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The Published Author Podcast

PSYCHIATRIST DR. DREW RAMSEY WROTE FOUR BESTSELLERS ON MENTAL HEALTH, INCLUDING A COOKBOOK

Years ago, psychiatrist, Dr. Drew Ramsey saw first-hand the impact of the second-generation of antipsychotic drugs on his patients.

While the drugs may have alleviated the symptoms of psychiatric illnesses, they were hard on the body and mind. Patients gained excessive weight and developed problems with the lipid balances in their blood.

It didn’t take long for a book idea to formulate. Drew tells Published Author Podcast host Josh Steimle: “Nobody in mental health was talking about food. No one taught us how to talk about food. There was not a single lecture.

“It really hit me as a young physician. I remember thinking: ‘Wow, fats come from fish.’, recalls Drew. “We always talk about supplements and molecules in isolation. We studied B12, we didn’t study clams, but if you want to really up your intake of B12, just eat clams for months.”

Drew is an author, farmer, and founder of the Brain Food Clinic in New York City, offering treatment and consultation for depression, anxiety, and emotional wellness concerns. He is the author of three books, including the award-winning cookbook Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients that Fuel Brain Power, Boost Weight Loss and Transform Your Health and his latest book, Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety: Nourish Your Way to Better Mental Health in Six Weeks.

A CO-AUTHOR IMPROVED FIRST BOOK’S READABILITY

Drew quickly moved from writing down his ideas on scraps of paper to finding a co-author, Tyler Graham, to work on his first book, The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body.

Tyler is a journalist and had a lot of experience writing for the public. Says Drew: “That first book was really my education.

“Writing about science is boring! You gotta make it interesting and relevant and compelling,” he explains. “People want to hear your opinion of what they should eat and you can back that up with all kinds of evidence, but it comes down to your opinion.

“So working with a co-author has been huge, especially when I think about how my processes evolved to the team that I now work with.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF DEADLINES IN WRITING

Drew says that many writers miss the importance of deadlines in writing. If you want to get the work done, a deadline is crucial. He learned this lesson working with Tyler. The two men held regular meetings three mornings a week for two-hour sessions. Each had their own work to complete for the morning sessions.

The Happiness Diet required a ton of research because Drew and Tyler had to learn so much about food, including agriculture and the food production and distribution process. However, the hard work laid the foundation for Drew’s next books. He gave himself an education and could build on that knowledge with his next books. 

Drew and Tyler were in fact two of the early key figures in what is today called mental fitness. “Mental fitness really begins with nutritional psychiatry, this idea that there are things in your life . . . the everyday choices you make . . . they influence your brain health and your brain is the keeper of your mental health,” explains Drew.

Today, there is now a tremendous amount of support for Drew’s research and writing. He notes: “There are multiple randomized trials showing if you improve dietary quality and move people towards a more traditional diet, you can significantly decrease the burden of depression and anxiety.”

WRITING BOOKS JUST ONE SMALL PART OF SHARING MESSAGE

Drew says that writing a book is just one part of his work to evangelize about healthy eating and mental fitness. A lot of the work is around content creating and delivering his message so that people get excited about the possibilities of food and mental health. 

“Whatever you're doing, whether it’s improving your relationship or dealing with mood or anxiety, it’s all about brain phenomena,” he says. “It’s been a really exciting evolution in terms of what it’s done for me.”

His key messages for authors include:

FOCUS ON THE LONG-HAUL

Drew believes that each promotional opportunity is part of a big picture around a book. He focuses on the long-haul with each book, and as each opportunity arises he looks for its place in the creation of his platform.  

THE SECRET TO A SUCCESSFUL TEDX TALK

Drew has delivered TEDx talks and some of them have been based on his books’ content. He finds them “terrifying and challenging” at the same time. His big learning over the years is that a successful TEDx presentation comes from balance: a combination of a state of flow and following the arc of your key points.

“Just channeling your truth and keeping it simple is really important,” notes Drew.

IT TAKES A TEAM TO MAKE A SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR

Drew is deliberate in his approach to progressing his work, saying he works on his career as an author with the same discipline he applies to his diet and mental health. He recognizes too that a strong team is important, and this includes his agent along with the people who help him translate his ideas and vision, design his books, all the way through to co-authors and other business partnerships.

“You’ve got to dedicate yourself to the process and have deadlines. Really enjoying that process is important, too,” says Drew, adding that it’s essential that authors create a team with people who care about them and support their work. 

“It's one of the ways that I really think about mental health and what our brains are here for, that our brains do best when we are connected. We have our own internal process, but I would say almost spiritually that we're here doing what we're meant to be doing, and we're doing it with other people that we care about.”

SHARE ON THE PLATFORMS THAT WORK FOR YOU

Social media wasn’t an easy leap for Drew. As a doctor and psychiatrist, he had to take into consideration privacy considerations and how to handle patients contacting him online. Eventually, he found his place on Instagram, which he feels really comfortable with. 

Learn more: If you appreciated this episode, listen to:

Bestselling Author Tells How Books Built His Career

And:

Publisher Said Go Niche With Book, But Author Goes For Broad Appeal

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ABOUT THE HOST

The Published Author Podcast is hosted by Josh Steimle, founder of Published Author. Josh is a book author himself and his article writing has been featured in over two dozen publications including Time, Forbes, Fortune, Mashable, and TechCrunch. He's a TEDx speaker, the founder of the global marketing agency MWI, a skater, father, and husband, and lives on a horse farm in Boston. Learn more at JoshSteimle.com.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Josh Steimle:

Today my guest is Dr. Drew Ramsey. Drew is a psychiatrist, author and farmer. He's also the author of four books. They are Eat Complete, the Happiness Diet, Fifty Shades of Kale, and the newly released Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety. Drew is the founder of the Brain Food Clinic in New York City, which provides treatment and consultation for depression, anxiety, and emotional wellness concerns. Drew has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Lancet Psychiatry, The Today Show, BBC, NPR, and he's given three TEDx Talks. Drew, welcome to the show.

Drew Ramsey:

Thank you so much, Josh. It's great to be here. Hey, everybody listening, great to be with you.

Josh Steimle:

We were just talking before we started recording that Drew just is moving from New York to Jackson, Wyoming, nice transfer there. And we talked a little bit about his farm, which he said is mostly forest. But give us a little bit more of the background on you, Drew, and who you are, and how you ended up going into medicine and how you got to where you are today.

Drew Ramsey:

All right. Well, hey everyone. I'm Drew Ramsey. I'm a physician mostly, I’m a psychiatrist. So I specialized in the treatment of mental health concerns, and I started this journey on a farm in really rural Indiana where my parents moved as part of this kind of back to the land movement in the late 70s. And so, was raised in a really rural existence, really doing a lot of gardening, and trying their hand at farming, kind of they were learning a lot about the part of that generation that got really curious about the land and about organic farming. And it's been really interesting now to see this kind of next wave of that been happening over the last 15 years. So I really love science, and I really love nature, and so, I was really fortunate in Indiana, there's a great [inaudible 00:01:53] school for smart kids called the Indiana Academy. So when I was 16, I got to go start at the school at Boston University, and be with a bunch of other really creative smart kids. That was probably one of the most formative experiences for me. It just really helped with my confidence, helped from being kind of the, I don't know, weird, nerdy kid to like hanging out with other weird nerdy kids.
And then, I went to Earlham College, which was a great liberal arts school in – is a great liberal arts school in Indiana, but it was great for me. I got to run track and play basketball and be in the theater, but also be premed. And so often going into medicine, like that's all you're allowed to do, and so, it was really great to be in an environment that supported all those creative interests. After medical school at Indiana University, it's just another amazing experience, I went to Columbia, I was 26 at that point. And so, I finished medical school, and my wife and my fiancée and I moved out to New York City, where I trained at Columbia University. If you know psychiatry or mental health, Columbia has a really special spot, it's one of the really top training institutions, top research institutions. And so, right when I got there, Eric Kandel won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, and so, it was literally like I'm this intern from rural Indiana in my white coat, and the elevator opens up to this huge reception in the basement of the first floor of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and they're celebrating a Nobel Prize. And so, I don't know, that sort of to me was just amazing to kind of quickly go from this really rural existence to be around all these amazing minds, thinking about mental health.

Josh Steimle:

Must have been pretty inspiring.

Drew Ramsey:

It was super inspiring, especially when you meet these folks who are just legends in the field, they're just wonderful men and women, they're so caring, they're such great physicians. So often, I think psychiatry, there's a stigma around it, and to be with these just incredible leaders in the field as my mentors, to be really at a place that honored mental health and honored psychiatry and honored emotional health, it was just, for me, it's just one of the most formative experiences probably after my special high school; and still staying on the faculty at Columbia and getting to teach and being involved with them is just a wonderful part of all this for me.

Josh Steimle:

When you started med school, did you know you wanted to go into psychiatry or what sparked that interest?

Drew Ramsey:

I didn't. I was interested in family medicine. I liked the idea of doing everything. I really liked OB/GYN, but I didn't really feel I could do that as a man somehow. But I loved the idea that you could have continuity with a patient, you could be there during a really formative amazing experience, usually for women childbirth. And then, I liked the idea you could do a lot of surgery that just seemed like the perfect field. But for a variety of reasons, I got really interested in psychiatry, I guess, one had to do with just being on the inpatient units and would usually start and you see how the mind breaks. And we don't often see that in public and we see it in public a little bit, but you don't get to really explore it and understand it, and then see people get better. And that was just very powerful to see people go from severely psychotic and manic to feeling well and back to their normal mood and normal self. And then I got into treatment, I had a hard time in medical school with my mood and some with anxiety. I never really talked about that before. This last book, and now in 2021, we'll talk more about mental health, but I started therapy myself in medical school. I just got, I don't know, really, I guess, in a bit of a conundrum about what I was doing and how I was feeling. And so, that was really helpful...

Josh Steimle:

It's a stressful situation, right?

Drew Ramsey:

It's stressful, and I treated a lot of medical students now, which is a real just privilege to treat other people who are coming into the field and an honor. But I remember that so vividly of just [inaudible 00:06:01] kind of the 20s just this burden of what is to come and working so hard to make it something good for yourself.

Josh Steimle:

So tell us more about what path your career took after that, you [inaudible 00:06:13] interning and then how did your career develop after graduating from med school?

Drew Ramsey:

Yes, I finished med school and then I went to residency in adult psychiatry, it's a four-year residency, and they're rotating through the hospitals up at Columbia, and in the New York State Psychiatric Institute. And when I finished, I started in community psychiatry, which is really an interesting aspect of psychiatry. Traditionally, community psychiatry takes care of folks with severe mental illness. So schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, folks who need to be in a day program, which is what I started helping out with, and then running up in the northern part of Manhattan in Washington Heights. And so, I was helping managing a team of a number of clinicians, I was taking care of 100 plus patients who would come to us every day, and we'd serve them lunch. And I guess, this is where, in my personal life, I was exercising, and I was a vegetarian, and I practice mindfulness, and I love to stretch. And in my professional life, we didn't really talk very much about that. And these worlds converged, there was a new class of medications came out, that came out second generation anti-psychotics, everybody started getting prescribed these, and the hope or thought was they had fewer side effects. The reality was not exactly that, the reality was a lot of patients gained an incredible amount of weight, got diabetes, got hypertension, got dyslipidemia, and so lipid problems.
So that really then forced me to consider how do I understand nutrition in the clinical space. And the simple fact was that we didn't. Nobody in mental health was talking about food. No one taught us how to talk about food. There was not a single lecture. I trained at great institutions. There was no nutrition training. There was biochemistry and organic chemistry, and that just really struck me, especially as the research started coming out about the omega-3 fats. And I remember that moment I sit in my apartment in New York, as a young physician, maybe still in training, and then it kind of hit me like, wow, omega-3 fats come from fish, because we always think about these supplements or these molecules in isolation. We study them in science, we studied B12, we don't study clams. But if you want to really up your intake of B12, just eat clams [inaudible 00:08:42] month, I mean, they've got more B12 than anything else on the planet. And that just lead into what is now this field, nutritional psychiatry, I think I was probably one of the first, if not the first folks, to really be thinking about how do we incorporate nutrition into our clinical practice in mental health settings, what kind of data do we need to do that better. And then clinically, because I like seeing patients, how do you slide that into an evaluation in a way that isn't offensive to people, and that isn't irresponsible. You come to see me, you're really depressed, you're struggling with a substance use or you just have a really hard time in your marriage. You don't want to hear like, all right, Josh, talk to me about the wild salmon at night, what are you eating boy. Right? It has to be practiced responsibly and in a context, because we have a lot to do otherwise in mental health.

Josh Steimle:

We've kind of been conditioned to expect some sort of magic pill that solves every problem, and we want to believe that there's some silver bullet that we can just take this pill and that's going to cure everything.

Drew Ramsey:

I don't know where that came from, Josh, especially with our mental health, like your brain, everyone listening, your brains are very unique and specially probably you have a little book idea thinking about that, and it's brewing, and I remember that feeling. And I can say that, certainly for me, the turning point was really going from scribbling down a lot of stuff to forming a partnership with my first coauthor, Tyler Graham, and really setting aside some time. We started meeting in a coffee shop every week, something crazy, it was like eight to 10, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and we both show up. And with just a lot of really simple ideas and a need for a lot of research, I remember some of those early sketches were of just kind of what almost sort of a brain dump, what was out there about nutrition and mental health. And then, just a tremendous amount of research, probably more time learning and thinking than it's been since I'd been in training. And yeah, it all really led to this explosion of thinking in creativity around how do I combine these two disparate fields, or, how do I combine mental health and clinical mental health specifically, right – what we do with patients and how we get them better.
And then what we know about – what we're now calling mental fitness, but really begins with nutritional psychiatry, this idea that there are things in your life every day that you do, choices you make, and they influence your brain health. And that therefore influences and is kind of, your brain is the keeper of your mental health. And so, whatever project you're thinking about, whether it's improving your relationship, or whether it's improving your mood, or having less anxiety, you're really talking about brain phenomena. And it's been an exciting evolution in terms of what it's done for me. I mean, the books and the content creation, which is really, you know, the book is just one piece of it, I think people think about writing the book. And that's definitely a part of it, but there's certainly just the push to promote the book, to talk about the book, to create content around the book that really always has you thinking in a creative mindset about how do you better communicate this information, how to get people excited about it.

Josh Steimle:

It's interesting that you bring up that you had a partner in this that you were working with somebody, what kind of impact do you feel like that had on the writing process and the brainstorming process to have somebody that you had the standing appointment with, to meet with and report to?

Drew Ramsey:

Yeah, it was really helpful, and I think that anytime you're early or new in the book writing process, partnering up, whether it's with an agent or with a coach, or with a coauthor, like I did [inaudible 00:12:22] a journalist, and had a lot of experience writing for the public, which, as a physician I didn't. And so, in some ways, that first book was really my education of like, writing about science is boring, you got to make it interesting and relevant and compelling, and people want to hear your opinion of what they should eat. And you can back that up with all kinds of evidence, but it's going to come down to that. So I think that's been huge, especially now, when I think about how my process has evolved in the team that I now work with, and we have to help with everything, from content creation to partnerships, to thinking about books, to thinking about social. It really began with that first idea of, how do I [inaudible 00:13:11] I used to think ahead, as a lot of people do, I had to do it all, I had to have the creative ideas, I had to have the vision, I had to write it all down, I had to file the posts on the web and the blogs, and I still like to do a lot of it, it's sort of annoying. But having deadlines is the most important thing in the book writing process that people miss. And if it's just a deadline to a person you're meeting with at a coffee shop, that is an important step to take.

Josh Steimle:

So with your first book, how did you narrow down all the research, all the ideas, all the information that you were filtering through, how did you decide, this is what I want to focus on for this first book, this is what it's going to be about?

Drew Ramsey:

Oh gosh, Josh you are taking me back to ancient history, this is like 10 years ago, I just launched the fourth book. So it started with – my book start with titles usually. And so, the happiness [inaudible 00:14:07] I’ve been carrying around that title in my head for a couple of years, and my wife would joke, we'd be out at a party, and I’d hear somebody was like in publishing or writer and literally like, a minute later, I'd be like, so I’ve got this great idea for a book. [inaudible 00:14:20] you either need to start doing this or stop talking about it, but you got to – if you're going to talk about it so much, you got to do it, you can't just talk about this idea. And so, at that point, there were a number of things I had to learn as a physician. I had to learn about the food supply, I knew something about that, I’d always been interested in food, but I really didn't know a lot. And so, we went to a couple of conferences where I got to look at, you know, it's easy to criticize modern processed food. When you go and walk through a giant convention center filled with all of the machines that make your food, all of the different flavorings and colors and additives that are being sold to food processors that are put in your food, it was just eye-opening. We went out to Salina, Kansas, and learned about regenerative agriculture, about pasture, about grass feeding, all the stuff that, hey, just, one, we didn't really learn about or think about in medicine at all, I would say, we still don't very much; and two, it's just very eye opening to me that in medicine, we had this very almost two-dimensional view of nutrition, and this larger food system that was kind of swirling around us, and in some ways, more importantly, was really taking advantage of in harming the health of our patients. It just really hit me in the face that we were in some ways asleep at the switch, and that got me really excited about this idea that there – first of all, there wasn't a lot in the space. There really weren't folks in mental health talking about the importance of nutrition and lifestyle, more than just a little bit right? We told people sleep hygiene is important, exercising is important, but we wouldn't really push in terms of our interventions, and in terms of the science behind those interventions, which now, I mean, what's really changed is a tremendous amount of science now supporting these ideas, multiple randomized trials showing, if you improve dietary quality, and move people towards a more traditional diet, you can significantly decrease the burden of depression and anxiety. So it's been fun to sort of see that happen.

Josh Steimle:

Now you've done three TEDx Talks, did any of those come out before your first book, or, were they after the book?

Drew Ramsey:

Oh boy. I think the first TEDx Talk was after the first book.

Josh Steimle:

And was that based on the material from your first book?

Drew Ramsey:

Yeah, all of my TEDx Talks, I'm trying to connect up this notion of nutrition and mental health, and in all of my talks, I try and do those in a variety of ways. I think in my most recent talk Feed Your Mental Health, I really try to expand on the idea of how do we consider mental health and kind of what works in mental health, this idea that we still really diagnose and treat people with a couch. And that we all need to step up a little bit, and think about our mental health as something that we all really play a role in, that we all have very important set of activities that we should be engaging in on a daily and weekly basis to take care of our brains. And so, in the last TEDx Talk, I try and share some of the data, some of the exciting data, means stuff like there was a study of college students in Australia, where they just show them a video about eating healthier to protect their mental health and give them some diet tips and a little box of nut butters and nuts and olive oils, and include them – encourage them to eat more plants and have a well-rounded diet. And these were depressed college students, depressed teenagers with poor eating habits. And they found out both at three and six months, there was a significant reduction in formal writing skills of depression, stress and anxiety. And so, it's been a very exciting emergence. But in terms of the TED Talks, those were really fun, they were exhausting, I would say, there's a really hard tension in a TED Talk between being there in the moment, I wouldn't say, unscripted, but, as Brene Brown says, sort of a, there to present kind of in a state of flow. And then the notion that you have a set of points in an arc of your talk, I found them to be really kind of terrifying and challenging all at the same time.

Josh Steimle:

I did a TEDx Talk a number of years ago, and I can testify to the terror and how much it takes out of you do that simple 15-minute talk.

Drew Ramsey:

Yeah, it's interesting how we – to me, what was interesting is no matter how much you can try and really be prepared, the more prepared I felt I was, the less satisfied I was with, at least, personally, it felt somehow really just channeling your truth and keeping it simple is really important.

Josh Steimle:

So did you see any impact on book sales or attention driven to the book when you did the TEDx Talk, was there some interplay there?

Drew Ramsey:

I think there's some, I mean, for anybody who's in the book space, how you sell and get attention for your book is a little, I guess, confusing. I've seen things, for example, there are certain TV shows, CBS Sunday Morning or The Today Show where you're on the show, and you see some books sell. Certainly, the TEDx Talks help but those are, I would say, pieces of Evergreen Media that are out there about you that people find, they hear, they like, and maybe they purchase your book. I think for a lot of folks with podcasts and TEDx Talks, they get what they need, in terms of hearing a sampling of your ideas. I hope we will tell everybody to eat seafood, greens, nuts and beans and a little dark chocolate, Josh, because that feels like my mission on this earth, and more anchovies, and more fermented foods. But the TEDx Talks, I think, help overall, in terms of your process, I mean, for me, all the stuff, it's wonderful, I feel really honored to have been on these outlets to get to contribute, to get to be referred to and thought of as someone whose voice matters in the conversation, that's just been an incredible responsibility and a privilege.
But as you do this – I wouldn't say this, I would say and – and, as you do this, as your book comes out, and you do this, you see that it's like anything, it's a craft that you hone. And so, what would just get my heart rate up to 150 and have me dancing few years ago, how I think about that piece of media now probably is different, not that it's any less exciting, it's still exciting, but the gears that are turning inside my brain, I would say, are more veteran in a certain way, and really focused on the long haul of a book. For example, my last book came out almost [inaudible 00:21:26] exactly 90 days ago. And so, I'm really aware as an author that I’m slowing down a little bit. But even though I’m doing maybe, let's say, 3 to 10 interviews, Instagram, all that stuff, a week, there's something about the intentionality of pushing the ideas of the book, but I've just been aware of my process, I want to refresh. And so, that's, I guess, the kind of your question was, how does the TEDx fit in maybe, is that it's one of those pieces that, as an author, you're just, you’re trying to put all of this together in terms of the creation of your platform, the partnerships, whether that's with people who are going to help you with content, or whether that's people who are going to help you with your ideas, or the translation of your ideas, whether those are the people who help you with the visual look of your brand, and whether those people who just help you with the organization that, as you both build the team and build pieces of your platform, it comes together for everybody else differently. But I think really enjoying that process and dedicating yourself to it, just like we work on meditation game and our physical fitness of really thinking about that platform building with discipline and with deadlines.

Josh Steimle:

What kind of platform did you have when your first book came out, and what are some of the lessons you've learned about building your platform since then?

Drew Ramsey:

Oh boy! I remember when we got my first big book deal [inaudible 00:22:55] the David Black Agency was our agent, still has been my agent for all four of my books, and is wonderful in terms of partnerships. As soon as you can get an agent, get an agent, because authors – how do I put this – a lot of times we don't know even a lot about books [inaudible 00:23:10] we know something. But your agent is really who helps you understand both how to sell a book, but getting it sold. And it's just so wonderful to get to work with a literary agent. So I didn't have much of a platform, I mean, social media was brand new. Joy said, are you on Twitter. I said, what's Twitter. This is like 2009-2010. I didn't have a website, that was terrifying – because mental health professionals, you didn't do that back then, like going on social media basically meant you were like a huge narcissist with tremendous need for attention. It's very [inaudible 00:23:49] isn't true about me, but I guess, I like some attention here and there. And having a website, I mean, I'm of a profession where it's like a debate whether you should give – back then, should patients have your cell phone, should you text with a patient. I mean, it was really, I remember that we had rooms, it'd be like [inaudible 00:24:06] another resident like texted with the patient. There'd be like, what's this mean, are we allowed to do this.

Josh Steimle:

Is that ethical? Is that even allowed?

Drew Ramsey:

Is that ethical, right? Is it a boundary violation? And so, things came on very quickly – for me, I started a Facebook page, I had a personal Facebook page, but I started a professional page. There was a lot of hubbub in my field, and in medicine in general about privacy settings, and what happens if a patient messaged you, a lot of handwringing, which I found to be super annoying and juvenile with medicine. There's a way, I mean, I appreciated that there were significant concerns about confidentiality and safety, but it does feel like medicine was very late to the game in terms of social media, and mental health, in particular. That's really changed now. I mean, it's really awesome now but... So then I went through different phases. I was on Twitter, and really liked Twitter for a while. And then, I was more kind of Facebook. And then when Facebook kind of video and lives came out, I was excited about that. And then somehow Instagram really just spoke to me, there's something about the simplicity of it, the visual nature of it, I found that to be really challenging because it's mental health, like, how do you make a picture of that, how do you capture something about that. And then Instagram has really remained my preferred platform, and the one that, to me, kind of, I don't know, feels – I think about it as a creative platform, that notion of deadlines. Like I’m feeling kind of a little guilty this morning, Josh would be honest, this maybe sounds silly to people, but I had a really nice real kind of setup, and I kept losing [inaudible 00:25:41] I didn't post, first time I have posted in a long time. I like that daily deadline that you've got to create something, you've got to create some goodness in the world and put it out there, do your best, a pretty picture, a thought, a quote, and something around mental health and nutrition and mental fitness.

Josh Steimle:

That's great. So tell us about the inspiration for the second book – what made you feel like there's another book out there and I need to write that one too?

Drew Ramsey:

I don't know how that last one happened. That was kind of like the universe just deposited a [inaudible 00:26:13] like titles. So I had this title pop into my head, Fifty Shades of Kale, and I just couldn't get it out of...

Josh Steimle:

Great title.

Drew Ramsey:

Thank you, and people giggled, and so, this was, let's kind of zoom back, so this is, the Happiness Diet comes out, it was 2011. It had been an arduous process. We've gone through a number of edits, the launch, it was my first book, you go in with expectations like this is the Happiness Diet, who doesn't want this, you're going to be bestseller. And then the reality – the book did well, but just what it's like promoting a book for the first time, all of the events, all of the talks of the interviews. There's also a little bit pre-social media. And so, Fifty Shades of Kale does seem like fun to me. I muttered it as a joke to my agent who said that's funny, maybe you should do an eBook. eBooks were then new, and again, I knew how to cook kale a few ways, but I partnered up with Jennifer Iserloh who'd done the recipes for the Happiness Diet. She sort of vetted all of our recipes. And quickly, we put together some kale recipes. She's a chef, so she put together this list of recipes. We worked on a little bit, we wrote a little intro, and suddenly, we had an eBook and we put it out there and we gave it away for free and it suddenly went to number one on Amazon for free downloads. And so, that was exciting.
And our publisher, Karen Rinaldi, was interested and wanted to do a hardcover and gave us a little a little bit of money to shoot some pictures, and my friend – we went back to my farm where we had a bunch of kale growing, and my boyhood friend, childhood friend, Ian McSpadden had grown up into a commercial photographer. And so, on this little budget, we went to the farm and broke out all of my parents' various, you know, my mom's a potter, so there's all kinds of plates and dinnerware, and they kind of have like little props set, and we would follow the sun across the house, kind of, in the different rooms and shot all day for about a week. And Jen was cooking, I was food styling. Uli, Jen's husband was there helping with tech. It was really just – it's one of the things that makes books lovely and fun. And if you're feeling alone in your book, if you're listening to this, and you've got an idea and you're feeling alone, I do have to say – I mean, I grew up as an only child, I kind of feel I should do everything myself. Besides deadlines, really finding people to work with who care about you, who support your work, who you feel responsible to, that – when I think about the second book, to me, it was just one of the most heady times, creative times of my life. I’m there with Jen and Uli and Ian, and we're literally like, I remember, towards the end, we needed some more shots. I raced down on the garden, I pulled up these kale plants, and we were using a lot of, you know, because it was Fifty Shades of Kale, we were tying up a lot of kale, very sexy. They rejected my subtitle, Don't Get Rough, Get Roughage.
So it was just this wonderful creative time that you can't get with one brain. It's one of the ways that I really think about mental health and what our brains are here for, and I think our brains really do best and we feel our best when we're quite connected, more connected to our own kind of internal process, both professionally, but I would say, kind of more almost spiritually that we're here doing what we're meant to be doing, and we're doing with other people that we care about. So that was the second book Fifty Shades of Kale, and it was also really hard for me because it was silly, and I’m a kind of creative, silly person, but I’m also supposed to be the serious doctor. And so, that was a little strange, because then I was in somewhat like kale mania. We then launched National Kale Day, because I felt like, gosh, we've done all this with kale and I wanted to be a little bit more serious. So then a few years, I mean, we have this nonprofit, where we were working with the Department of Defense and the New York City Public Schools and LA County Public Schools, and getting everyone to serve kale, and it was – there was a lot of kale, Josh, there was a lot of kale.

Josh Steimle:

Do you really love kale that much, or, was it just such a good title that you felt like you had to write that book?

Drew Ramsey:

Well, I do love kale. I mean, I think it was mostly that I was interested in the phenomena of how kinky sex was captivating the world, via Fifty Shades of Grey, and how, at the same time, I was living in the West Village in New York, kale was beginning to captivate the world. And I just had this idea, like, if people got as excited about kale and brain health by extension, as you know, this kind of, I don't know tardy-racy thing, that would be really amazing. And I think I was probably on a little bit of a like young physician, high horse, like, gosh, darn it, why aren't people as excited about nutrition as they are about rough sex. And now I understand that's silly, but I think that's why that book had to happen.

Josh Steimle:

So walk us through the last two books that you've written, your third one, and then your most recent one, the fourth one, what were the inspirations behind those?

Drew Ramsey:

Well, with the third book, I'd really worked on a big proposal about kind of a huge, big book of everything you can do to improve your mental health and went in with great expectations to my publisher and sat down with Karen and with Joy, my agent, and we talked about it, and Karen said, look, what I really love is this chapter on food, that's really what, when you speak about it, your eyes light up, you talk about patient encounters; the rest of the stuff, yeah, that's interesting. And that's always hard when you're an author, you kind of come out of that meeting, expecting you're going to get a deal, you've been working so hard, and you get told, like, maybe. And so, I had about two weeks to turn around a proposal that really just focused on food, and those are a lot of, again, late nights, but great creative processes, because you get a deadline. It's like you've got someone interested, and maybe you can do another book. And so, that's where Eat Complete came from, where I really focused on the 21 most important nutrients for brain health overall, both just from a scientific standpoint, but also what we kind of, when we think about brain health, what nutrients do we think about. And I found there are 21 that kind of fit into these groups around protection of the brain or the nutrients most important to building the brain, nutrients most important for protecting – that are igniting the brain kind of because the brain's so energetically needy. And I also had this, I would say, conundrum of, as people were asking me what to eat, I wanted to make sure that folks got enough of these nutrients, and that's a little bit hard to do. And so, Eat Complete really, in part, was my quest to find, all right, what are the most important nutrients, what are the foods that contain the most of those. And then, how do we create delicious recipes from those foods with the idea that, through that method, we create the most nutrient-dense food for humans that we can, because we're cooking with the foods that have the most omega-3 fats, the most zinc, the most magnesium. And so, that was Eat Complete, and that came out in 2016.
Now, at that point, there was a lot of correlational data, meaning populations that eat traditional diets, have less depression; or populations that eat a Western diet, they have more depression; but there weren't any randomized trials. And so, eat to beat depression and anxiety came from a couple of places, first, after Eat Complete we launched an e-course. And I had not done anything like that, those were – everybody was doing it back then, Josh, but I was just kind of curious as an author of, does that create a stream of income that can help with platform building, is that a fun format. This is also when things really begin to switch from everybody had a blog to suddenly everything and all of the algorithms are favoring videos, podcast start to come online, and the whole media landscape really begins to quickly change. So these two things happen, right? There's lots of evidence and then media changes, and we do this e-course, and it was just really interesting to see, for me, as a physician where I’m used to working one on one. I like to go to the deep end of the pool. I spend most of my time sitting here in my Zoom cage listening and processing with people, and I really love that creative process, I think it's just such a wonderful thing to do as a doc. But for reaching a lot of people and sharing this information with a lot of people, the books and then the e-courses have really been just [inaudible 00:35:12] for me, really learning opportunity of how can we do a better job in medicine, reaching more people with more of the evidence based information faster. That's why we launched Mental Fitness Kitchen, our new digital cooking school, that's why we brought on more clinicians to coach people. And so, the last book came out from the success of that course, but also from the success of the researchers [inaudible 00:35:37] so much evidence now, there are five randomized clinical trials looking at how food can help people fight depression and anxiety. And on top of that, there are these – stuff that for the first few books, maybe it sounded like wellness juju, inflammation and foods that fight inflammation, or the microbiome. But now, in 2021, these are some of the new ways we're thinking about depression and anxiety. And so, with this book, I really felt both my stance as an author, I'd done Eat Complete by myself, and so I felt I had a better sense of what goes into a book. And also, there are these big new areas that I felt people weren't really connecting up with mental health, much like they hadn't – we don't really connect food with our brain health and mental health. People weren't really, when they are thinking about depression and anxiety, thinking about inflammation, thinking about the microbiome, and most importantly, thinking about neuroplasticity, this idea that I find very hopeful and inspiring that we have some control in how fast our brains grow. And things like exercise and good sleep and proper nutrition really can help keep our brains growing.

Josh Steimle:

That's great. So now you've kind of hinted at your business growing and your clinic and all this, tell me a little bit more about how these books have impacted your business and your career and how they've helped it and shaped your career.

Drew Ramsey:

I think they've really been the wind in my sails in terms of, you know, we talk about platform building, but when you think about what that means, to me, it means all this effort over time in these books and the writing and the media work and the TED Talks, all this stuff has led to this message getting out there, in a significant way, and that I've gotten to be one of the people in the conversation, one of the leaders in nutritional psychiatry. And I think for me, as I look back, so it's been, let's call it a decade, so in a decade, it's been four books, two e-courses, we're releasing our third, our biggest, most ambitious e-course on mental fitness that's coming out in the fall. Everything has grown, Josh. I think that when you start doing these projects, you do get in a growth mindset, and not so much in a bad hedonic treadmill, like I sold X number of copies, I sold – I want to sell this many more, or I got this advance, I want to get this much more, but much more you see the potential of it. And you hear from people, people post pictures of my book almost every day saying something really wonderful about how it's inspiring them to feed their brain. And I mean that, I don't know that that's such an exciting feeling with the idea that someone's being helped out there by something you put together or this new book has all these wonderful drawings. It's a good story for authors, and it's a good – for me, it was a good lesson, and kind of why I also like being on social, because everyone's like, ah social's a waste of time [inaudible 00:38:42] social great.
So I was posting every day, posting pictures of my food or pictures of myself or something related to mental health, and Katrin is a – Katrin Kristen is an illustrator, and she's actually a graduate student, but she does little sketches and she heard a podcast that was me and Max Lugavere, and she did a little sketch of it, and I reposted it, and boy, and it was like 10 times the amount of likes I usually get. And so, I just reached out to her, I said, hey, thank you so much, this is really amazing, do you do these. She said yes. She did another one, same thing, and there's this visual translation of all these ideas I've been writing about or making videos about – really nice, shareable piece of content. And so, with the most recent book as I was thinking about it, I was like, what would make this book really better, like, what have I learned. And I sent Katrin an email, and so she did all these, more than 30 illustrations for the book. It's one of my favorite parts, everything from kind of visually looking like what is the new science of anxiety and depression, how do these pieces fit together. And so, you've got me, like, brewing around here, zooming around in my brain of all these four books, no one's asked me about this before like this Josh. It’s a lot of good memories, but I think my point being that if you're learning, if you're in grow mode, that the universe and your inbox and your social media feeds present all these opportunities, and learning to sift through them and kind of spot, wow, there's a really creative, bright person, I’m going to work with them. And then having confidence and growing that confidence in your stance, in your opinion, I think that's something that took me longer than I wish, if I could give any hopeful authors out there, current authors, you know, if I could wave my magic wand, I'd just give you more confidence in terms of your ability of what you know. It's something I do with patients a lot where patients say, well, I don't know, and then they'll tell me all this brilliant stuff they know. And to really have confidence in your opinion and kindness that it's something that grows and changes over time and evolves for all of us, and call like the power of our stance, I guess.

Josh Steimle:

I love that. I love how you talked about, it's not about the book sales, it's not about the money, it's really about that impact that you see in the lives of people when you see somebody's life change. There's amazing satisfaction that comes from that. And then, the other thing I really wanted to point out is how you surrounded yourself with this team, really from the beginning when you were working with the guy in the coffee shop, but enlisting these illustrators and photographers and people to help you out to create a better book, what are some of the other lessons you've learned along the way as an author, things that you wish you could go back and tell yourself before you were writing your first book?

Drew Ramsey:

Keep it simpler. That oftentimes, especially anyone who's a professional, often we're writing for our colleagues or I’m worried about what you know a conservative psychopharmacologist at some established Ivy League academic medical center thinks about what I’m writing, but that's not what I’m writing for. I’m writing for people who are struggling with their mental health, and they want a tool right now, right today, I hope that even from this talk, you’re – we haven't talked a lot about food, but you're curious about your mental health – are there foods that you eat that make you more creative, that help you sleep better, that are going to help you be more successful as an author? For sure, there are. For sure, there are. And I think everybody listening knows that, right?

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