Dr David Katz | Nutritionist & Founding Director of the Prevention Research Centre at Yale University

Dr. David Katz has a list of long and impressive achievements and is a true master in his field. As director of this clinical research laboratory dedicated to chronic disease prevention, Dr. Katz has served as principal investigator for many different community and clinical trials and has acquired and managed over $40 million in research funds. Katz has published around 200  scientific articles and chapters; innumerable abstracts, newsletter articles, health columns, essays, poems; and 12 books to date.
He is also the author of The Way to Eat. He has served as an adviser on weight control policy to the National Governors Association and gave the opening plenary address at a meeting of the nation’s governors in Washington, D.C., in February 2006. Dr Katz has also served as a consultant to the World Health Organization on standards of scientific evidence in complementary/alternative and traditional medicine. He has made over 100 appearances on Good Morning America and worked there for two and a half years. True Health Initiative was established in 2015, to help convert what we know about lifestyle as medicine into what we do about it, in the service of adding years to lives and life to years around the globe.


David-Katz-1-1My Definition of Success | I am still trying to figure it out.  as I have aged, my definition has evolved, but it really seems to remain a constantly moving target.  so much so, my ambivalence translated itself into a poem (pasted below), and the poem, in turn, evolved into a novel- and, for that matter, an entire trilogy, not yet done. There is an element of striving for distant prizes, certainly.  There is a compulsion to make a meaningful, measurable, positive difference in the world.  But then you ask yourself: who will remember this in 100 years?  what difference will it have made then?  Or, you look the ocean- or a starry sky- and realise how insignificant each of us is.  and then, success is very much closer to home.  It is love in the eyes of the people you love.  It is a blend of reciprocal comfort and passions.  It is children who are themselves figuring out what success means as they confront the world. The one thing I can say for sure is that each of us is obligated to figure this out for ourselves!


I Am Driven By | As a secular person, I believe this brief moment in the sun is the entire chance any of us has to matter.  I feel I have the capacity to make a meaningful, positive difference in the world- and so feel compelled to do just that. Partly, it is upbringing; partly, it is, I believe, my native constitution.  I also think it is one part altruism, and one part pure selfishness.  After all, if ‘doing good’ did not feel ‘good’ to me, I suppose I would be doing something else!  Viewed through the right lens, even the most apparently selfless acts are selfish, too. I have felt a need to distinguish myself as far back as I can remember, and that, I think, is purely selfish.  part of what drives me is that desire to set myself apart, to excel. If I had to pick a one word answer to this question, it would be honour.  it is honourable to do all the good you can, and dishonourable to do less.  It is honourable to strive and contribute, and persevere through triumph and disaster- and dishonourable to stop trying.  I guess, in the end, it is my own conception of honour, and what it requires to satisfy that relentless  task master, that drives me.


My Highlights |In my life, it is- predictably- my children.  My wife and I have raised 5 extraordinarily diverse kids, who now- as young adults- are one another’s best friends.  maybe we just stayed out of the way, or maybe our role was more active.  But however we managed it, we achieved something every parent hopes to see: the kids you love, loving one another.  It is a beautiful thing. In my career, it is doing the things I knew were important that everyone said could not be done. One example is Nuval.   The overall nutritional quality index algorithm that powers it is the world’s most sophisticated, best validated nutrient profiling system.  Even those working with me on it often repeated it could not be built.  but, it was.  I hope it winds up being put to far more universal use, but I don’t control that part. The other is a project I am working on now True Health Initiative this one, too, is all about something most argue can’t be done- showing there is a massive, global consensus among nutrition experts.  but with >250 thought leaders from 30 countries thus far, I think we have been able to prove it can be done.  The next chapter is to leverage the power of that global unity to change hearts, minds, behaviours, and outcomes. stay tuned!


Difference Between Good and Great | The thing people don’t like to talk about in our politically correct society is the obvious attribute: ability.  Salieri was good at music; Mozart was great!  it wasn’t about hard work, or attitude- it was about a difference in native gifts.  that’s not fair- but too bad for us all! But the other, thankfully, is much more under our control: passion.  Do what you love, and you will be far better at it than anything else you don’t love.  If you can align passion with native aptitudes, that’s where true greatness resides. But the best any of us can hope to do, and the best we can hope to be, resides in the realm of what we love.


David-Katz-2-1A Key Talent | Operationalising the details.  a lot of people dream of reaching the ‘heights,’ wherever exactly those may be for any one of us.  and many of those dreams are quite lovely.  but a dream won’t lift you; a ladder will.  a scaffold will.  or, under the right circumstances, an elevator, crane- or even a helicopter.The point is that getting anything done is about practical details.  It can begin with a vision of dream, but dreams are where a lot of very good ideas go to die, because there is nothing in place to translate them into the real world.  the difference between those how merely dream, and those who realize their dreams is, I believe, all about the details of operations.  First this, then that, then the next thing…an assembly line of steps that leads to the intended product.  I have worked very hard to indulge my inner dreamer, and then send all of his dreams to the engineering department…those dreams that invite a series of manageable, practical, operational steps are the ones that occupy my time.


The Characteristics Of Success | You will hear from everyone who succeeds that success involves the capacity to fail, and then pick yourself up and persevere.  I totally agree!  so, the formula is resourcefulness, relentlessness, resolve- and resiliency!


Principles I Live By | Honour, above all.  Do what is right simply because it is right.  All else follows.


How I Use My Mind | The brain, or mind, is a resource- like a computer, or even a tool kit.  It can be used well or poorly.  The very same computer can perform well in the hands of someone with relevant skills, and less well in the hands of someone who doesn’t really know how to use it.  ditto the tool kit, which can produce beautiful products when used by a master carpenter – and refuse in the wrong hands.
I have always thought of my brain as a resource I could cultivate.  I exercise it.  I test it.  and, I place high demands on it.  I am not interested in just ‘having’ some kind of intelligence, any more than I am interested in being able to do some fixed number of sit- ups, or chin ups, or push ups.  I can train my muscles to respond to my demands- and do as many chin ups or sit-ups as I say!  I have a similar relationship with my brain, forcing it into challenging situations, and demanding that it ‘step up.’  it usually works out, although best not to count on me for advances in quantum physics.


Lessons I Have Learnt | Failure is inevitable and even success may come in disguise.  be flexible- find a way.  It won’t necessarily be the way you expected or wanted.  but it will be a way, even so.


Dealing With Doubt | How about every Monday morning?
Three answers:
(1) Dive in.  Just as the unknown is the scariest thing of all, the un-done is the most intimidating. Generally the best remedy when overwhelmed is to define some part of the intimidating challenge, and dive into it.  the next thing you know, the mountain is a mole hill.
(2) Honor, again.  The compass of ‘do what is right’ has reoriented me when I have felt lost.
(3) A hug from my wife.  As noted at the start, it’s unclear whether success has more to do with changing the world, or deserving love from the one person you love the most.  what is the stronger force: gravity, or love?  What matters more: the death of a star is some far corner of the cosmos, or the death of someone you love?  It may be the things up close that matter most.  I’ll take a hug from my wife when i am feeling undone, every time.


Performing At My Peak | I practice what I preach.  I eat optimally, exercise daily, try to sleep enough, and so on.  I have had many patients over the years who told me they were too busy to exercise; I have always maintained I am far too busy not to! Over recent years, I have also added more recreation to my routine, principally in the form of horseback riding. Getting a horse (troubadour) and cultivating that relationship took recreation from the realm of something expendable, to something I started taking seriously.  That has added something important to my life.


David-Katz-3Resources I Use To Stay Inspired |Books: I am always reading something, usually non-fiction, and generally exploring new ideas.  I love relaxing with movies and music.  My family keeps me inspired – there is no tonic better than love and laughter.

 


My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I want True Health Initiative to change the world, adding years to lives, life to years, and fortifying the health of the planet into the bargain.  I intend to make sure it does!


The Meaning Of Life | Frankly, I think we just wind up here or we don’t- just like every penguin or porcupine or pine tree.  The difference is: we think to ask this question, and can strive to answer it.  Whatever we choose to do in the service of answering this question- is the answer to this question!


The Best Advice I’ve Received | Accept failure.


Advice On Building Wealth | Seems a misguided ambition to me.  True, we all like a flush bank account.  but my advice would be: focus on the change you want to make in the world, something great.  focus on doing good.  then, do well in the service of it.  The world will mostly unremember its billionaires.  but it will never unremember newton, or Shakespeare.  Money should be a by-product of ambition fulfilled, not the definition of it.  one guy’s opinion.


I Am Inspired By | I greatly admire Richard Dawkins.  Advancing the public understanding of science is a very powerful agenda.


The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | My lifelong body of work measurably changed the prevailing understanding of lifestyle/diet and health, and changed behaviors in a way that serves to add years to lives and life to years.  It is possible- but enormously. Challenging.  If I fall short of this goal, I will have failed.  but, of course, the best advice I ever got was…accept failure. I will all I can, however, to avoid it!