The following interview was conducted by Michelle Madden for The Sweet Beet:

“How’s your digestion?” Abdi asked me as he released a needle into the flesh of my shoulder. My digestion was fine, and so that concluded our conversation about food. But I knew he had a lot more to say, and I knew that if what he did have to say about food was even half as wise as all the other things he’d ever said to me, I wanted to listen. So, I asked Abdi (an acupuncturist, spiritual counselor, and author of Shadows on the Path) if he’d let me turn the questions on him and share his views on food.

MM: You’ve worked closely with well-known people such as Sheryl Crow and Norma Kamali (who have been very public with their thanks and respect for you), but also with homeless drug addicts. Is there always a correlation between healthy eating and a healthy body, or can some people make a meal of french fries without consequence?

ABDI: I treat people, not famous people or poor people. We’re all the same. People with money just have access to more options.

Depending on your constitution, you either have to be super attentive to food or, in some cases, you can eat crap and be fine. But for most of us, because of intense stress, exhaustion, and toxins, we need to pay close attention to what we eat.

MM: Why are we so challenged in our relationship with food?

ABDI: We are a culture of addicts. Addiction is any process where we’re not in the moment. Food is a drug we use to numb and control ourselves. The profound spread of eating disorders (including overeating) in our culture can be traced back to this fact. The insane focus on our physical presentation also plays a big role.

MM: Mood and food, what’s the connection?

ABDI: Some people have serious biochemical imbalances, but we all benefit from cleaning out our diet. Keeping stable blood sugar is a powerful mood stabilizer.

MM: What’s damaging us the most? 

ABDI: Sugar and refined foods destroy the body. Period. For most, just cleaning those two out would bring profound changes.

MM: Any other ways we’re inadvertently harming ourselves when we abuse this drug called “food”?

ABDI: It’s being discovered that inflammation is the root cause of most disease, and our diet of processed foods is a big contributor. Gluten is a monster lurking for many people and can mask itself in a myriad of symptoms. Take a week off and see how you feel. Most people respond positively. Dairy can also wreak havoc on some people; I had intense sinus infections as well as food allergies in my late teens, and discovered that cutting out dairy totally cleared them up.

MM: Other food practices you advise?

ABDI: Eat less. Systematic “under-eating” is a good practice. Most of us eat far more than we need. Studies show “under-eating” really helps longevity and health. But skipping meals has negative effects as well. I’m also a believer in keeping protein and starch separate to aid digestion.

MM: Are you a supporter of fasting as detox?

ABDI: Depends on your health. Most people go too far with fasting. Short-term fasting is best done in warm weather when you can rest. 

MM: This is not very uplifting, give us the good news.

ABDI: Eat greens. They are a cure for many ailments.

MM: Raw greens?

ABDI: Raw food can blow out some people’s digestion. For others, it’s amazing. Generally, when we are in warm weather we can do raw. In a freezing place, unless you are using warming herbs, it can cool your system too much. I am a big fan of root veggies in soups, and broths in winter.

MM: What about juicing?

ABDI: Juicing is fantastic. Go easy on sweet fruits and vegetables. Stick with greens.

MM: Are supplements worth it?

ABDI: Our soil is depleted which is robbing food of a lot of its nutrients. Digestive enzymes are useful, as are super greens.

MM: Meat or no meat?

ABDI: I would say a third of people I see do perfectly well on a vegan diet, another third need some animal protein (such as eggs), another third need a larger amount. Most people who eat meat though, eat way too much.

MM: Your favorite food?

ABDI: Kale, in any form. Arugula is amazing. I love Italian food, and do enjoy it from time to time.

MM: The one meal you could eat over and over again?

ABDI: Steamed kale with lemon and olive oil dressing.

MM: Most memorable meal?

ABDI: That would be about the person, not the meal.

MM: Are you optimistic or pessimistic that we can reverse the obesity trend?

ABDI: Pessimistic as long as corporations dictate our food policy through control of our government. The growing epidemic of poverty of wallet and mind also makes processed food an easy choice.

MM: If you had the power to effect one change that would make the biggest difference to people’s health, what would it be?

ABDI: Make sugar and corn syrup a prescription drug.

MM: Parting thoughts?

ABDI: After religion, nothing brings up more emotion than food. We can get dogmatic. People either don’t give a damn and eat whatever, or get fixated. The middle road is what we should aim for. Why are we so fixated? To leave a good corpse? We need to taste our life.