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How Chef Seamus Mullen Leveraged Holistic Lifestyle Medicine To Heal Himself

By August 3, 2015May 23rd, 201910 Comments

“I’ve really started to look at health as being contagious in a way that when you start to make really good and considered choices about your own well-being, the people around you take notice and they start doing the same thing as well.”

Seamus Mullen

Imagine yourself so debilitated by a battery of chronic ailments you can barely get out of bed. Merely walking down a simple flight of stairs or lifting a a book is excruciating. Knife-like pains cause you to scream so loudly, your neighbor calls 911. Then one day you collapse at work and awake in the hospital to discover you have suffered 36 embolisms that are filling your lungs with blood so quickly, drowning is a very real possibility.

Now imagine yourself a couple years later in a tropical jungle competing in La Ruta Del Conquistadores. Widely considered one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet, La Ruta is a 3-day, 161-mile mountain bike race with over 29,000 feet of climbing that traverses Costa Rica from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea.

This is the incredible arc of today’s guest, Seamus Mullen.

An award-winning New York City chef, restaurateur and cookbook author known for his inventive yet approachable Spanish cuisine, Seamus is the proprietor of several restaurants, including Tertulia (a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for “Best New Restaurant”), El Colmado, a Spanish tapas and wine bar at Gotham West Market, and Sea Containers at Mondrian London.

A semi-finalist for Best Chef NYC by the James Beard Foundation 3 years in a row, Seamus was also one of 3 finalists on the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef. He frequents the popular Food Network series Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay as a featured judge and is a recurring guest on programs such as The Today Show, The Martha Stewart Show, and CBS This Morning.

But the important things in life snapped into focus for Seamus in 2007 when he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that precipitated a near death experience and quite literally brought him to his knees.

A once avid cyclist who raced competitively in his twenties, Seamus suddenly found himself unable to properly function.

Pedal a bike? A pipe dream.

Seamus was faced with a choice. Either live out the remainder of his days with unbearable suffering, or take matters into his own hands. He chose the latter.

It wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t overnight. But by making a decision to make wellness his number one priority; by harnessing the power of holistic, functional medicine; and by rebooting his lifestyle wholesale, Seamus Mullen ultimately healed himself.

By virtue of working with people like lifestyle architect Ari Meisel and functional medicine doctor and RRP alumnus Frank Lipman (click here to listen to my podcast with Frank), Seamus can now add wellness advocate and authority to his already impressive resume. And when he’s not racing his bike across Costa Rica, he’s pedaling for charity or lost on one of his many cycling and motorcycle adventures exploring remote parts of the planet.

Seamus has shared his amazing story of renewal with major publications like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and through his bi-monthly column in Men’s Journal. He is currently making a documentary about his journey called Back on the Bike.

Seamus is a great guy and we had a fantastic conversation that explores all the aforementioned topics and then some, including:

  • the importance of healthy school lunch programs
  • the story behind his Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • the failure of traditional RA treatment protocols
  • symptomatic treatment vs. true healing methodology
  • his vivid near-death experience
  • understanding the importance of physical/mental health
  • the on-going commitment to growth & change
  • the importance of a healthy microbiome
  • the importance of positive support & self-belief
  • a whole foods approach to health & sustainability
  • the benefits of eating seasonally
  • the re-invention of food due to a growing food culture

For the record, Seamus isn’t vegan (yet – trust me, I’m working on it). But that doesn’t mean we can’t get along, find plenty of commonalities and agree on a wide range of important issues related to health and wellness. Plus, he did prepare me and John Joseph one of the most unique and incredibly delicious 6 course vegan meals I have ever experienced in my life. So I can more than attest to his culinary genius. Next time you are in NYC, drop by Tertulia in the West Village, tell him you want The Rich Roll Special. Then snap a photo of his (I predict priceless) reaction and send it to me.

I sincerely hope you listen with an open mind and enjoy the conversation.

Is wellness your number one priority? If not, why not? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Peace + Plants,


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Special thanks to today’s sponsor Four Sigma Foods: combining fast-food convenience with superfood effectiveness in a revolutionary new way. Save 15% on all your purchases when you use the coupon code “ROLL” at checkout.
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Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.


Connect With Seamus: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Background, Context & Reference:

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  • Elaine says:

    Great talk, thanks Rich & Seamus of course.

  • Lori A. Stevens says:

    Thanks again for a great podcast! This subject is of great interest to me.

    Long before I became a dietitian and even longer before I became plant based, my 8 year old daughter developed an autoimmune condition after a strep infection. It didn’t fit
    in any one box and was characterized as “post strep arthritis”, “seronegative
    enthesitis”, or spondyloarthritis. They even considered that she was faking it as my husband was a military officer deployed to Iraq. Every morning I carried her out of bed, bathed her in warm water, gave her meds and then tearfully dropped her off at school. This went on for months with no improvement. We saw a pediatric rheumatologist at a top hospital who never mentioned nutrition. She was on high doses of strong NSAID’s and I was terrified that she was on her way to needing prednisone, methotrexate and biologics.

    I explored nutrition on my own and really feel that improving her diet helped. At that time, I decreased processed food, dairy and meat. I didn’t completely omit anything but I focused on increasing fruit and vegetable intake. I couldn’t really find any evidence for that, but instinctively, it made sense. We also practiced yoga, weekly kaya hot oil treatments, heat lamp therapy and gentle massage. Over the course of a year, her symptoms improved and she is symptom free (and plant based)12 years later.

    This is a long winded way to get to my question! During my daughter’s illness, I repeatedly came across articles suggesting that we eliminate nightshade vegetables
    (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes and many others) due to certain alkaloid
    compounds they contain. I am Italian American and I really didn’t like this advice. I also didn’t want to eliminate foods that she liked and I considered healthy. We greatly limited but did not completely avoid them. If Seamus sees the comments, I would like to
    know if he received this advice. Did he avoid nightshade vegetables? Did the practitioners treating him suggest this?

  • Patricia says:

    This is just a small point relative to the entire podcast, but I don’t think we can lay the blame for the exponential growth in processed foods in the U.S entirely on women’s entering the workforce. This assumes that very few women worked outside the home prior to 1940, while in fact close to 30% did (though not white, middle-class women). In 2009 that number was 59% (numbers based on government statistics). Admittedly that is a big jump, but not enough to entirely change the way a nation produces, sells, and consumes food. I know Seamus is not blaming women and this is not a defensive response; I just think it is important to think through and try to understand the true (multivariate) causes so we can address them more fruitfully.

  • Russell says:

    Really enjoyed this Rich, just finished on my journey this morning. But then I enjoy all of the RRPs – been listening since day 1 and cannot wait until ep.2 with James aka Iron Cowboy. Amazing guests, varied topics an all round captivating listening experience!
    I’m a plantbased vegan (along with my wife and daughter) and in our household wellness, keeping fit and eating real food is the number one priority to a positive life.

    Just love the podcast, you’re both doing an inspiring job and now really enjoying the ‘ask me anything’ sessions with Julie too. Both your energies have had a role to play in encouraging me to quit my 9-5 and focus on what I enjoy to pay the bills not dragging my heels up the stairs to the office!
    The word is spreading……..take care.
    Russell & Charlotte from the UK.

  • Matt Chitwood says:

    Very solid edition. I didn’t want it to end. Very compelled now to research and learn more – especially about a healthy gut. Thank you both…

  • Faye says:

    I have listened to this podcast three times. I had no idea about gut microbiomes. I’m having some issues with gut health at the moment and I feel this podcast has pointed me in the right direction for resolving some health stuff. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together.

  • Erik says:

    Really enjoyed this one! I would like to know how the average person can obtain this sort of medical treatment. Not everyone can call upon Dr. Lippmann. Sorry, If Zi got the name working. Is also interested in Ayurvedic medicine. How difficult is it to find one of theses Dr.s?

  • Matt says:

    Awesome conversation as usual – thanks, Rich… While I can appreciate Seamus’ desire to steer clear of being in one camp versus another, I’d be interested to hear his take on abstaining from meat for the planet’s long-term health. I feel like acknowledging the truth about meat consumption doesn’t mean you have to label yourself. At this point, it just means you’ve faced reality.

  • Mitchell Katz says:

    This was yet one more engaging and informative interview. While his experience is limited to him, there are just too many anecdotes about the medical professions insular and limited approach to diagnosis and treatment. Thankfully your podcast has introduced the listeners to medical professionals who do take a holistic approach. You are creating a group of informed consumers and we will demand more from our doctors as we seek answers to our medical challenges. Using the Plant Power Way as a kickstarter, my wife and I have just embarked on a plant based diet. It is interesting and challenging; an adventure in the kitchen and supermarket. Thanks for doing what you do.

  • Tommy F says:

    Great story of healing. Overcoming the hell of symptom prescribed treatment, and instead instituting a body wellness program focused on whole food nutrition.

    Two great insights coming out of this great podcast:

    “Western Medicine is really good at accute trama.. but really bad at chronic disease.”

    “Understanding/respecting the gut biome and keeping our constitutions fully integrated by applying auruvedic wisdom, are keys to a healthy functioning human body.”


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