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The Power of Prayer; Richard Blais "Cooks His Ass Off"; Starting Off The New Year On The Right Foot

Aired December 21, 2013 - 16:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Hey there, and thanks for joining me.

Coming to you from D.C. today.

Later in the program, Richard Blais is going to be stopping by, the winner of "Top Chef All Stars" and the host of a new show on our sister network HLN. He'll be here with some delicious healthy holiday food.

But, first, just in time for Christmas, I'm really delighted to have finally found sometime on our schedule to sit down together in person with Pastor Joel Osteen.

Real pleasure to have you on the program. Thank you.

JOEL OSTEEN, PASTOR, LAKEWOOD CHURCH: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

GUPTA: Happy holidays.

OSTEEN: Hey, same to you.

GUPTA: You know, I've been fascinated by the intersection between faith and medicine, as a doctor and a pastor. This time of the year for you in particular, do you re-evaluate your faith? Does it -- what does it mean to you?

OSTEEN: You know, Christmas, of course, as we celebrate the birth of Christ as Christians, I think, you know, we do in a sense, to me and I encourage others, to let it be a time of new beginnings, meaning let go of the old, the unforgiveness, what didn't work out, start afresh and anew. I think that's one message of Christmas.

GUPTA: How do you keep so upbeat all the time? Are you always like this?

OSTEEN: You know, it's funny, my natural personality is I've always been positive and optimistic. But I do think, you know, all of us have days you just don't feel like going on, you get out of bed. It's kind of -- but you have to get up and I think you have to find something to be grateful for.

You know, what I found is how you start the day many times determines what kind of day you're going to have and it's easy to start the day thinking, man, I don't want to go to work, it's cold, I got this problem. But I think you need to get up and say, do you know what, I'm glad to be alive today -- find something to be grateful for. It doesn't mean it's going to be perfect, but I think it will help make your day go better.

GUPTA: I so agree with that. And I've been sort of this idea of optimization, springing out of bed, thinking how can I be a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better son, all those things. It's so important I think.

OSTEEN: It really is. You know, so much of what's going on in our mind affects our life, our health -- I don't have to tell you this. But people just don't realize some people have grown up with just negative thoughts and that internal dialogue, these negative thoughts always play in, and it's just normal to them. And I think that's -- you know, when I teach on that, that's one of my most responded to messages, change the recording from "I'm not talented and nothing good is in my future", you got to change that to -- you know, again, this is going to be a good day. You know, I'm a person of destiny. Something is great in my future.

GUPTA: And, maybe it's worth reminding the people around you as well, the same messages when they're not having a good day.

Let me ask you a little bit about this intersection, you know, patients and family who pray, during a time of illness or great need. There was a study that came out that said people who weren't typically devout, weren't typically praying, when they prayed, it really did not make a difference in the outcome. It may have even made things worse in part because the idea was if they're praying at this point, it may mean that there's no other -- that there's no other options here.

Does prayer have a measurable influence when it comes to health, do you think?

OSTEEN: You know, I don't know if it's, you know, I haven't seen the statistics, I can just tell you from a pastor's point of view. I see when people are optimistic, when they take time to believe that God's got them in the palm of his hand, almost, you know, it takes away that anxiety, when you can relax and say, do you know what, God's in control of my destiny. I'm going to choose to believe but, you know, if it's my time to go, I'm going to go.

But I always encourage people, if it is your time, you can go in faith, you can go with a smile. Maybe, you know, there's pain, we realize some of that. But I just think being negative, discouraged, doubtful, I don't think that helps to heal and to go further.

GUPTA: This idea of intercessory prayer, this idea of praying for people that don't know you're praying for them and you may not even know this people, but you get together and you pray for somebody else. Pastor, do you think there's something to that?

OSTEEN: I do. Of course, as a Christian pastor I'm a believer in the power of prayer and I've seen it work. And, you know, I don't know if you can put statistics to it, but we just see things happen when people get together and pray.

I don't know if you know my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in 1981 and no treatment they could give her, and it's a long story. But do you know what? All we could do is turn to our faith because there was no treatment, and my mom she prayed, she believed, she quoted scriptures.

She didn't, you know, let depression come over her and, you know, it didn't happen overnight. But 30-something years later she's alive.

GUPTA: That's amazing. That's remarkable.

Right. And sometimes it's hard to measure but the act of faith itself we do know has value, the act of optimism and the act of believing that you're going to recover when the odds are stacked against you.

OSTEEN: Yes, that's what -- the studies that I read is that people that are feisty recover better, people that have the will, that the desire, and I've even read studies, of course, sometimes I teach on this, that even doctors having their patients get up and say, I'm getting better every day, in every way, you know, get that into your mind, get that into your spirit.

Well, I believe a lot of health and healing, you know, your body can heal itself.

GUPTA: Right.

OSTEEN: And you get the right -- when you're at peace, you know, and you have that joy in your spirit.

GUPTA: You brought up your mother, and, you know, this kind of year, the "sandwich generation" we call it, you are taking care of your parents, you're also taking care of your kids, it's a festive time the holidays, but it can be a challenging time as well, especially for the people in the middle.

Any advice for them?

OSTEEN: Well, you know, it can be difficult. I think just taking time, knowing that every time you serve, you know, every -- the sacrifice, you're going to be rewarded that you did it.

GUPTA: Right.

OSTEEN: Because we are not going to always have our loved ones, but my heart goes out to people because, you know, sometimes it's difficult.

GUPTA: I don't get to see my parents as much and I think exactly what you said, just reminding myself that, you know, we don't get these moments as often as we used to and, you know, you want to make sure they're special. Not set too high an expectation because that can always be a little bit tough as well.

OSTEEN: Yes. GUPTA: How do you decide to write this latest book?

OSTEEN: Well, Sanjay, it seemed like I saw a lot of people, and myself included, we tend to -- it's easy to get stuck in life. And, you know, I never thought I would be a minister.

My dad tried to get me to do it for 17 years. I can't get up in front of people. What am I going to say? I'm more quiet and reserved.

But, you know, when he died, I stepped up and, you know, it's grown. So, there are gifts in us that we don't know that we have. But I said all those years, I don't -- I'm not that talented. I don't have the education, never been to seminary.

And I think we all do that, you know, not -- we put these limits on ourselves. So, I wrote the books to encourage people to take the limits off yourself. Quit telling yourself what you can't do. You're a person of destiny. God has put you in everything you need to fulfill your destiny. When you start believing, amazing things can happen.

GUPTA: We're going to have much more with you after the break. This is a real -- again, I really appreciate you being on the program. I've reported a lot on this intersection between medicine and health and then also people who say they've gone to heaven and then returned. I want to talk about that.

Plus, Pastor Osteen has got a big announcement to make. He's going to make it right here on the program.

We've got much more right after the break.


GUPTA: And we're right back with Pastor Osteen.

You know, I've been really interested, again, partly as a physician but just as a citizen, there's a lot of stories of people who say they have died, essentially brain dead, gone to heaven, and returned. And to talk about it and tell stories and write books.

Just what do you think of when you hear those stories?

OSTEEN: Well, I believe, Sanjay, that heaven is real and it's interesting to me the little bit I've studied on it, we talked earlier, my dad did a documentary years ago.

It seems like the stories that come back many times are similar. They go to a place of light. They feel love that they've never felt before.

I don't know that I can explain it all. But, you know, you hear reports of people leaving their body and seeing themselves being worked on as a heart attack. Again, I'm a believer in the afterlife and believe that heaven is real.

GUPTA: You don't care about people going to the other place and coming back.

OSTEEN: You know, it's interesting that documentary my dad did, you don't hear that much, but there were a couple, I don't remember their names, but they talked about this place of, you know, just basically hell. So, it's interesting. I don't know. It's interesting, you know, and they had a chance to come back.

So, I don't know, it's fascinating.

GUPTA: You have a big announcement to make and I'm excited to hear about it.

OSTEEN: I'm excited, too. Thanks for letting me make it.

We're coming back to Yankee Stadium on June 7th. It will be the 10th anniversary of what we call our Nights of Hope. These are events we do on the road once a month.

So, we're excited to be coming back to New York.

GUPTA: This is about 50,000 people?

OSTEEN: Yes, that's right. That's right. We've done it before five years ago and it was full last time. So, we just feel very blessed to go and just a night of inspiration.

GUPTA: You obviously talk to very large crowds all the time. Fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears. Does that happen to you?

OSTEEN: When I first started, because I'd never done it before. And I got up in front of my dad's church. And my first thought was, why is everyone staring at me? Because I'd never seen it from that point of view.

But, you know, it was difficult and you have to talk to yourself, those thoughts begin to say, you are not cut out for this, you're not supposed to be a minister, all these negative thoughts.

But, I talked to myself and I believe this is what I'm called to do and I'm strong and talented. And, you know, over time, it's gotten better, obviously.

GUPTA: Listen, it's a real honor and real pleasure. I wish you best of luck at Yankee Stadium. Please come back anytime. And happy holidays to you and yours (ph).

OSTEEN: Thank you so much. Appreciate it so much.

GUPTA: Pastor Joel Osteen. Thank you so much.

And up next, some really goo and some really healthy, hopefully, holiday food with America's top chef, Richard Blais.

But first, today's "Human Factor".


GUPTA (voice-over): Derrick Coleman doesn't always hear the roar of the crowd, the din of the stadium.

DERRICK COLEMAN, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Basically I lost my hearing when I was three. I had hearing aids ever since.

GUPTA: The Seattle Seahawk is legally deaf. It's the result of a rare genetic disorder. But that didn't stop him from having a regular childhood.

COLEMAN: I was just a normal kid. I was just going out there and trying to play football.

GUPTA: In high school, ESPN ranked him as the number two fullback in the nation and he started thinking about playing in the pros.

COLEMAN: I wasn't really thinking about it so much until maybe my senior year. And I was just going out there and just playing hard. I just wanted to play.

GUPTA: He was a running back at UCLA for four years. And after graduating with a degree in political science, the 23-year-old is showing his versatility as a fullback for the Seahawks, scoring his first touchdown in the pros earlier this month.

And he's only the third player in NFL history to be legally deaf.

So, how does he do it? Well, on the field, he makes no excuses.

COLEMAN: I can read lips and I can read lips very well. So what I do is, you know, when I can't hear something, I'll always go and make sure I'm looking at the person. The person who is the quarterback or hover, they look at me.

GUPTA: His skull cap keeps his hearing aids in place.

COLEMAN: I was basically just like all of you guys.

GUPTA: Off the field, Coleman tries to make time to speak to deaf and hard-of-hearing children, to offer words of encouragement especially for those who may be struggling.

COLEMAN: Don't let your hearing be an excuse for not, you know, wanting to go for your dream, whatever your dream is.

Successful people in my opinion they always find a way. If you really want to be successful, you have to find a way.



GUPTA: Well, you know, it's that time of year again when there's so much good food around that it can sometimes be hard to control your urges when it comes to eating. If you can't help yourself, you should -- your best bet is to make sure the food you've got lying around is actually some of the good stuff. In order to make that happen, we decided to get a little bit of help.


RICHARD BLAIS, CHEF: Hi. I'm Richard Blais, chef and host of "Cook Your Ass Off."

"Cook Your Ass Off" is a cooking show where our chefs are proving that you can cook healthy food that's better for you, that's also delicious.

This guy right here, 10 years ago, was living the lifestyle of a hardworking chef. I didn't do very much exercise. This was sort of the exercise that I was good at. It was a fork or a spoon.

One day, I looked in the mirror and I was just, like, who is this guy? And I realized that there was a lot of work to do. So, the changes I made in my diet and lifestyle were, one, I just stopped eating and drinking so much in a social setting. I think that was the easiest thing to do.

And I found the love of my life, my wife. My wife had been a personal trainer earlier in her life. So, I literally had to run after my wife, so we started running together.

I hope I can inspire people. I mean, if I can lose that weight, where I was, 60 pounds overweight, miserable, totally inactive, anybody can do this.


GUPTA: And Richard joins us now.

Thanks so much for being on the show. I'm a huge fan of yours, and learning from you and even been sort of doing cooking on my own because of you.

I have to ask, not only did you lose that weight, you kept it off. That second part is hard for a lot of people. What was -- what was the key for you?

BLAIS: Yes, I kept it off. Originally it was just exercise, so once I kick-started the sort of fitness plan, you can lose a little weight, and then it's this part of it. It's changing the way that you eat.

So, it was sort of eating and drinking in a social setting. Chefs, we taste all day long and we get off of work and we want to go out to eat. It sounds silly.

GUPTA: Right.

BLAIS: But if you are eating 30 days in a row at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, you have a half of pizza and a half bottle of wine, you do that, you know, 30 days in a row. It's not so good. GUPTA: And you're balancing, obviously, putting more helpful ingredients in your foods now, because you've lived through some of this.

BLAIS: Yes, again. Originally, it was just fitness and now it's food. Some of the things we're talking about today are how you can take some of the dishes that we love especially during the holiday season and how you can still make them delicious but maybe take away some of the fat, the sugar.


BLAIS: Or some of the salt.

So, we're starting with one of my favorites.

GUPTA: My favorite, too.

BLAIS: Macaroni and cheese.

GUPTA: The ultimate comfort food.

BLAIS: My kids love macaroni and cheese. So, what we've done in these dishes. We've used quinoa pasta. So, that's a seed, it's a complete protein. So, we're getting our protein there.

And then instead of adding cream and butter, we've pureed cauliflower, which looks like milk. It sort of mimics it visually, it gives that creamy texture. We're adding vegetables. I mean, I hate to use deception as a tool when cooking for kids. But the kids don't know that there's no quinoa --

GUPTA: So, the quinoa and the cauliflower -- I mean, how does it taste?

BLAIS: It's delicious.

GUPTA: I mean, I'm going to give it to go.

BLAIS: Yes, you're going to give it a go. I mean, this is what I mean for Thanksgiving this year. So, it's not just something I do, oh, because we're trying to change people's lives, we are. But it's also the food I'm eating at home, and it makes a difference.

GUPTA: What do we have here?

BLAIS: So, this is sort of stuffing, right? Our version of the holiday stuffing full of bread usually, usually lots of butter and/or animal fat or sausage. This is barley.

So, I love using --

GUPTA: Really?

BLAIS: I love using grains to replace like rice or carbs or replace a risotto, or something like that. So, it's cherries and walnuts and barley. And that's just -- you know, it's not as heavy. There's not a lot of butter. It's olive oil. It's fresh herbs.

A lot of acidity and fresh herbs, people really want to change the way they cook at home and not rely on salts and fat, fresh herbs and acidity.

Now, we get to dessert and it's challenging. It has a lot of fat and has a lot of sugar. But here, this is a sweet potato pie and it's really simple. All we've done is not put the crust on it, right?

So, the crust, you know, it's got all those carbs in it. It usually has some butter in it, and we've just replaced it.

GUPTA: Love that.

BLAIS: With some oats and some almonds, right? Well, super food almonds really, really great for you.


BLAIS: And we've made a crumble out of it.

So, another real simple way -- you don't have to change the recipe, although most desert recipes, and my wife is really good at this -- you know, look at any traditional recipe and just cut the sugar in half. And that's a good start.

GUPTA: But go crustless, that's a good -- that's a good tip.

BLAIS: Go crustless.

GUPTA: Red velvet cake.

BLAIS: Now, this -- so, red velvet cake, and/or chocolate cake, whatever you want to use as the original inspiration.

This I'm calling sort of a tartar, it's mimicking like steak tartar. What I love about this recipe is red velvet cake, we've used beets. So, beets are a source of sugar and a lot of ancient recipes or old school recipes use beets in chocolate cake. So, this is a way to get vegetables in your dessert, sort of like a carrot cake, and you don't even know it. It's chocolate cake, it's red velvet, whatever you want to call it, but it has the beets in it which is a vegetable, which is really good for you.

And then we get into the beverages. This is, of course, holiday time and we are talking about eggnog and instead of having eggs and/or lots of cream in it, we've used Greek yogurt and the bananas just like we've sort of use the cauliflower for the macaroni and cheese, to get that texture, we're taking away some of the fat and we're adding some protein with the Greek yogurt and the banana.

GUPTA: So, Greek yogurt and banana, what do you -- you just blend them together? BLAIS: It's a smoothie of sorts. Yes, we're just blending it up, a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg and the traditional sort of eggnog flavors, and a little bit of rum, of course, because this is the holidays.


BLAIS: You can omit the rum if you want to.

GUPTA: You've made up for it with the rest of it.

BLAIS: Exactly. You look at the recipe and you can take one or two things out. You can swap one or two things and the neat thing about these, these are all recipes you can find at And these are all recipes you can do 30 minutes, easy to mix, couple of ingredients.

GUPTA: Now, the new show -- I hear you can't say the title of the show in front of your kids, is that right?

BLAIS: Well, you know, "Cook Your Ass Off."

GUPTA: Just did.

BLAIS: And it's the title of the show and, you know, I kind of talk over it sometimes. But, you know, I love the name of the show because -- I mean, we are empowering people to get up, to get in their own kitchens to think about the way that they eat or the way that they cook to change their lives. So, I think it's a pretty transformational show.

GUPTA: You know, as much as we talk about health care in this country and basically trying to prevent the disease, food can be medicine and still taste pretty good. I've come to believe that.

I thank you for your great advice over the years, Richard Blais.

BLAIS: It's an honor.

GUPTA: Still ahead on SGMD: keeping with the same topic, we've got a radical idea how to fix our health care system. This is proven, it is cheap, and most importantly if you do this, you're going to feel better and happier than you ever have before.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: You know, earlier this month I was struck by this fact, thinking about health care. It seems that so many of us sit around just simply waiting for a disease to finally strike. This is going to happen. That's what we think. It's so depressing in many ways. It's fatalistic.

So, I decided to write an op-ed for, making this case it's time to start playing defense when it comes to our health. Don't think about this as defense but rather, think of it as optimizing ourselves -- making ourselves the best that we can be.

Doesn't sound good, happier?

Well, my next guest has launched this program to make this point and this program is really turning into a movement to help people make the most important commitments they may ever make in their lives.

Bahram Akradi, he is the founder and CEO of Lifetime Fitness. He's a pretty fit guy himself.

I've had the pleasure of seeing you before in person, Bahram. It's nice to have you on the program.

BAHRAM AKRADI, LIFETIME FITNESS: Thanks for having me, Sanjay.

GUPTA: One thing I should point out we're working with your company, Lifetime Fitness, on one of the programs that we started here at CNN called Fit Nation.

You're doing something known as commitment day. And that's what I really wanted to talk about today. What's the big idea here? What are you trying to accomplish?

AKRADI: So, my goal and vision a year and a half, two years ago, I had this idea to collectively come together as a nation and change January 1st to Commitment Day and the symbolically, we would come together in hundreds of opportunities around the country for these 5k walk/run events. Do it altogether at the same time, and really as the symbolic commitment to getting healthier.

GUPTA: Look, I think you and I are similar in this way, and most people are, you have a goal and something that you're going to do with a community of people, it really puts the punctuation mark on this.

Let me put another punctuation mark, we know, I think, most people know that physical activity is good for you. It can reduce your risk of heart disease.

But, Bahram, you may know that just this week, we learned how much of an impact it can have. Listen to this 2,000 steps a day, that's not very many, 2,000 steps a day, according to a study that came out Thursday is all it takes to cut your risk of heart disease by 10 percent.

Two thousand steps a day -- we're not asking people to change their lives up on their heads, very simple things. But people always say, look, I have a busy life, I have a busy schedule.

What do you tell people when they tell you that? How do you get people to make the time?

AKRADI: The solutions are actually far more simple than complicated. Much like you said -- just adding a bit of activity into your life, eliminating things out of your diet that they are known negative things to your life. But to your point, we don't need to wait and do nothing until we get sick, ill, you know, eat the wrong foods, not have enough activity. And then rely on a health care system that maybe there for us, maybe not.

The better solution is try not to get sick. And so, I really, really appreciate what you do with all the programs that you bring in. It inspires and encourages me to do as much as I can to help our nation help move towards a much healthier way of life.

GUPTA: Well, I mean, the feeling is very mutual, Bahram, I applaud you. I'm honored to have you on the program. I hope a lot of people hear this message. I mean, this is how we solve so many of the health care problems that we've been talking about.

Bahram Akradi, thank you so much.

AKRADI: Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: And before we wrap up, a quick reminder about the next Obamacare deadline. Now, in order to have your health insurance kick in on January 1st, you need to sign up on the exchanges by this Monday, December 23rd.

That's all the time we've got for SGMD today.

Time to get you back into the "CNN NEWSROOM" with Rosa Flores.