This episode's guest on #MWL is Adam Sud. Adam has an incredible story, and we talk about how he has been able to turn his life around through adopting a plant-based diet, practicing mindfulness, and disregarding old notion that your personal struggles define you as "forever broken."

Adam's work through Plant Based for Positive Change aims to scientifically demonstrate that adopting the right nutrition can aid addicts in their journeys of recovery.

Where to watch live:

Guest Socials - Adam Sud
Get The Full Episode Transcription


what's good

happy Monday another episode of Marcus

Whitney live this is one I held off for

a minute because this guy has been such

a huge part of my lifestyle that I'm

living right now I went to an event last

summer called Nexus Global Summit and it

was this incredible event that brought

together thought leaders and social

entrepreneurs and philanthropists and

just world changers people who had clear

mission clear purpose and were out there

living on purpose and I kept seeing this

guy sort of with this glow walking

through the hallways you know really

nicely dressed young and I finally just

like I don't know how we bumped into

each other but we sat down on the

stadium steps and talked and I feel like

I lost an hour and a half of my life in

this conversation with this guy his his

story is absolutely remarkable and I

know you're gonna enjoy hearing this

story so welcome to the show Adam Sud

Adam how are you man 



oh man thank you so

much yeah I remember that talk we had

that was a good one you know we just

have like a meaningful connection with

somebody it's just so wonderful



it was it was fantastic man and it was

so timely for me because I I was just

sort of on the other side of six months

of sobriety when I met you and and I

think because of the topics that we were

discussing at the moment at Nexus global

summit I was definitely thinking a lot

about my diet and the environment you

know the the topic was there were lots

of topics but one of the big topics was

definitely climate change right… and

and there were so many incredible

presentations and and people would

written books

on it and it just it just sort of hit me

that Wow changing my diet is one of

those things that I could do

it'll be relatively simple for me to do

quite frankly you know like once it once

you you you go sober you start realizing

you do have these abilities to kind of

make these really meaningful changes in

your life right and so actually and man

you know I left that that event in July

and probably a month later I I went full

plant-based and have been since then and

you know and and feel incredible I've

never been stronger physically I've

never been longer than I am right now

and so I think that event really helped

me to make that decision in terms of you

know the lifestyle but my conversation

with you is probably a big key because

it integrated so many of those things so

I think with that would you please just

share a little bit of your backstory

which which blew me away so I know it's

gonna blow this audience away 



yes so

thank you

you know my story starts I'm a seventh

generation Texan and I'm also Jewish so

I grew up eating burgers and barbecue

and bagels and blintzes right so you

know the furthest thing from anything

that can be considered a healthy bed but

it was definitely a cultural diet right

so you know growing up as a kid in Texas

in a Jewish community you know I didn't

question any of it and I also never

questioned myself I never I remember his

up until the age of 10 aged 10 was when

everything really shifted for me because

until then I fully accepted myself

completely and I never I never there was

never a condition to which I could not

love myself my body how I showed up for

the world and then by age ten without

you know without with no evil intentions

just you know my I was hanging out in my

summer in Texas no shirt on running

around in my my mom and my dad say oh my

gosh you you have love handles how did

that happen

I'm ten I don't know what love handles

are I sure don't know how I got them I

wasn't feeding myself and I could tell

that they are asking because it wasn't

something that they thought was

acceptable and then from that moment on

I bought into this story that there was

only there were certain conditions to

which I could and could not love myself

there were conditions to which the world

had created to which I was

or was not acceptable and from that

point on I was ashamed constantly

ashamed because one I didn't understand

it I didn't know how it happened I felt

that if I couldn't correct this problem

then my parents wouldn't love me the

world wouldn't love me I wouldn't be

acceptable to the world which is a

terrifying thing and from I started to

notice any indication any cue from

anyone anything about myself that they

didn't like and then believe it was

wrong that was the moment to which

everything about me became dependent

upon the acceptance of others

Wow and I got diagnosed with ADHD at age

12 again here's a doctor telling me that

there's something about me that just

doesn't work properly that I have to

hide from the rest of the world by

taking medication and that that was the

route that you do is like oh this is

know you're born this way again so now

I'm being told that this is this isn't

this is me this is who I am I am this

condition I'm a person with broken parts

unlike the rest of the world and in

order to fix that broken part and hide

it from people I have to take a pill and

that created this narrative for me that

when there's something wrong about me

that I don't accept or that others don't

accept or the world doesn't accept I'm

gonna find a substance to fix that

broken part of me or at least to hide it

because the shame of knowing other

people see it was just crushing for me

and in high school my prescription

became adderall and things got really

out of hand really fast because I found

out very early on at a party that

adderall is a recreational drug and when

I used it as a recreational drug

obviously it was hooked to what it did

for me because it seemed to magically

fix all of the things that were so

difficult for me to fix about myself it

was like a magic one boom you're the

person the world wants you to be

immediately all you have to do is take

these pills and you are accepted

completely and it works for me I was a

little overweight in high school

adderall's and feta mean guess what

weights gone my dad and I his

relationship was struggling because I

had really poor study habits guess what

adderall No

problem I look like I'm the person my

dad wants me to be uh I was very shy in

high school I was late to start puberty

when I'm on adderall I'm the most

confident person in the room so I was

making friends I lost weight I had

girlfriends I got a scholarship to

college I wanted to go to and then in

college it was like overnight too much

became not enough not enough became a

constant concern in my life how much do

I have how long will it last where will

I get more how much will it cost where

will I get the money to pay for it that

was all I thought about and it was all

the time and I stopped caring about my

schoolwork I stopped caring about my

friends I stopped caring about my family

all I wanted to do was to feel the way

the drugs made me feel because being

conscious fully sober and conscious was

painful mmm and I dropped out of college

I ended up dealing and buying drugs on

the street I started stealing from

people and I started dr. shopping where

you have multiple doctors prescribing

the same medication

I started forging prescriptions I was

treating my family like absolute garbage

and I was doing so much amphetamines and

opiates so much constantly that I would

run out really quickly and then I found

that an amazing substitute for me was

fast food and I would get up every

single day and I would go get four

potato egg and cheese breakfast tacos

then I go to McDonald's get two

super-sized quarter-pounder meals then I

go to water Burger get the extra-large

honey barbecued chicken strips sandwich

meal then I get a extra large piece from

Papa John's for dinner then three

breakfasts on a bun sandwiches and

sausage from water burger at 3 in the

morning during the course the day I

drink 15 sodas and when I say I was

abusing substances the average

prescription for adderall is about 10

milligrams a day I was doing 450

milligrams in a 24 hour period on

average there were days when I would top

a thousand and after five days of

consecutively popping for five hundred

to a thousand milligrams of adderall I'd

end up in a drug-induced psychosis where

I'd start to down opiates over and over

again so I could finally go to sleep I

was about 350 pounds

and leaving hurt I had been completely

disconnected from every meaningful bond

that had ever existed in my life my

family myself my purpose the world

around me were completely gone my life

was a dark hoarders like filthy

apartment with empty pill bottles and a

pile of pills on the count on the on the

coffee table

I had already developed a wrecked-tile


I had these cuts on my legs that weren't

healing they were I would scratched

mosquito bites and they would get

infected and I didn't understand what

was going on and you know I have a twin

brother who I'm really really close with

and I can remember calling him at the

beginning of August of 2012 and I told

him that you know things were really

tough and I don't really know what's

going on but you know I wanted to

promise to him that I would never commit

suicide because I didn't want him to

live without me and I didn't want to

live without him but on August 21st of

2012 I just I couldn't see any other

option and it wasn't a plan I just had

this firm belief that everything that

was wrong about me and my life that day

was the worst that had ever been and

tomorrow it was going to be even worse

and when in tomorrow

is that difficult and you know it's

gonna continue to get worse eventually

tomorrow is impossible and I attempted

suicide by drug overdose and I can

remember the moment right before I

blacked out I tried to stand up and my

entire right side cramp

it felt like I was getting stabbed in

the Sun in the stomach and that was

really painful but the feeling that

you're dying and I'm not talking about

the physical feeling I'm talking about

this feeling of belief that that was my

last moments on earth and those last

moments on earth were completely

separate from every loving connection

I've ever experienced in life not

because they left me but because I've

made it my goal to push everyone away it

was the most terrifying thing I've ever

experienced starts to fade in I fall

forward that's the last thing I remember

until I wake up in a puddle of vomit

in a pile of fast-food garbage

surrounded by empty pill bottles and had

this overwhelming feeling of relief and

I found that odd because I was under the

impression that the suicide attempt was

an attempt to end my life and if that

were true I wouldn't have been relieved

I would have been angry because it would

a minute I would've had to attempt it

again mm-hmm but what that relief taught

me was that my suicide attempt was not

an attempt in my life it was an attempt

to end my pain my drug use was a direct

result of not being able to show up in a

life that was too painful a place to be

and the reason I felt relief was because

even with all the pain I was

experiencing there was something about

myself something about the world

something about the people that I that I

share this life with that mean so much

to me that I still wanted to be a part

of it all and be in pain and so I picked

up the phone and I asked for help

checking to rehab diagnosed with type

two diabetes high blood pressure high

cholesterol erectile dysfunction bipolar

disorder obsessive-compulsive

personality disorder anxiety disorder

sleep disorder attention deficit

disorder and suicidal depression and I

was put on a cabinet worth of medication

for life and I was given an option to

believe two stories and luckily before

that I had the opportunity to hear a man

named Rip Esselstyn who is the executive

producer of the film the game changers

and it he talked about how a plant-based

I can reverse disease and he had all the

science and everything sauce here this

doctor telling me that I'm diabetic

because cuz genetic because I'm gonna be

diabetic for the rest of my life because

it's just gonna get worse I have heart

disease because genetic it's gonna get

worse and I could believe that I had the

opportunity to believe that story

or I could believe this other story that

was presented to me by Rip Esselstyn and

he's thought you know these legendary

doctors and that was that there's never

been anything wrong with me that the

reason why I find myself in a situation

of obesity with disease is because that

is the body's reasonable response to how

I had been living and that I could

reverse it if I just changed the way

that I'm living and I said you know what

I'm done believing other people's

stories about me I'm going to believe

that I am in this moment and I've always

been everything I need to be to own my

health and well-being someone else told

me differently and I believed it and

that has been the source of all of my

struggles I believe myself to be

completely acceptable love my body

everything until somebody at age 10 told

me differently and I believed their

story of who I was supposed to be in

high school kids didn't want to be

around me for reasons I thought was my

problem until I use drug I believe the

story that I was only worthy of friends

when I was high that's my fault

I believed it I didn't know any better

but I believed it here's an opportunity

again to believe myself so broken that

I'm gonna be sick for the rest of my

life or that I've always been healthy my

body has been doing everything it can to

keep me alive despite all the pain I've

been giving it that's the story I bought


I adopted a whole food, plant-based

 diet after 37 days of rehab when I moved

 into sober living, and I told myself that

 this is going to be the most

 uncomfortable thing I've ever done. I'm

 trying to get sober from 10 years of

 substance abuse. I am as sick as I've

 ever been.

 I'm 350 pounds, but there's got to be

 something about myself or my life that I

 love enough to be willing to be

 comfortable being uncomfortable so that

 I can show up authentically and

 completely, and reconnect to those

 meaningful bonds in life. And I told

 myself... look, I tried for years to hate

 myself enough to hate my life enough to

 want to change, and I'm done trying to do

 that. Yeah, I had diabetes and heart

 disease, I didn't want it. Yes, I was obese.

 I didn't want to be obese, and yes, I

 nearly died, and I don't want to die. Why

 not? What was it about myself that I

 loved enough? And for me, I wanted to

 finally be able to show my body that I

 love what it does for me, not what it

 looks like. That I love that it never

 gave up on me despite everything that I

 was doing. I wanted to reconnect to a

 family that never gave up on me. I wanted to

 reconnect to a purpose that has been

 waiting for me. And so I get up every

 single day and I prepare these meals on

 a plate, and I would use them as acts of

 self love and self care. I would say that

 this is me making a statement to myself

 that I am worthy of recovery. I'm worthy

 of health. And in three months, the

 diabetes, the heart disease, the erectile

 dysfunction were completely reversed.

 Within a year, I was

 off of every single psych med I was put

 on, and I had lost over 120 pounds. As of

 now, I've lost 180 pounds and I'm the

 healthiest I've ever been. But more so

 than that was the vehicle -food- I used it

 as a vehicle to reconnect to those

 meaningful bonds that have been severed

 early in life. I said to myself, “if this

 is proof of anything, that this is proof

 that I didn't have to become a healthy

 version of myself. I've always been that,

 I just forgot it.”

 So maybe recovery is not a

 transformation to a sober person, but

 more practice of remembering who I've

 always been before the world taught me

 differently. And so these feelings

 of anger and frustration and anxiety...

 maybe they're equally human. Maybe

 they're equally healthy and as equally

 meaningful as love, and excitement, and

 joy. What if all emotions are simply a

 reasonable response to life, and that

 they've only been a problem for me when

 I view some of them as worthy of

 acceptance and others as necessary to

 fight, right. To see one half of the

 breadth of human emotion as my enemy

 means I'm gonna be fighting myself every

 single day for reasonable things. And so

 if I'm willing to just simply be in, you

 know, this -you're into meditation- be

 the observer of what arises in me. Listen

 to this meaningful signal that is coming

 up to teach me something, to see these

 feelings as my companion rather than my


 Maybe then, if I stop trying to be right

 and just be in the moment right now, I'll

 learn more about myself than I ever have.

 And that's exactly what happened.


and I

have been sober now for eight years and

I have been able to become the most

authentic version of myself that I think

I've ever been and I believe it's a

daily quest I think it's a daily

practice of getting up showing up

learning right but I do know this all

that shame that I experience in my life

everything all the pain made sense I've

never been broken I'm not now nor have I

ever been and nobody listening on this

call is broken

none of us shame doesn't arise because

there's unlovable and broken parts in us

shame arises because there are parts of

ourselves that we haven't

learn how to love and that is what

recovery is all about that is what I

believe nutrition is all about and so

that's that's why I'm alive today and

that's why I'm so passionate about

nutrition about mental health and why

I've combined those two into my purpose

in life



so the gosh where to go from there is is

pretty hard but I do want to say you

told me this story before but I there

were actually I just learned some new


um which make your story even more

incredible but the where you landed in

the end is very much why I resonated so

much with what you said and why I felt

like it was something you know you sort

of reinforced this idea that I should

you know walk down this path which was 



just did not 


I didn't enjoy identifying

 recovery as some sense of brokenness. I

 just, for me, that was really,

 fundamentally off. You know it just didn't

 work for me. It just didn't work for me, right.

 And when we talked, you know, and you

 basically like said the same thing. I

 was like -and I and I hadn't heard a lot

 of people say that by the way- that's...



A lot of people want to be in the camp

 that “once an addict,

 always an addict.”


Right, right. And so, that

 part is so incredibly empowering for

 people who struggle with the just the

 dissonance of wanting to take the steps

 of recovery but not really wanting to

 embrace an identity of forever

 brokenness, right. You know what I mean?



And I think it's important... I think it's

 important not to identify by what we

 struggle with, but see our struggles as a

 reasonable response to how we're living

 or what we've experienced, right? And to say

 that “I am an addict” is a false narrative,

 right. My substance abuse makes complete

 sense if you look at the disconnection, and the shame, and all the things that

 have happened. And then you look at what

 the first time I use substances, right

 -the first time I use adderall-

 was the most successful thing I've ever

 found to escape that pain.



Right, right. It works.



I had bonded with

 it so well because I knew no other way

 to escape that pain. I had not yet

 learned that it was okay not to know. And

 so I was ashamed. And I was afraid.

 And adderall was like, “I got you man.

 I got you.” For the first time, it

 was like somebody was giving me a hug

 saying, “I got you covered.”

 And I think

 that, you know, people who are addicts are

 not criminals. People who are depressed

 are not sick. People who are suicidal are

 not crazy. Every one of those is a human

 being in pain. And I think that if we

 stop identifying people by what they

 struggle with, it'll be easier for us to

 listen to what they need. And then we'll

 see that their pain makes sense.

 And then we can be that person who says

 -sits down and says- I don't really care

 what's the matter with you, I want to

 help you reconnect to what matters to

 you. And that is the most important thing,

 I think in recovery, is to say that, “what

 if there's nothing wrong with me? What if

 I'm just no longer meaningfully

 connected to everything that's ever

 mattered to me? Now how can I build

 those reconnections?” I’m not saying substance

 abuse is a good thing, I think

 -obviously- people are struggling

 with substance abuse have to address

 that as an issue. But it isn't the

 problem, it's a symptom. It's a reasonable

 response to what's going on.





So so

 one of the things that I find very

 difficult -because I don't read a lot of

 plant-based or vegan literature- is

 effectively communicating to people what

 it feels like to be sort of on this side

 of the sober, sleeping well, meditating,

 and definitely plant-based lifestyle

 life. Like what living in this

 body at 44 feels like compared to any

 other point in my adult life. It is a

 very... it's almost impossible to

 communicate it. But part of your work is

 is to try to study this, right? So

 share a bit about the work that you're

 doing right now to help to bring bring


 science and some clinical awareness

 to the value of this lifestyle.



Yeah, so

 when I when I got out of recovery, I

 spent ten months in sober living. So by

 that point, I had been nearly a year of

 recovery. And here I am. I'm the

 healthiest I've ever been. I'm on zero

 medications. I'm running for the first

 time in my life, and I have all this

 confidence and belief that all this stuff

 is now possible -that the world is now

 possible-. And I thought this is

 interesting because a lot of the people

 -I would say most of the people that I went

 through recovery with, who I lived with

 through those ten months- had either ended

 up on the same medications but higher

 dosages... on more medications... had either

 gained weight and been diagnosed with more

 chronic disease. So what does the

 research say? Where's the research on

 nutrition and early addiction recovery?

 And there isn't any. There's never been a

 study ever done investigating the effect

 of nutrition on early addiction recovery

 outcomes. And when I say early addiction

 recovery outcomes, we're not looking at

 sobriety, what we’re looking at is the

 mental health outcomes that are

 measurable through early addiction

 recovery stages. So from day one of

 exiting detox, to say six months. And

 I thought, that's ridiculous. Because when

 you go into treatment, when you check

 into a rehab hospital, not only are you

 fed the exact same thing as everyone

 else, you’'re fed at the

 exact same time. Like it's a

 perfect controlled environment, how has never

 been investigated? So last year, I founded

 my nonprofit which is called Plant Based

 for Positive Change with the sole

 purpose of running the very first study

 to investigate those things. It's called

 the Infinite Study, and what it is is a

 10-week intervention where we are doing

 a controlled trial to investigate the

 differences in the impact of diet on

 addiction recovery outcomes. So an

 individual will spend -within the first

 24 hours of checking out of detox- they

 had the opportunity to join the study.

 And they were put into either the

 control diet which is the diet that's

 currently being served at the treatment

 center, which I'll go ahead and say it is a elevated Western diet.

 There's not a lot of refined, processed

 foods at all. There's still meat, eggs,

 dairy, and oil. And then there's the

 treatment diet, which is a oil-free,

 plant-based diet.

 No added sugar. No added oil. Whole, intact

 plants. What we're measuring is the

 impact that those diets have on various

 blood biomarkers. So full lipid panel. High

 sensitivity C reactive protein, which is

 a measure for inflammation. Omega-3, which

 is a huge factor in brain health. We're

 also looking at various vitamins -in B12,

 D3- and we're also looking at changes in

 what's called your gut microbiome. And

 for people who don't know what that is,

 the gut microbiome is about four to six

 pounds of bacteria that exists within

 your gut. And what these bacteria do is

 they do processes for your body that

 your body cannot do for itself.

 Specifically the conversion of specific

 nutrients to short chain fatty acids, and

 those short chain fatty acids do lots of

 things like the production of

 neurotransmitters, for example. And what's

 really fascinating is that, Marcus, if I

 were to take you and count up all the

 number of cells that are your human

 cells right -the Marcus cells- it would

 number about 10 trillion. There's 10

 trillion Marcus cells. If I were to

 number and count the number of cells

 that make up your gut microbiome... it's

 300 trillion. You are technically less

 than 10 percent human if you look at all

 the cells in your body. That is how

 impactful the microbiome is.

 So we're looking at those changes and

 how they relate to changes of validated

 scales of measuring anxiety, depression,

 self-compassion, resiliency, spiritual

 healing, eating disorder, mania, obsessive

 compulsive drug use. So what we're

 looking at is, “how does food nutrition

 education create a stronger foundation

 for which someone then has the ability

 to reconnect meaningfully to their life?”

 And so we're really excited about it.




I know the study is underway is there

anything you're able to sort of share I

mean and if there's no that's fine but



no no so we've been running it since

January okay and we do have some some

preliminary results and what I can say

is that we are incredibly excited by

what we're finding 



that's amazing


we're incredibly excited I have an

unbelievable team as well my lead

investigator is a woman named Tara Kemp

who is a brilliant

researcher and her focus is something

called psychosocial health okay is an

interdisciplinary PhD in psychology

sociology and nutrition and then the

doctors are doctors Dean and Isis shares

I and they are the world's leading

neuroscientists on cognitive longevity

and they wrote the book called the

outsider solution which is how you can

prevent and reverse dementia and

Alzheimer's through lifestyle measures

specifically plant-based nutrition today

I have a plan called neuro which is

nutrition education or nutrition

exercise unwinding restoration and

optimization so your nutrition moving

your body having some kind of ability to

unwind and reset yourself right

you have restoration which is proper

sleep okay an optimization which is how

you optimize your cognitive function

right learning to play music you know

learning another language how do you

optimize the ability to keep your mind

sharp yep and so they are the they're

the doctors on the study it's just




dude okay we're 30 minutes you

just like blew through our show and you

know I don't know what else I was

expecting it this has been incredible

you know just give me a little bit of

parting wisdom sure you're you're eight

years into your journey of sobriety

you're now studying this for a life

you're you know we're living in

completely unprecedented times um you

know how are you sort of distilling this

this knowledge in and your your life's

purpose into something that you feel

like could be accessible to many people

there's so many things you said that I

could just pick up but I'm just

I'd love to eat just hear from from you

in your words 



so anyone who wants to

follow what I write about you can follow

me on plant-based addict and Instagram

but lately I've been doing one taking

this opportunity my good friend David

Clarke who passed away this year he

passed away from complications due to

surgery he was a former 320 pound

alcoholic turned vegan ultra runner he

went his run here and in Leadville 100

nine times okay which is a hundred mile

race that starts at 9,000 feet it ends

at 15,000 feet he's done bad water this

guy's one of the greatest runners

he's also one of the most genuinely

brilliant and self explorative person

I've ever met right

this person had this parting advice for

people and I love it we've all heard the

same if you want to be happy live like

it's the last day of your life we've all

heard that and he said that that doesn't

work what he says is if you want to be


treat everyone you meet as if they're

living the last day of their life

because what would you be willing to

accept from people what amount of

compassion would you have for someone's

anger if you honestly believed if they

had one more day left on this planet how

would it change the way you viewed the

world what would it allow you to do in

terms to accept people for anything race

gender sexual preference if you truly

believe this is their last day on earth

what kind of person would that make you

when you interact with them so that's

what I leave with people because I want

to leave this world with as much of

David Clark as I can



ladies and gentlemen the incredible and

incomparable Adam süd Adam thank you so

much man we'll have to check back in

with you you know when the study is

officially ready to be shared with the

world we'll bring you back on thank you

man thank you for just being an

incredible inspiration I know like we

haven't seen each other in person but I

do feel like you know I do feel like we

have a connection and I did too you know

and I'm just I'm grateful for the work

that you do and for the light you

represent in the world so thank you man

thank you so much really appreciate it

everybody out there you've got to follow

Adam I know if you watch this you're

super inspired on Instagram he he shares

a beautiful journey at plant-based

addict you can check out his website

plant-based for positive change org

that's his new nonprofit where this

study is happening follow this man

support this man he's doing incredible

things in the world and I just I love

him I think he's the best almost a week

from today a week in one day creating

orchestrate June 30th 2020 the book I've

been working on for five years so

excited to get it out into the world my

podcast Marcus Whitney's audio universe

on all popular pocket

platforms and you can follow me just

about everywhere at Marcus Whitney and

that is it y'all

another incredible show and I hope you

all are doing great out there and I look

forward to seeing you tomorrow and until

then let's build a new normal piece

Leave a Comment