a Diet Works for Three, It Works for Everyone: Sloppy Reasoning in
the Biblical Health Movement
February 22, 2001
once in a while, a certain newsletter reader forwards me a section
of a biblical health newsletter written by an advocate of a strict
vegan diet. This reader apparently sends me the material because she
wants to believe a Genesis 1:29 vegan diet is right for everyone,
and she wants me to believe it too, even though I publicly rejected
the long-term viability of such a diet in January of 1999.
always answer the letters this lady sends, and I generally share with
her my reasons for arguing that a strict vegan diet leads to deficiencies
in the long term and is dangerous for expectant mothers, nursing mothers,
and children, but, alas, she never replies to my explanations. Instead,
she waits a few weeks and then sends me yet another section of her
favorite biblical health writer's newsletter.
past week she e-mailed me a part of his newsletter that contained
what I consider a preposterous contention from which he argues that
because a "pure vegetarian diet" supposedly works for him
and for two elderly people he's known for quite a few years, then
such a diet must be right for everyone.
concluding this presentation, he asks "naysayers" who argue
that people need some animal foods in the diet for long-term health
to "explain this couple, who have been pure vegetarians for almost
80 years, or this editor, who has enjoyed incredible health and energy
on a pure vegetarian diet for 25 years."
I'm happy for the rare individuals who purport to live healthfully
on a totally plant-based diet for more than a few years, but I'm also
happy to explain the dangers in using exaggeration and flawed logic
to suggest such a diet (or any other restricted diet, for that matter)
is right for everyone.
flawed logic used by the biblical health writer goes something like
lived healthfully on a pure vegetarian diet for 25 years.
a man and a woman who have been pure vegetarians for almost 80 years.
everyone on earth can live healthfully on a pure vegetarian diet.
there's more sand than concrete in the mortar of this kind of reasoning.
Since we dont live with these people, we don't know what they
actually eat or the real state of their health. Personal testimonies
are powerfully persuasive, but when you're claiming a diet is perfect
for everyone, you have a moral obligation to include objective as
well as subjective information.
mean, seriously, if the above argument convinces you to never eat
animal foods again, then I also have a perfect answer for you regarding
the identify of God, and here it is
Charles is blind.
Ray Charles is God.
about sloppy logic.
I want to explain why it would be misguided to live on a Genesis
1:29 diet (or any other restrictive diet) solely on the proclamations
of individuals who claim that such a diet works for them.
off, I noted with interest that this health writer labels as "vegetarians"
the elderly couple he offers as proof that his Genesis 1:29
diet works. This writer almost always labels his diet as vegan instead
of vegetarian. But perhaps he chose to use the "vegetarian"
label in this instance because, like most Seventh Day Adventists
and many vegetarians, this elderly couple also regularly includes
some eggs and dairy in their diet.
certainly hope that's the case since, in my experience since 1993,
most who call themselves "pure vegetarians" or "raw
foodists" or even "strict vegans" will usually own
up to eating "an egg now and then" and "maybe a little
yogurt once in a while" and "some cheese at a church social"
and perhaps "occasional fish in a restaurant" if you press
them for the honest-to-God truth.
some individuals whose identities are so intertwined with diet and
health labels will also look you in the eye and lie through their
teeth about what they actually eat and their real state of health.
I've seen this happen too many times during the past eight years.
late T.C. Fry, one of the major Natural Hygiene writers
of the 20th century, is an excellent example of a guru who demanded
strict adherence from his followers but who could not himself practice
perfectly what he preached. If you'd like to read a gossipy expose
that reveals the soft tissue of lies between T.C.'s version of Natural
Hygiene practice and theory, click
here to read it in a classic back issue of my now defunct paper
newsletter, Health & Beyond.
was a guy who claimed never to eat anything but fruit, vegetables,
nuts and seeds, and yet a few people who knew him reported seeing
him eating chocolate bars as well as macaroni and cheese. It's clear
that he stuck to his vegan diet most of the time, but, like most people,
he also had his lapses. Sadly, occasional lapses don't protect from
the deficiencies that can result from an overly restrictive diet.
his writings, T.C. Fry bragged constantly
of his perfect health and claimed that he hadn't been sick in decades.
And yet while he presented himself as a superman in print, in actuality
he suffered from edema and heart problems and even had ozone treatments
in the Dominican Republic. An autopsy after his death revealed that
he died of a coronary embolism and that he had atherosclerotic plaques
in his legs.
here to learn more about other vegetarian gurus like Norman
Walker, Lester Roloff, Paul Bragg, and Harvey
Diamond, all of whom, in varying degrees, recognized the value
of including some clean animal foods in the human diet.
you'll see after reading the above article, misrepresentation abounds
in the natural health movement, both by health writers and health
these people shade the truth because they are bad people?
I don't think so.
believe they present a skewed version of the truth because they have
linked their ego and their reputation to their diet. Because they
chain their very identities to a health regime of their own creation,
most diet gurus don't publicly admit and resolve deficiencies in their
programs when they occur. And because their followers take these teachings
as gospel, they fall into a dangerous trap, a snare that may cost
them their health in the long term as well as the health of those
who follow the followers.
see, trouble sticks like grease to labels in the natural health movement.
Once you start publicly identifying yourself as a raw foodist, a vegetarian,
a Genesis 1:29-er, an ovo-lacto vegetarian, a Natural Hygienist, or
even someone who has a taste for duck-billed platypus tails, you are
trapped in a box from which it is increasingly difficult to extricate
yourself. In short, you may limit the potential of your continued
growth and health -- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual --
because you have committed yourself to the validity of a single approach,
an approach that may be excellent short-term but dangerous long-term.
know about this insidious trap from experience, having worn and rejected
multiple labels myself during my time through the looking glass in
the vegan, living foods, Natural Hygiene, vegetarian, and biblical
you know what? I didn't like being defined solely by a label, by a
word tag or two that restricted my ability to fully share with others
what I was learning. So I gathered my courage to the sticking place
and shed the labels. Yes, it cost me financially as well as emotionally
to do what I did, but I was then, and am now, willing to pay that
price to go where my understanding of the truth about diet and health
as I'm concerned -- and legitimate science and credible sources in
both the medical and natural health fields support my position --
it's necessary to include some clean animal foods in a predominantly
for long-term health, you'd better eat some clean animal foods or
eventually you're going to encounter deficiency problems -- some sooner,
some later than others.
nails are breaking
your hair's falling out
your energy's sinking
your skin is uncomfortably dry or wrinkling
you're gaining weight from constant cheating or overeating
you're so thin people are starting to stare
you're always hungry
your hands are shaking or your spine is twitching
you're just not feeling great on a program that once had you feeling
like a million bucks
then, hey, you don't need a Ph.D. in cellular biology to realize you're
missing something in your diet.
for me, one of the saddest aspects of the natural health movement
is the fact that so many gurus stubbornly refuse to acknowledge they
might not have the perfect diet after all. The way some of these vegan
advocates, for example, shout and pound their chests you'd think moderate
writers like me were advocating a diet composed of nothing but barbecued
beef entrails, steamed chicken gizzards, fried hog bellies, and grilled
my thoroughly sensible position on diet hardly deviates more than
a tire track or two from many strict vegan and vegetarian regimes:
I say it makes sense to eat a predominantly plant-based diet with
lots of uncooked fruits and vegetables -- and juices if you can manage
to schedule them into your routine. I also advocate that anywhere
from 5-15% of the diet be composed of clean (organic) animal foods
like eggs, fish, raw milk cheese and yogurt, and occasional meat.
health writers can't recognize the possibility that such a moderate
approach is a sensible one is something I honestly can't understand,
especially when I happily recognize and enthusiastically promote the
wonderful short-term benefits of a thorough detox on a vegan diet
like my own 21 Days to
Health & Beyond program or a Genesis 1:29 regime.
add that, at least anecdotally, people with cancer and other chronic
illnesses appear to do well combating their disease on a strict vegan
diet for various lengths of time. For example, on page 187 of his
book A Cancer Therapy, Max Gerson, MD, forbids animal foods
while detoxing, but then "After six to twelve weeks, animal proteins
are added in the form of pot cheese (saltless and creamless), yoghurt
made from skimmed milk, and buttermilk." Pot cheese, by the way,
is cottage cheese drained of moisture. Although the Gerson Institute
makes use of injectable crude liver extract and pancreatic enzymes
from the beginning of their detox diet, the current regimen says some
patients may have to wait up to two years before returning animal
protein like fish into the diet.
in the late 1950s, Dr. Gerson's book documents some remarkable cures
of late stage cancer in thirty years of treatment through a regimen
of raw foods and juicing. But his program does not forbid abstaining
for long from all animal products, and does use some enzymes and liver
extract all along.
I hope and pray for the long-term health of those following and promoting
a Genesis 1:29 diet that they, like the Gerson Institute, will
some day also recognize the wisdom of including in the human diet
prudent amounts of clean animal foods, especially for pregnant mothers,
nursing mothers, and growing children.
move forward with objective, substantive facts, anecdotal reports
that include potential problems as well as benefits, research that
doesn't compromise the truth to please those who pay for the studies,
and thoughtful, unbiased commentary.
article first appeared in Health & Beyond Weekly, a weekly
ezine that until February of 2014 cut through the baloney and deception
that occurs all too often in the natural health movement. Start your
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here to read Part 1 of an intelligent and enlightened series of
articles on Biblical nutrition.
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