describe it as if it’s a thriving masterclass series. And there’s more than 50 speakers gathered, and it’s called The Thr5 Formula. And it’s based on five pillars. Food is medicine, so reestablishing cooking as a way of life. And we’re doing this from a whole foods plant based approach. We talk about functional fitness, using practical fitness, not to get to an ultramarathon or to compete in CrossFit. It’s more so how can we weather day to day obstacles and maintain our physical bodies.
We talk about relationships, so self care, interpersonal relationships, our relationship with something bigger than ourselves, we teach about resilience. Chris, I know you talk a lot about financial resilience, but we talk about resilience in terms of emotional and mental fortitude, and using that as a skill set. And then last, but not least, is community. How can I be of service? What does it mean to build a network and tribe and what is our environmental impact as a human species? So I use those five pillars as foundations, as a toolkit to go into the world and be able to thrive, is my hope. But yeah, it’s going to launch May 5th and it’s it’s going to be catered towards people who prioritize health and wellness, it’s going to be catered towards healthcare professionals, especially physicians there’s going to be CME with this, it’s going to be catered towards students pre-professional students, because, I don’t know about you, Chris. But I created the summit in the mindset that I wish I had something like this. Remember how I said that we had a lack of certain types of education. I wish I had something like this when I was a student. I created that in mind for the healthcare student as well. So, it’s gonna be big, it’s gonna be massive. And, yeah, just think of it as like a masterclass series, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s awesome. And for the listeners on the show, I’ll put the links to Dr. Zhu’s Summit. So really check it out. He has experts from those five pillars, but what really jumped out to me was that you had flexibility and movement, posture alignment, energy and also you also have Olympic Taekwondo athletes. So really check it out, and you’re gonna get a really whole integrative experience.
Colin Zhu, DO, DipABLM: Yeah, yeah, definitely. We got chefs. Dieticians. Coaches, just so many different passionate people. And yeah of course including Chris Loo here, himself. So, yeah, I mean, definitely check it out. And feel free to ask me questions I’m saying, so I definitely in a time like this, it’s all about connections, right? It’s all about not just consuming content, but it’s also about, like, how do we bridge the gap and connect with our fellow man in a personal and professional manner?
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. Yeah. The pandemic just I think, for a lot of creatives, it brought out the best in creativity and just people adjusting and weathering. iSo, what’s the best way for my audience to get in contact with you? And what’s your final parting words?
Colin Zhu, DO, DipABLM: So I guess my two websites were probably the best, you can find me on chefdoczhu.com. You will be able to contact me through there.
And, yeah, my parting remarks would be that, I don’t want to make it a cliche that life is short, but the pandemic has really taught us that life is precious. And I’m, I want I want you guys to find what you love, if you haven’t already, really, really immerse yourself in it, and then ultimately share that. I think that your greatest gift is if you could share what you love, because we all need each other at the end of the day.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, yeah. Society is just so stressed and filled with the crisis news network and just negativity. So we need more inspiring positive messages we get out there, the better. Dr. Zhu, thanks so much for coming on the show. We’ll put all the show notes and all the links in the resources below and we’ll see you next time.
Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.