I tried to get an interview with Dr. Westman back in 2014, but we couldn’t get our schedules coordinated. I did get to speak with Dr. Westman, along with Jackie Eberstein (pronounced eber-steen) in 2015, so my reference to that in this video is not correct (I was remembering the 2014 problems…).
This is the recording of Dr. Westman & Jacqueline Eberstein, RN that I got this year on the 2017 Low-Carb Cruise. “Hurricane” Melanie Miller joined us a few minutes after we got started. We had a good discussion of their new venture, HEALClinics.com
HEALClinic Interview with Dr. Eric Westman, Jackie Eberstein and Melanie Miller
Howard: This evening… It’s evening here, I don’t know when the folks are viewing this is gonna be. But I had the great pleasure of getting Dr. Westman and Jaqueline Eberstein. It’s Eberstein [steen], right?
Jackie: That’s correct.
Howard: I never can remember whether it’s “steen” or “stine.”
Jackie: No, it’s “steen.”
Howard: But this is like 2 years in the making, because when I was here last time, I got to talk to Jackie but I didn’t get to talk to you. And with your rather full schedule, I’d probably never get another chance. I’m really glad to have you tonight. For those of you who are watching this, be aware that this is happening on the Low Carb Cruise which is one of the reasons you may see a little bit of shake in the video. It’s not as bad as as I was afraid it was gonna be but if it bothers you, close your eyes, just listen. It’s a very important information.
Now basically, I invited Dr. Westman and Jackie here to talk about a new venture that they started about 2 and a half years ago called the HEALClinics. So I want primarily to give you an opportunity to talk about that, especially… well, I’ve heard a little bit about it but I’m also a little curious as exactly how you’re going about this and what it is you’re planning to accomplish. So… and this is your brainchild, right?
Dr. Westman: Right. Well, it’s the brainchild of anyone who thought about ever using a Low Carb diet but it’s how to get more and more people on board or get trained into doing low carb diets and so I’m an owner of the company but really we’re just trying to make a mechanism for other people getting to learn about low carb, high fat diets. Not only to treat medical problems but to just teach people how to change your life in terms of energy level, in terms of obesity, so HealClinics, HEAL stands for Healthier Eating and Living, is a mechanism… a company to train practitioners on how to help other people do Low Carb Diets and so people can actually learn how to do it today and I just have to say that we borrow on Jackie’s experience with the HEAL method of nutrition which really came from the Atkins Center. That’s the place where Jackie worked for so long so it’s an honor to be able to carry forward and hopefully to expand in a huge way the nutritional treatments that Dr. Atkins and Jackie established many years ago.
Howard: Which reminds me, I’m kinda been missing in introducing you folks. Dr. Westman here, is the Immediate Past President of the American Society for Bariatric Medicine or…
Dr. Westman: Obesity Medicine
Howard: Oh, Obesity Medicine.
Dr. Westman: We changed the names…
Jackie: Yeah, we just changed the names.
Howard: And Jackie, is the longtime nurse for Dr. Atkins. 28 years… ?
Jackie: 29… almost thirty.
Howard: And we are being joined by “Hurricane” Melanie. Have a seat.
Howard: So, now… Melanie Miller is a recent new hire to the organization, right? When did you start with them?
Last… about a year?
Howard: Okay so that’s relatively recent that you’ve been here for a year. So what is your position?
Dr. Westman: This concern is one of the great things about now talking about a company and to do this in a big way is you meet people who’ve done it for 30 years, or who have the knowledge… then we meet people with the enthusiasm to approach and to teach other people and so Melanie bubbled up, if you will into as someone who taught a lot of people on her own. And we asked her to be a part of the HEAL Clinics because of her own personal experience and her experience leading other people in West Virginia.
Howard: And I had the opportunity to see your presentation and yeah, you’ve definitely earned your nickname.
Melanie: Vivacious or Hurricane?
Howard: Hurricane Melanie
Melanie: Thank you.
Howard: You’re the Marketing Director, right?
Melanie: No I’m actually the Director of Engagement.
Howard: Engagement? What’s the difference?
Melanie: So Marketing Director is the one that helps us with the materials and positioning of HEAL in the market and I’m actually the one that’s engaging people who need help, people who are looking for an opportunity to finally get healthy. So I’m not in front. I go out and I speak and I teach and train on behalf of these guys.
Howard: Now you mentioned that it’s more than just obesity.
Dr. Westman: Yeah.
Howard: But for when I think of Low Carb Diet I think weight loss. Would that be the majority of your clientele?
Dr. Westman: Well currently, because people think of the Low Carb Diet as being a weight loss diet, but it’s much more than that so I’ve never had to lose enough weight but I choose to eat in a Low Carb Diet way because I feel better… there’s less inflammation, less hunger… It’s just a healthy way of eating. Well, I think most people do think of it because Dr. Atkins and Jackie used it in a setting for obesity and that was what the need was. People think of the Low Carb Diet as an obesity treatment diet but it is more than that.
Jackie: Well, there’s so many other illnesses associated with obesity. And that’s really the point… it’s not just to help people lose weight so they look better but to help people, first of all we can’t prevent chronic disease, type 2 diabetes is certainly preventable. Most people don’t know that until their doctor tells them they have Type 2 Diabetes and they wind up on two or three or four or five drugs that they are expecting to take for the rest of their lives and as they get older, they often wind up with more medication, even insulin injections and so we know that it doesn’t have to happen if you adequately and properly control carbohydrates because diabetes is a disease of carbohydrate intolerance. And so what we want to do is help people lose weight because if you lose weight, you’re gonna decrease your chances to get those kind of conditions related to obesity, but the other point is if you already have them then we can help you get off medications to get healthier and lose the weight, because losing weight is a part of the treatment for people with diabetes. So it’s part prevention and also part of a safer treatment and a treatment that’s gonna make you healthier in the long run. And then there’s all the other associated things to get better when you do Low Carb – your headaches go away, your energy gets better, your mood gets better, your joints get better, reflux gets better… I mean it does… what you eat makes a very big difference and how you feel.
Howard: About 6 months after we started Low Carb, I came across this industrial size jar of Tums that we used to take several a day and like “wow we don’t need these anymore.” Tossed in the trash.
Jackie: Patients wind up on medications like for reflux. They’re on all these medications you see advertised on TV and in magazines and the small print says they should only be taken for short term yet we’ve interviewed people at the Atkins Center who are on them four, five, six years… They can cause osteoporosis, they can cause B12 deficiency. But once you’re placed on these drugs, it’s thought that you’re gonna need to remain on them and that’s one thing that clears very quickly when we control carbs. Your GI symptoms get better.
Howard: I also noticed just anecdotally that once a doctor actually diagnoses you as a Type 2 that you’ve been in trouble for some time.
Jackie: Yes. Some of the research shows with Pre-Diabetes, which is a condition that happens before you actually get numbers high enough to be classified as diabetes… these are numbers that are somewhere between diabetes and normal, that you’re already losing the insulin producing cells in your pancreas and once they’re gone they’re not coming back. And you’re also damaging your small blood vessels which lead to complications to diabetes. It’s not like you’re perfectly normal and then healthy and then have Type 2. It’s not that at all. So one of the things we do at HEAL is we can evaluate your risk for diabetes based on a variety of blood tests and other signs and symptoms that you have and then we can tell you what to do about it so that doesn’t advance further and actually put you into a remission and your blood test can look like perfectly normal… someone who never had that condition. That’s really what we like to do before people wind up with the diagnosis of type 2.
Howard: Now, I had a conversation with you the other day about blood testing in the various ranges and you had some very interesting things to say about – what are these ranges all about and where they’re based on, and what do they really mean so if you have a range of cholesterol from such a range of CRP, where do those come from?
Jackie: Well, one of the things I think that happens is when the doctors work with the blood test that they’ve ordered. They don’t necessarily look at the numbers but they look to see what’s marked high and what’s marked low. And if you are normal then they don’t put much attention to that but the way those numbers are determined is they take a large group of people who don’t have acute disease; no cancer, they don’t have heart disease, they haven’t had a stroke, they don’t have high blood pressure… and they’ll average out what their levels are in the blood. Now they may not be perfectly healthy, they might have hemorrhoids, they might have indigestion, they might get migraine headaches, have their joints hurt, so they’re not completely healthy. And then they take an average and this is what the normal should be of this average of supposedly healthy people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s an optimal level for you. And that’s one of the things that we want to look at at HEAL is really there’s no one size fits all. You look at lab working, you have to look at the patient’s symptoms and it isn’t just – yeah you’re normal because your cholesterol falls below 200. But if it’s 202, we need to write you a statin, because that’s not a good thing. We don’t do that at HEAL. We really look at our patients individually, and look at their symptoms.
Howard: So how are you gonna go about narrowing these ranges for the individual… tell them what they ought to be as a target. How do you do that?
Dr. Westman: So, first you measure a baseline and then with the change in diet or lifestyle change that we introduce, we measure it again and then actually some of the measurements, the lower the better, even if it’s below what other people see… like inflammation we want it to be as low as possible. Something like blood sugar, you don’t want it to be too low, blood glucose, we want it to be low normal for people who only eat in a low carb way.
Howard: I have a friend who was Type 2, he said “oh this morning my reading was 55,” and I said, “you need a new meter.” He said, “why” – “because you were conscious.”
Dr. Westman: So that’s an interesting thing. Actually if you are running on ketones, you’re in low carb ketogenic diet, you can fit that low and feel fine because you don’t need the glucose as much. And so in a couple of studies that we’ve done, we asked people to be in ketosis… make them do some change… in one case it was eating carb meal and another case is having some alcohol to see the effects of that and if you’re having lots of ketones in their blood, a little higher, and then you might actually have a blood glucose that’s below what’s thought of as a normal range… the normal glucose and they feel fine. So actually I’ve seen people with a 53…
Howard: Well, I do know my friend was not in a low carb diet.
Dr. Westman: Well that probably wasn’t good. But it’s just because we’re kind of creating a new normal, right? People who don’t eat carbohydrates…
Howard: When you calculate those ranges for people who aren’t on statins and things like that, how about blood pressure medications and things like that? Do you have a protocol that you use for blood pressure?
Dr. Westman: Absolutely. So anyone on medication… with medical problems, needs to be monitored. You can monitor your own blood pressure… blood sugar… if you’re not comfortable with that, absolutely do it with someone, like a doctor who is trained to do that. And at HEAL, we train practitioners to help adjust the medicine down… basically tapering people off medication from the blood pressure or blood glucose… blood sugar gets to the normal range, we start tapering back the medications. And that’s exciting co there aren’t many doctors that take away medications. Yeah, we can do that safely with monitoring.
Howard: So, actually practicing health care…
Jackie: Yeah, it’s really about health. It’s not about sickness.
Dr. Westman: That’s right.
Howard: So we’re kinda deep down here with the mechanism front so we’re going to talk to the “engagement” expert. What are you gonna do for these folks?
Melanie: What am I gonna do for the people that we care for or…
Howard: For HEAL, for HEAL clinic.
Melanie: What am I gonna do? Well, what have I done would probably be a great question.
Melanie: So, I met Dr. Westman when I was on my weight loss journey. I’ve lost almost a hundred pounds myself. I had actually lost probably 30 pounds when I first met you. Then I just had a goal to reach people… try to help them get healthy and as a nurse, nobody ever told me about this way of eating. You know, I have heard of Dr. Atkins and you know, some of the protocols but I was taught that bacon was horrible. So when I found out that it was legit that I could eat and lots of it and get healthy then I thought it’s time to share this. So I had told him that I was gonna start a community support group and it is called the Low Carb Revolution. In our first meeting we had 70 people show up. So it was pretty powerful and a month later we decided to do it again and it was 125… the month after that there was 175.
Howard: He must have been impressed by all that.
Dr. Westman: Indeed. I was impressed. I am impressed.
Melanie: You are?
Dr. Westman: Yeah.
Melanie: And then 2 months after that, we had another meeting and was actually no room on the floor for people to sit. There was 225 people on that small room. And so then by then I thought I had gotten his attention like, you know I think I’m on to something here… I really need your support. So he didn’t hesitate to come out to the second most obese state, which is West Virginia in the United States and we were second because our BMI’s were over 35, so it’s horrible. So you are getting diabetics everyday it’s just absolutely nuts… so we have him come in and he spoke and he walked in the room. There was over 400 people there. These are people that he sees in the clinic everyday. This is not the scientist, the experts or anything. He was the only expert. And so these people had come from everywhere just to hear him speak because they have a dream of becoming healthy without taking a bunch of medication.
Howard: How did advertise this stuff? How did you manage to get 400 people all in one place…?
Melanie: Well, I have a marketing company. I have been doing marketing for about 15 years. I work with the guys that played in the NFL for the Redskins. And so I just decided that maybe this recipe that I had created for my businesses that was helping to promote, I could just try it on myself using… being you know, under the scope of Low Carb. And so it worked. And so then after he came he basically was like, “oh my goodness I’ve only seen this one time and that was in South Africa, Melanie. This is amazing.” And so then that’s when you invited me a week later, you had me get on a business call with the team at HEAL and we began talking about what it would look like if they had somebody that was a little different, letting me to come on the team and help grow HEAL.
Howard: Now, the HEAL started out with some kind of a Kickstarter program… how did you raise your seed money?
Dr. Westman: No, no so it started with investors on the Low Carb Cruise. So in fact our initial investors were the ones who urged me and other low carb people to do something. So I came back to cruise and said okay, I have the team set up invest in us and so, no… most of our investors… with 80 investors now at relatively low… individuals who have been affected by the Low Carb Diet wanting to figure out a way to give back or to expand the availability of it.
Howard: So are you still attracting more investors?
Dr. Westman: Absolutely.
Howard: What kind of minimum investment would you expect a new investor will make?
Dr. Westman: Well, so that’s gonna be dependent with what someone has to offer and to put in. My business partner, Bruce Rossiter, is the one who helped established and I think in terms of other investments I think people come in at $25, 000 somewhere on that average. We’re working now with an investment bank to expand the opportunities for people to invest.
Howard: Now you spoke… you gave a presentation here on the cruise about commercialization of Low Carb. And the motivation here is, well, it’s not sustainable unless we can get money out of it and so you’re this kind of a double-edged sword people’s on you “Oh, he’s just in it for the money” or something like that. You made the case for – we need to actually make money or we can’t do it. So how are you going to make money off of this?
Dr. Westman: Well… so that’s the puzzle… that’s the conundrum… how do you expand the availability when the current medical system doesn’t offer… and that’s by creating a mechanism of getting a company going, where for a very modest or reasonable fee… you offer the services then give it to more and more people. So the company itself is relatively inexpensive sort of thing. If you go the website, HEALclinics.com, you either put it into a medical or non-medical arm and the way we make it a business is that we train people to teach people how to do it and they get paid. Part of the payment that people apply for in a subscription way to get the support to make the lifestyle change.
Howard: So you’re holding seminars or you just train…?
Dr. Westman: Well, on the individual level it’s a one on one with a partner. So if someone needs help doing this and will do it right the first time, as someone who has already been there so HEAL clinics will put you together with some who’s already done it. Someone like Melanie who’s lost 100 pounds gives that coaching in the individual personal attention that so many people meet.
Howard: Speaking of that, you know, Melanie has lost a 100 lbs., I’ve lost about a hundred and twenty five and yet I’m still overweight and I’ve been kind of treading that same place, treading water for years.
Dr. Westman: Sign him up.
Howard: So you got something to offer me as well?
Dr. Westman: Absolutely.
Dr. Westman: So what will be the issues 100 pounds into it…?
Melanie: Yeah so if you were… let’s say you were… well as he was just explaining, there are two sides of the company. We have the medical side, the non-medical side. So we have some people who are trying to halt their diseases… their diabetes… pre-diabetes… something like that, of that nature. So what happens is they go online, they simply fill out, they click on the right hand side that says click to enroll. They will fill out this application which basically gives us an outline of what their health status looks like Now wait, this is the coolest part, because that information get emailed to a legend. This lady right here, Dr. Atkins’ nurse and she’s on our team so she’s the one that evaluates it. It’s up to Jackie at that point whether that person becomes medical and have to be seen in the clinic or if they’re non-medical. In the non-medical piece is appropriate for someone who is trying to lose some weight but doesn’t have the diabetes, the pre-diabetes… It could be somebody that’s just tried everything and they can’t make it. They’re just like you… they’re like, “I’m trying to get through. I’m stuck.” And so they come to us to get unstuck and of course, we have the global experts. So by coming to us, you know we have people like Dr. Westman said, like myself, that have been through it. They understand it…. they get it… they know how hard it is. They know what you had to do with your mindset, you know, to finally get to the place where you fill out that application. And so we have, not only that… so you have an incredible situation where you also have commitement coaching. In our commitment coaching is something that Dr. Westman always wanted to put you but wasn’t capable of because of legal I don’t know stuff. So he brought this other part to the company so explain to him what commitment… because you’re so much better at that… with the commitment coaching.
Dr. Westman: Yeah, well, in the clinical setting, one of the things that was missing that’s so helpful for people is the idea of how to set goals, how to accomplish them and everyone comes… talking about food is one thing but the food is relatively minor part of it.
Howard: That was one of the things I had against Weight Watchers. You get a bunch of these overweight people get together to obsess about food for an hour…
Dr. Westman: So commitment coaching allows you to focus on the bigger things. Really, what are you trying to accomplish? Is it to be around your grandkids… to be able to walk up the stairs…
Howard: Throwing in some psychology in it.
Dr. Westman: Absolutely, psychology.
Howard: Now I’m sure we could go along for hours talking about this. I’m kind of excited about it myself. But I promised I wouldn’t gonna keep you guys real late. I do wanna wind up with your url which is HEALclinics.com and if you go to that website and you could sign up, and you can go through the introductions there and fill out the forms…
Melanie: Can I tell you the most important part about that website besides the tools that people signing up is you can go and read real-life stories of what is happening right now with people that have been touched by the HEAL program and by our HEAL care for life program. These are people that they have changed their life… their stories are amazing… they inspire people… we have collectively, I think we can agree on one, we have a guy… he’s only 20 years and he’s lost 135 and he came last year to me, it’s the first event before everyone started the HEAL… and he said, “that’s it — I’m gonna change my life, I’m gonna be healthy.” He didn’t even think his life was worth living anymore. He was depressed and everything. And so these guys came in a month ago and did an amazing forum where they teach on the low because when you’re starting… I call them low carb babies… they don’t understand yet. They don’t even know what a carb is. This superstar, she’s amazing… she taught about carbohydrates and what they do to your body… how they function and then of course, he brings the thunder with understanding the whole way that we eat. Why we eat that way and how it can affect your body because he’s the doc. This is absolutely powerful but this guy stood up at this last event a month ago and he said I was waiting until this very moment… to stand up here and share my story. And he goes, I had everything to live for to now. And he brought his clothes. He’s so proud and now this young man is 21 years old and he’s aspiring and inspiring people all over the world. He’s just amazing.
Howard: So are you guys going to eventually be so successful in your other business?
Dr. Westman: No worry about that for a long time.
Howard: Okay well it has been great talking with you. I had a good time on the Low Carb Cruise. And I enjoyed the presentations and I was really impressed by that energy level that you had…
Melanie: Well, you’re gonna come tomorrow, right? After lunch.
Howard: You’re gonna do it again?
Melanie: You’re gonna see it on a different level. Because there’s so much… We are a family at HEAL and these two are mentors to me. And they’ve helped me become who I am in this world. You know, in regard to the low carb world. We’re just changing lives so much. Tomorrow, we get to bring it to a whole another level with both of them there.
Howard: Thank you for that. I tried to get Dr. Westman 2 years ago and we just couldn’t get our schedules together… so this was two years in the making.