Ep. 123: Life Experiences in Living Raw Interview with Dr. Fred Bisci
Today we have another Learn From Our Elders Series where Robyn has curated people who are 65+ and still contributing massively to their own body of work, and to the planet. Dr. Fred Bisci is perhaps our oldest elder we’ve had at almost 90 years of age. He has personally been a raw vegan for over 50 years, has been on several 30 and 40 day long fasts and done many marathons and ultra marathons. Fred Bisci, PhD has over 50 years of experience directing people toward their commitment of changing their life and attaining optimal health. Through realistic parameters and simple guidelines, he has helped over 35,000 people discover their bodies’ full potential. He has also lived through the Great Depression and World War II and thus has a lot of great life experience to share with us.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Find out more about Fred Bisci
Get his upcoming book “Your Healthy Journey”
Robyn: Hey everyone and Welcome back to The Vibe show; I’m so pleased to be with you today. I am your host, Robyn Openshaw. I’m known as the Green Smoothie Girl online. Hope you’re following us on Facebook.
Today’s a pretty interesting one in Learn From Our Elders interviews: Doctor Fred Bisci, PhD. Fun fact, he is the eldest of the elders we’ve interviewed here; he is turning 90 this year.
Dr. Bisci has had a pioneering, and still active, practice in New York City for over 50 years. He’s worked with over 35,000 people all over the world with a lot of different kinds of health issues. He’s helped them change their eating, drinking, and living lifestyles through his approach. This won’t surprise you: it is all about real, clean, fresh food.
He has been eating a plant-based diet for longer than I’ve been alive. Fred was born on Staten Island in 1929 and he grew up eating only real food. His mom would make authentic, fresh, raw, and cooked dishes. And as he was growing up as a young man, he completed 18 marathons, two ultra-marathons and he was a boxer and an Olympic style weight lifter.
As he has remained very physically active throughout his life, he’s worked with a lot of amateur and professional weightlifters, boxers, basketball players, marathon runners, triathletes, wrestlers and actors; he is in New York City, after all. I’m really excited to introduce you to him today.
Welcome to the Vibe show Dr. Fred Bisci.
Fred Bisci: Thank you very much Robyn. It’s a pleasure. I’m glad I’m with you today. I’m pretty excited about sharing some of my life experience with you and your audience.
Robyn: I’ve been learning a lot from you, studying your work, and you are one of the most longtime raw vegan diet folks out there. You’ve been eating raw vegan – don’t even need any cooked food – for what, 50 something years now, right?
Fred Bisci: I’m giving it a conservative estimate, and say 52 years.
I just want to be accurate because there’s a lot of people that are watching me at this point in my life, and, being that I’m approaching 90 years old, I want to make sure I’m giving people accurate feedback. I don’t want people to think that I’m just saying that and I’m not doing it. And of course, everybody that knows me knows it’s true. I’ve been doing it consistently.
At this point in my life, going into my tenth decade, this is the wonderful part because I am very curious to see what’s going to happen to me, myself. Just like a lot of other people, you know; many people are watching me to see how long I can survive this way, because I’ve had people tell me 30 years ago – one person was a medical doctor – that I couldn’t live this way. And he was a great guy, a friend of mine, but unfortunately he’s been gone about 20 years.
So this is challenging in some respects, but in others I’m thriving and I love it. And it’s very exciting for me.
There’s been obstacles along the way. I’ve had a bad car accident. I have been exposed to mold that actually ate a hole through my head, and of course an infection. Everybody was trying to convince me to go back to eating animal protein, everybody that wasn’t well informed about this. I didn’t even consider it because I knew, probably, what’s going to happen to me.
It’s been a great journey and it’s a lot of fun. I’m still enjoying it. I’m very active. I participate in a lot of things. I’m still into the martial arts, and things like that.
Robyn: Very exciting.
Tell us about your book, Your Healthy Journey, and this 60-year experiment that you’ve been doing on yourself. What are some of the things you cover in that book?
Fred Bisci: It’s not a complicated book. There isn’t a lot of science in there of course, because when I originally started to write the book, I had about 300 pages. And it was a lot of a scientific information, and some of it was controversial. A lot of the science in those days… it was abstract science.
I remember there was a professor from Harvard many, many years ago. He said that a healthy meal was a hamburger and a milkshake and French fries. And he was a professor of nutrition at Harvard Medical School; his name was Fredrick Stare. And I knew that was ridiculous. I found out there was so much controversial information. So I just stuck to the science; I studied guidance books on physiology, all these books on science and physiology.
Then I decided to make this my healthy journey. I decided to experience everything I could for myself to find out what was valid, what wasn’t valid, what was hype and what was abstract science, and what was just plain old lying.
I was an athlete. At one time I was a competitive weight lifter – not a bodybuilder. I’m not into bodybuilding and all that vanity that goes with it. I was a competitive boxer. I came out of the Depression, from a poor family, so sports was a big thing.
I consolidated the book and made it simple. A person could follow that book and be able to choose a healthy journey of their own.
I did a lot of longtime fasting. I fasted over 40 days twice and that enabled me to get very comfortable on a raw food diet; I didn’t need a lot of food. It actually brought me into caloric restriction. It was a big transformation for me, because I was 200 pounds of solid muscle at one time. And when I first started running marathons, I was making a major mistake that a lot of people are making today.
If you’re a Vegan, you have to get your calories from either starches or fruit. And there were people that were saying, “Don’t eat too much fruit, the sugar is bad for you.” It didn’t make scientific sense to me. Then I realized what happened was, I was running out of gas.
As soon as I started to eat enough fruit to sustain my training and the races I was running, within a week or two it was, “forget about it.” I was just running through the races; it was pretty amazing.
I kept experimenting, I kept trying different things. I tried long juice fast. A lot of information that was around in those days, and even today, is still not complete. It’s still not what I have found out to be true. And I don’t really try to stress certain things, but I’m very, very positive.
There’s certain things that are being said that are not completely true, because I’ve seen anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 people over the years. And it’s kind of been like my own double-blind study because I see what works and what doesn’t work.
And of course a lot of claims made by so many people into the health food community – maybe the raw food community, in the vegan community – are exaggerated. So I’m very careful. I’m not dogmatic, but I don’t believe in exaggerating. I don’t have an agenda. I don’t have anything to gain by exaggerating.
I try to practice integrity. I certainly don’t want anybody to get hurt. And I have a lot of people that come to me are being treated for serious disease, and being treated by medical doctors. And I certainly don’t want to put them in a dilemma, or confuse them. I tell them what I think they should do to best support their primary care physician.
Unless they decide to make another choice. And then I take a good look, to make sure they are emotionally, psychologically ready to go out into deep water. Because to overcome some of these serious diseases… it’s not as easy as some of the people try to make it out to be on the Internet. It’s just not that simple, because they talk only about success. Not too many people talk about failure.
So that’s when I decided to write the book, Your Healthy Journey. And the reason I wrote that book is because I want people to realize that your body is the healer. As you know, what your spiritual beliefs and the thoughts you entertain are become a reality in the way your genes, epigenetically, are expressed.
Robyn: Talk to me a little bit about your journey with mold. Because we have so many people talking to us about this subject.
Fred Bisci: Robyn, mold was an eye opener for me. I must admit, it was a humbling experience.
What happened was, I lived in a house and my wife and I were away for a weekend. And we live on a hill, but there’s a hill above us. And there’s a sewer outside. And in the fall that sewer fills up with leaves. Now, I don’t let that happen. I have the Department of Water come and empty it out because I don’t want a basement full of raw sewage.
When it happened, my daughter called me up and said that the pressure from the water coming down off the hill blew the commode off the floor, here, right outside my office where I’m sitting right now. So this basement filled up with about two and a half feet of water and it was raw sewage.
When I come home, I got a friend of mine in the construction business to come and they cleaned it all up. They did a pretty good job, but I was not cognizant of how insidious mold really is. I mean, it is insidious. But I didn’t know that I had been heavily contaminated with mold. When they first cleaned up the house, they didn’t do a good enough job.
When I really had mold poisoning, it ate a hole my head; I had pneumonia. It got into my the atrium, the heart chambers; I had atrial fibrillation. I ended up in the hospital. First doctor I saw thought I had cancer. If I was able to stand up, I would’ve get up and walked out. But, luckily, through the grace of God and my own determination and being that my family had their eye on me [I lived]. But it took me months to recover.
Robyn: I’m glad you survived that. That’s terrifying. There’s a lot less information when this happened to you then there is now. There’s a lot of people out there who talk about how they got through it.
Did you do anything besides just recover and recuperate? Did you have any other strategies besides your usual super healthy diet?
Fred Bisci: Of course, I stuck to my raw diet; that was the key. And I actually spoke to a mold specialist that thought it was ridiculous. He said, “You know, you can’t eat a raw diet.”
I saw right away that he just didn’t understand all of that. There’s a lot of mold specialists that definitely don’t understand a raw diet; they don’t have a clue how it really works. And I’m of the firm belief that if I wasn’t on a raw diet that I would have died. I’m sure of it because I was close to death.
But I’m not suggesting everybody go on a raw diet, don’t get me wrong. Because, you know, once you do it over a length of time, going back is not a good idea. I’ve seen people run into some real serious problems that were on a raw diet; they went back to eating animal protein and they develop real serious problems.
I’m not a dogmatic guy. I have people come to me that eat a small amount of animal protein. Not for me. I’m not the type of guy that try to impose any of my beliefs on anybody, but I will share my experience. I will tell people about fasting. I have a lot of experience fasting.
Robyn: It’s actually a goal of mine to fast, for 30 days. Can’t quite bend my brain around 40. But I’ve done 7 to 12 day, nothing-but-water fasts four times in the last couple of years. And I’ve also done 20-day juice fasts several times.
Fred Bisci: Well that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. But remember that the best way to do a water fast is to shut down.
In other words, when your eyes are open, it takes about 40% of your energy to interpret what your eyes are really seeing. It takes energy for that instantaneous deciphering of what you’re seeing. So if you’re fasting, that energy is very, very important.
What happens when you close your eyes and you rest, you’re able to fast twice as long. This can take you a lot deeper than most people realize. There’s a lot that we don’t understand. The absolute knowledge is infinite. But the human body, it has a specific physiological biological design, and that’s why I always encourage people to take charge of your own: get on your own healthy journey, educate yourself and make your own choices.
Robyn: Here’s a question that I really love asking in our Learn From Our Elders series. If you could be your 89-year old self and go back and tell your 30-year old self, what would you tell him that’s useful?
It doesn’t have to be about food or nutrition. It can be something more in the realm of the spiritual, which I know you’re really interested in: the mental, emotional mind, any of that.
Fred Bisci: I would tell myself not to be so driven. The reason for that is, I’m a dyslexic.
I had a very difficult time in school, and I was under the impression that I was not an intelligent person. Which, I come to find out later on, wasn’t the case at all. I was very, very embarrassed because I had trouble reading and I had trouble speaking clearly, especially if I had to read aloud.
But I had an awesome memory. It was like total recall. So I could learn things, I was unbeatable just by listening. And I had this awakening and I realized that in some respects my dyslexia was a blessing.
The only problem was there was an emotional, psychological factor. And even to this day, it’s very hard for me to be satisfied. Whatever I do, no matter what it was to me, it was like it was ingrained into my hard drive that it wasn’t good enough.
And in that, in some respects, I failed, which is kind of ridiculous. But that turned out to be the driving force to do all that fasting, all everything; run through the Prevention Marathon when it was 20 below zero with the wind chill factor, and get severe frostbite, and do it. Which was pretty insane when you come right down to it, running through snow drifts that were two feet deep.
That was the driving force because unconsciously, or subconsciously, I was probably telling myself, “There you go Freddy. You’re going to fail, you’re a failure.” You know what I’m saying?
Robyn: I do. And a lot of times we therapists – and it’s a little bit of a joke but there’s a lot of truth to it too – we’ll ask somebody, who is really struggling mentally and emotionally and is a marathon runner, “What are you running from?”
Do you think there’s some stuff there?
Fred Bisci: Ah, well, to me I was fortunate. I just loved all sports I was in. I just loved it. You know what I’m saying? And training, definitely; endurance runs, ultra-endurance… they’re kind of foolish, kind of ridiculous. Running 40, 50 miles is definitely not good for your health.
Robyn: That’s what I was wondering if you would tell us about. I was wondering if you’d tell us if you wouldn’t do that again, the ultra-marathon.
Fred Bisci: It’s not good for your mind either.
Robyn: So, exercise good. Hundred mile races… Not Good.
Fred Bisci: Exercise is just wonderful. But remember all those exercises, what they do is they break down your vital force. They rob you of your vital force.
Training is just pushing your body beyond its normal capacity so you can accomplish your goal. But if you’re into breathing and if you’re into simple things like Qigong, where you’re just moving around and you’re breathing… that’s helped me get through my car accident. I had a very bad car accident. The human body is a miraculous biological organism. It was designed to heal. It was designed to keep regenerating itself.
Robyn: I feel like anytime we encounter someone who’s lived through the Great Depression and World War II… it’s a missed opportunity if we don’t ask, what was that like?
What was it like, living through the Great Depression?
Tell us anything you want to about what it was like growing up through that in New York City. I believe you’ve lived there most, or all, of your life. Tell us anything you want to about those major life events for you.
Fred Bisci: Believe me, it left its mark on me. I saw more people walking out in the street, walking with their belongings, carrying it on their back, come up and ring a bell and said, “Could you please help me? I’m willing to do a day’s work for a meal.” I saw plenty of that.
I remember my mother. We didn’t have very much, very much at all, but my mother was a very generous woman. We ate a lot of Polenta. And my mother would invite the person in. It was safe in those days, because a lot of people just lost everything, wandering around the country, trying to find some work.
Then downtown New York. There was people laying out in the street by the hundreds, just laying out in the street. And in the winter, on the harsh winters, some of these homeless people would freeze to death. So, it was, you know, I remember that.
I remember when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the street I lived on… they were coming down the street. I mean, without exaggeration, 50 to 75 people coming down the hill and waiting on a bus stop. They couldn’t get enough buses.
Of course, all these, lot of these young men would volunteer to go into the service. One of my brothers was in North Africa. One of my brothers was on Guam. It was brutal. They were fierce fighters, you know.
Robyn: Do you have great grandchildren? And if so, how are you playing a role in their lives?
What role do you have? I know it’s a big part of living, to be very old, is that your family still has… your son is right there with you as we’re recording. You clearly have some really great family relationships. What kind of advice do you give your great grandchildren, if you have any, and what are you worried about for them?
Fred Bisci: I don’t want my great grandchildren, my grandchildren, to go to war, if I could possibly avoid it. Because it’s not like watching a movie on Netflix or something like that. It’s not a good thing, you know? I know, I know some people who are completely scarred by that, you know, with PTSD. And so, listen, my grandchildren, they eat a very good diet, they’re very intelligent, they’re very healthy.[I don’t want them to go to war.]
Robyn: I know that you’re not really slowing down too much. You’re still producing great work.
I know you have a partnership with Joe Desena of the Spartan Nutritional Athletic Council. I know you’re doing something with Dr. Colin Campbell, who’s the author of the China study. Tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now.
Fred Bisci: Well, Joe’s very… he’s head of the Spartan Organization. He’s the developer. He was on Wall Street, and he owned a company called Capital Funding. He’s a brilliant guy. He’s very innovative.
His basic motivation is taking people and helping them make these challenges so they can really live their life, and be an “overcomer” in life, and develop a strong character and to live the right type of a life.
He appointed me the head of The Spartan nutritional program. Joe is doing a documentary; it’s going to be a really well done documentary. We’re were having a lot of elite athletes in there. I’m going to be in it.
Robyn: And you’re talking about taking people who are doing these major athletic feats, and moving them to a whole-foods, plant-based diet, right?
Fred Bisci: Part of the problem is people have been led to believe that animal protein is the only complete protein. A plant-based diet is by far the best way to go. Your body expends about 70% of your energy to digest your food when you’ve eaten. Some of the stuff people are eating out there, that supposed to be food.
If you’re eating a plant-based diet and you’re getting enough calories to sustain your ability, you’re going to expend maybe 10 to 15%. So where’s the rest of that going? The rest of that energy is becoming vital force. It’s going to make you live longer. It’s going to keep your joints free of inflammation. It’s going to keep your mind working sharp.
Robyn: Thank you so much for that. Dr. Fred Bisci, you’re an international treasure. I really enjoyed hearing from you today. Thanks so much for being with us.
Fred Bisci: My pleasure. Thank you so much.