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Challenging The Giants: Mark Leong’s Food Revolution – Forbes

Challenging The Giants: Mark Leong’s Food Revolution – Forbes

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People struggle to be healthy. That’s because they don’t know what it means.

“It’s about finding a deeper purpose in what our health truly means to us,” says Leong, co-founder, and CEO of Farmz. “For us to truly take care of our bodies, and to look and feel great, we need to start with our food.” Leong is a certified microbiologist, nutrition, and juice practitioner and has dedicated the last decade of his life to reversing chronic conditions across Asia. But behind his powerful movement in creating a healthier world, Leong’s path is laden with tragedy and regret.

A Painful Past

“I was raised in a conventional Asian family, where studying hard and getting good grades came first. We were taught that by doing so, opportunities would become available to us. I did what they asked without question. ‘Maybe one day,’ I thought to myself, my father would tell me, ‘I’m proud of you as my eldest son.’ 

After I graduated, I traveled the world. I was so preoccupied with trying to climb the corporate ladder that I saw my parents just once or twice a year. And one day, I got a call from my mom. I hardly got calls from her, so I immediately felt that something was wrong. She’s a strong lady, and she doesn’t cry. But I picked up the phone, and between tears, she said one thing: ‘You need to come back home.’

Without hesitation, I flew home. The doctors delivered the worst news that we could possibly get: My father had been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. But what hit me the most was that he had just six months left to live. The thought of what I would do with him for the next six months didn’t occur to me. Instead, I was filled with guilt and shame. Alone and crying in my car, I remembered a conversation I had with my father over the phone that same year. He asked me, ‘Mark, are you coming back for Christmas?’, and all I said was, ‘I’m too busy. I’ll come when I can.’ I neglected him when all he wanted was his family. I couldn’t erase that feeling of regret. The only thing left to do was to find a way to treat him.”

Leong and his family were handed an important decision with 24 hours to decide: whether or not to treat his father with intensive chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. And with no other clear options, it went ahead. “It wasn’t easy. By the third month, he lost over 100lbs of weight. The hardest part wasn’t the pain he was in or how painkillers did nothing to alleviate it. The hardest part was that he turned blind. The radiation treatment took his eyesight. He was in such fear after losing his vision after 68 years that he took my hand and said to me, ‘Mark, I’m scared. I can’t see; it’s dark.’ And I told him, ‘Don’t worry. We’re all here.’”

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As the treatment progressed, side-effects became worse. Before long, his father was debilitated. Leong recalls, “Shortly after, he became paralyzed from the waist down. We thought he wasn’t eating enough after the radiation burned his throat, but actually, it destroyed his lower body. After months of care, especially from my eldest sister, my family and I were physically and mentally drained. I sat beside him and asked, ‘Is there anything else you want to do, or anywhere you want to go? We’ll do it with you. I’ll quit my job if I have to.’ The medical expenses cost us a few hundred thousand. I was fearful, but I put my father’s life first,” Leong recalls.

Having faced prolonged pain and suffering, with no hope of recovery, his father replied, “Mark, I want to stop the treatment. If I’m going to die anyway, I want to go peacefully and fast.” It wasn’t the cancer that was killing him anymore. It was the treatment, and it was killing him faster.

The Turning Point

After honoring his father’s request, Leong and his family were desperate for the remaining two months of his life. “We tried every remedy you could find. Nothing seemed to work. But I was blessed to encounter a Taiwanese doctor who gave me simple yet incredible advice. She said, ‘You need to get food into your father’s body. Otherwise, he has no immunity to fight disease or infection.’”

Leong questioned, “How could he eat if he can’t even drink water?” But crucially, he found a solution before time ran out. That solution was juicing. “We introduced juicing to him. But it wasn’t fruit juices from supermarkets. It was pure vegetable juice from organic ingredients, composed of 80% vegetables and 20% low fructose fruits. And we extended those two remaining months to four more years. It was just in time to witness my younger brother’s wedding –  a brief moment of relief and happiness for my family. We were so grateful to spend more time with him.”

But as Leong painfully recalls, his father was never the same. “We couldn’t restore his ability to walk or his eyesight. And as those four years drew to a close when he passed away, I realized that I never had a chance to tell him how much I love him. As an Asian, we’re taught not to express these feelings, and I still carry that regret with me to this day. 

The morning after he was cremated, I held his ashes in my hands and felt nothing but pain and frustration. Over the years that I searched helplessly for answers, I realized just how many lies there are in our food industry. Radiation treatment is a constant recommended solution to all cancer patients despite the low success rate. Things labeled as ‘natural’ rarely are. Health authorities in the industry cite ‘facts on paper’ without any level of understanding. I knew I had to make a difference. I went into food medicine and spent a decade getting qualified, and this is where I found my place.”

Leong used the same revelation that extended his father’s life to improve his own eating habits. He lost 30kg, and was able to get off of his own medication in 3 months. “Five minutes of pleasure in your mouth will destroy five hours of your productivity. It’s not worth it. I enjoy junk food on occasion, but it’s all about balance. I use the 80:20 rule in everything, which is what keeps me on top of my eating habits and lifestyle.” The 80:20 rule is simple: Leong eats clean food 80% of the time and allows himself to eat less healthy foods for the remaining 20%. “Out of the seven days in the week, I’ll pick two days to eat whatever I want. For the remaining five days, I stick to my clean food regime and get my nourishment from plant-based alternatives, fresh fruit, and vegetables. And I feel amazing.”

The Food Revolution Movement

Leong believes that no matter what you do, the only way to get your energy and focus is through the food you eat. “Real food is our primary source of energy. With a healthy diet, we can avoid chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. These days, everything is fast and convenient at the expense of human lives. Meatless burgers seem healthy but are often highly processed and injected with chemicals such as “heme” that signal to our brain that we’re eating meat. If it comes at a detriment to our health, what kind of balance are we trying to bring to the world? Should we be creating something that seems great but actually threatens mankind or something that will benefit us for generations?

For years, I thought that success was about profit. After my father’s passing, I started my business. I started to make millions every year, but I was never fulfilled by the money. I realized that it’s far more powerful to focus on what problems we’re solving. To question what solutions we’re creating for the community we’re connected to. We never stop asking what we can do to make our clients’ lives easier and how we can match the convenience available to the market today. This is what motivated me to create the ‘Food Revolution Movement,’. Making it our mission to educate 1 million people by 2025 through our program, ‘Eating Right is a Lifestyle’. We want people across the world to lead better quality lives. We’re determined to empower people with the knowledge in food safety that they’re never taught in schools.”

As the author of “From Flabby to Fitty in 23 Days,” Leong has found consistent worldwide notoriety for the clarity and accessibility of his health wisdom. His book sits proudly in both the National Library of Singapore, as well as in Kinokuniya, a well-established Japanese bookstore chain, with over 350,000 copies sold. 

Having worked tirelessly towards bettering society and transforming thousands of lives, his diligent efforts found appreciation in 2019. Leong is the proud winner of the ‘Top 100 Global Healthcare Leaders’ award, being just one of three Asians to be awarded the achievement that year across the world.

When asked what sets Farmz apart, Leong replied, “Not only do we offer the fastest weight loss results, but unlike other companies, we teach people about the food that they’re eating through ‘edutainment’. We do more than teach you how to cook food for your chronic conditions. We take you through an engaging, interactive journey in understanding the history of food in a fun, memorable way. We believe in the facts, and the fact is that fad diets are never the answer. That’s why our dietary advice is based on thorough research conducted by our team of scientists, toxicologists and dieticians. After coming to our workshops, maintaining a clean diet no longer becomes a factor of convenience or price. It becomes a factor in your quality of life.”

Giving Back to Society

“I’m on a mission for the next five years. I plan to meet with the schools in Singapore and Malaysia to convert all school gardens into edible gardens. We’re going to teach kids how to plant simple things, harvest them once a month, and pass the food onto the canteen vendors. The next part of the mission is to introduce nutrition education to the core curriculum. To teach kids what goes into the food that they enjoy – that bread only needs flour, water, and salt – not 20 nasty additives,” Leong explains. “We do this because we want the next generation involved in the process. We want them to understand the value of real food. By doing so, we can finally stop growing a generation of sick children.”

What truly makes Leong’s movement unique is his unopposed level of care and attention. “We provide food alternatives from multiple racial cultures – not just salads. We also collaborate with Michelin star chefs who design our recipes. The food is healthy, affordable, and tastes incredible,” he says. While Leong dedicates his practice to promoting better eating habits, he doesn’t stop there. Every year, 20% of his company’s revenue is given back to society to help the less fortunate. “Last year, we went to Cambodia and built water filters. The government wasn’t giving this to those in rural areas, so we stepped in. Prior to that, we gave them solar lamps – sustainable things that they’re otherwise unable to access,” says Leong.

“I don’t expect to leave a legacy,” Leong remarks. “All I want is to look back 20 years from now and know that I made the best of my years, having built an organization at the gold standard for food safety and nutrition guidance for the people in Asia. Farmz is on a mission that I couldn’t be more proud of – we’re challenging the giants out there and bringing an impact to the world.”

Published at Wed, 06 Jan 2021 01:55:17 +0000

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