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In the world of marketing and personal branding, people often use the archetypes developed by historic psychologist, Carl Jung, to describe their persona. In talking to Max Lugavere, over lunch at Hu Kitchen in Manhattan, it’s clear what he considers himself: A sage. A person tasked with providing knowledge to the masses and taking satisfaction in helping America become healthier, or at least providing them with the tools to do so.
As sages go, Max definitely knows his shit. A personal journey to learn everything there is to know about what to eat and what not to eat started with Max’s mother being diagnosed with an early onset of dementia. Max had always been interested in leading a healthy lifestyle, but in that moment, he realized that due to his genetics, being strict about what he did and didn’t put in his body was a matter of life and death.
From the looks of it, Max is definitely not your average lifestyle sage. He’s the type of dude you could strike up a conversation with at a hole-in-the-wall dive bar over some bourbon and ginger. He clearly takes care of himself: well-built and well-groomed, even in his straight-outta-the-gym attire. But the extent to which he does care for himself seems to widen and widen as our conversation journeys deeper. When it comes to health, Max believes that knowledge is power. And he knows the effects, positive or negative, of everything he does, everything he eats, and everything his body comes into contact with.
TV personality, author, filmmaker, social media influencer. Max may see himself as a lifestyle sage, but as we chat, I see something different. I see a rebel. A person whose primary concern is disrupting the status quo and taking down accepted principals– not so much teaching the masses new information, but forcing them to reexamine what they already think they know.
Max tells me that when it comes to health, nobody has your back. Food corporations will feed you whatever has the littlest impact on their bottom line, and as long as the machine continues to function, the FDA is more than happy to turn a blind eye. Of all of the information out there on healthy foods, the morsels of value are far outweighed by the semi-falsehoods and sometimes, outright lies.
Max preaches personal responsibility. Discipline and dedication. Eating healthy comes with being willing to seek out the truth, having the wherewithal to ignore most of what the media will tell you, and having the restraint to put your findings into practice. Through various media outlets (Instagram being my personal favorite), Max provides these truths on a daily basis. Everything he shares is designed to show you the right and wrong way to do things, and more often than not, the “wrong way” is something you may have thought you were doing right your entire life.
And best of all, the kind of lifestyle changes Max talks about are not only accessible, but easy. Maybe even fun. He admits to having a drink once in a while, explaining that the socially lubricating benefits of alcohol can outweigh the negative effects, when consumed in moderation of course. He’s a champion for coffee. Real coffee, not the “drinks” they sell at Starbucks that have more sugar than caffeine. And of course, the food suggestions and recipes he recommends daily on his Instagram channel look and taste so delicious, you’d think you were on your cheat day. To paraphrase one takeaway from our almost two-hour conversation: you don’t have to kill yourself to eat healthy, but you may just kill yourself if you don’t.
Nobody has your back, Max says. The sage turned revolutionary. The nomad turned priest. Max has made a successful career in doing what he does, but it’s his passion for the cause that carries him forward. He will continue searching for the truth behind food and continue making waves in the health industry as long as his heart continues beating. And when you live the sort of Spartan lifestyle that Max does, your heart continues beating for a very long time.
Dan Asulin: How do you Undo ordinary?
Max Lugavere: I want to undo what “ordinary” means from the standpoint of health and wellness. So many people feel crappy today due to the toxic food supply, chronic stress, lack of exercise, toxin exposure, or medical overprescription. I want to arm people with the tools to attain true wellness, which has nothing to do with medicine or government guidelines or any of that nonsense. Wellness, like happiness, should come from within, not without.
DA: What scares you about the way the world is going in terms of food and diet? What makes you hopeful?
ML: It scares me that there are now signs of cardiovascular disease creeping up in children. So many are overweight, type-2 diabetic, struggling with autoimmunity, depressed, demented, etc. I just hate to see suffering, and so much suffering is wrought by our food supply and the crappy advice we get from every direction, from Instagram gurus to celebrity doctors, and our own government. I just want to help people parse out the fiction from the truth.
DA: What is the one thing you hope people will say about your legacy, and what’s the one thing you know they will?
ML: I just want to add value to people’s’ lives in the best way that I’m suited to. I hope people see that I’ve always had strong values and put out content that was uniquely able to inform and also inspire and be fun, too.
DA: What is your biggest accomplishment?
ML: I’d say it’s just getting to do what I love for a living, so that I really get to focus on helping people with my content. Writing my book was also obviously a big feat, and I’m glad it has resonated with so many people. I’m excited for people to see my documentary, “Bread Head,” next.
DA: What is the one bad habit you can’t kick?
ML: I’d like to go to bed earlier, but I’m a night owl.
DA: What’s your go-to karaoke song?
ML: “The Promise” by When in Rome. I can also do a pretty mean cover of it on guitar.
DA: What’s one thing you wish it said on your Wikipedia page that it doesn’t?
ML: My Wikipedia page is super dated. I wish it said that I wrote a book.
DA: Who has been and will always be your hero?
ML: My mom.
DA: You talked a lot about the problem with corporations and processed foods. In your opinion, who is the worst company out there as far as making the world an unhealthy place?
ML: I don’t really like to point the finger at any one company, because we are all complicit in their activities. It’s like, I don’t let politics rile me up anymore either. Take the worst politician you can think of; somewhere within all of us exists that politician. We don’t find ways to deal with our stress so we binge eat comfort foods. I’m a big fan of Krishnamurti, who says, in essence, “we get the world that we deserve.” Transformation of society and our food supply and our government is only going to come when we inform ourselves and stand up for ourselves and each other with what we know is right.
DA: If you could tell America to give up eating one thing today, and never touch it again, what would that one thing be?
ML: Packaged, processed foods.
DA: What is the biggest misconception out there about healthy eating.
ML: That canola oil is healthy. It’s trash.
Writer: Dan Asulin