“When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest.”
Since the formation of my website, as I have been blogging my personal journey and my various intellectual excursions, my recommendation to you has always been to be your own guru and to follow the instincts of your own body. If you require professional medical or nutritional advice, I recommend that you contact a registered health professional, not a self-proclaimed on-line guru. This note is intended to reinforce this message and also to warn you about the possible dangers of giving your power away to raw gurus.
It came recently to my attention that there exist reports by people who say they have followed the specific diet as advocated by Harley Johnstone (Durianrider) and Leanne Ratcliffe (Freelee), the owners of the 30 bananas a day forum, and experienced health problems as the result of this. For the details please see “Request for data in support of the claim that 30BAD advice is not working” (archive) post on the “30 bananas a day sucks forum”, a forum that was created in an attempt to share the information that is otherwise censored on the 30 bananas a day forum, see “How this site came to be & my open letter to Durianrider” (archive). I also came across some other stories of health problems (including deaths at fasting retreats) as the result of following some other raw gurus advice, please refer to the list of recommended reading below.
I am greatly concerned about the seriousness of these reports. Furthermore, I am highly concerned with the irresponsible, disrespectful, and absolutely appalling way people who share these stories are treated. My belief is that, whenever such stories emerge, they should be made fully available to everyone who wishes to follow such diet, so that people can make an educated decision. This is why I am sharing this information here.
Adults have the right to experiment with their body and follow any diet they choose, and so I see no problem with people blogging their diets. However, it would be irresponsible for me to suggest to you that you should be following my diet too. My diet is my own experiment, and I am fine with this, but please do not think that just because it appears that it is working for me, it should work for you. Importantly, note that although fruit and veggies are great, blanket prescriptions are not. Your body needs are individual and so listen to your body.
Please make sure that you familiarize yourself with all information, not only the one which glorifies the raw vegan diet. Be critical of what is presented to you, ask questions and do not let others silence your curiosity. Please familiarize yourself with the complete picture and make up your own mind about it. Make an educated decision about the diet you follow, so that you DO NOT GET HURT.
I also appeal to all by-standers. Please take appropriate steps – part of the responsibility for what is happening falls on your shoulders too. Do not be afraid to speak up. The only thing you can lose is your integrity … if you remain silent.
Wishing you the best of health,
“People most need the mechanism of denial when an intolerable situation has been pointed out to them – but the means for change does not yet exist.”
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Request for data in support of the claim that 30BAD advice is not working (archive)
How to file a complaint against or to report a health practitioner (archive)
30 Bananas a day Cult
Progress Update, Please Add You Own (archive)
Response to Durianrider’s post ‘Hate site dedicated to Durianrider and Freelee.’ (archive)
Former vegans now turned haters–Evidently I am now eating meat…news to me (archive)
Death Threats from Harley Johnstone aka Durianrider (archive)
Who exactly is “Wayne” and what did he do to Harley?? (archive)
Harley fabricates lies about Anthony Colpo using his own troll account – BUSTED! (archive)
What kind of experience does Harley really have? (archive)
Historical notes on Bob’s high-carb diet (archive)
Sorting fact from fiction on the 30bad diet… (archive)
Questions for an Interview with Doug Graham (archive)
My experience at Doug Graham’s fasting retreat (archive)
What they DON’T Tell you About Water Fasting and Why it’s important to know (archive)
Code of Conduct for Health Activists (archive)
Also, please read this very relevant article by Lennie Mowris, Doug Graham’s former assistant:
All I Have to Say On the Matter (archive)
A short summary of how this page came to be:
(for the details of some related and very worrying issues see the links above)
I went to “30 bananas a day … sucks forum”, because I heard that people’s reports of having health problems on 30BAD diet are being censored out (eg ref) from 30 bananas a day forum. I asked for the stories, admittedly though, I was skeptical about whether I would find many. Simultaneously, I asked a mirror question, about success stories on 30BAD diet, on the 30 bananas a day forum.
I wanted to know the full picture, as I was interested in all parts of the spectrum. I discovered a considerable number of stories by people who say they followed the specific diet recommended by Durianrider and Freelee, and experienced serious health problems as the result of this.
A few days after I started collecting the stories, my membership at 30 bananas a day forum has been terminated. Harley admitted that the reason was my thread at “30 bananas a day … sucks”, on that thread.
Neither Harley nor Leanne have any professional training in nutrition (archive). Their highest level of education is no more than secondary. Yet they advertize themselves as experts in nutrition:
They both have been also making various claims about their recovery from a host of various medical conditions. As example, Harley has been claiming for years now to have recovered from anorexia (ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5) e.g.
However, the truth is he never had anorexia:
They give people paid (and free) health advice. For example, see Leanne’s conduct towards a person admitting they are her paying client here: “30 BAD made me fat” (archive). Or, read one poster’s claim of Leanne “diagnosing” Crohn’s disease over facebook messenger (archive). There are reports that Harley bully those who report the stories (archive), also see relevant reports in archive, archive or archive.
Apart from these, I’ve read some other, rather bizarre reports such as about alleged death threats (archive and archive), self-confessed (archive) fake identities (Anthony Colpo archive and archive, and Anthony’s response here and here), or some strange claims about anorexia and other “typos” (archive). Again, please check these reports carefully and make up your own mind. I observed some repulsive behaviors first-hand too, here is a screenshot of one example (I blacked out the faces, names and phone numbers for the obvious reasons):
My understanding of the code of conduct that applies to health practitioners is that they should not work beyond their level of competence, they should respect their patients, and they should never intimidate anyone (see details of legislation here).
Frankly, I think that it is far better that people spend time making videos on their lifestyle passion than taking drugs etc. Also, I see it as a positive thing that people can freely express their views on nutrition and I do not believe that this is a domain reserved for the scientists and medical doctors only. I think that is it important to question. People can make mistakes, of course, no one is flawless. Lies and bullying, however, is not acceptable. Neither is quackery and breaking the rules of the code of conduct in general. There is no excuse for that. Yes, the vulnerable need a protection and perhaps the evolution of Internet needs to be coupled with appropriate laws to facilitate this. What are the limits of what can be done? Can we prevent young from being influenced by dietary pseudo-gurus, or being bullied by them? What is the role of observer in this? It seems that some people are unaware of these issues, some close their eyes to it, and yet others think that this is acceptable. I am here to say that this is not OK!
Similarly, I have nothing against people being encouraged to eat more fruit and veggies. However, I am absolutely against bullying those who report that they experience health problems on a raw vegan diet. In particular, I am absolutely against hiding such stories from the public, especially from the newbies who just enter this diet!
So, although I love fruit and veggies dearly, I feel it would be totally unethical for me to be silent about these issues, or supportive in any way of these negative behaviors. The reality is that people get hurt and this needs to be known so that the history does not repeats itself. A friend of mine, a young and vibrant woman, and an ex-member of 30BAD forum, ended up in hospital emergency with severe deficiencies, sick and being unable to look after her baby for a long time after that. This is after some years on the seemingly perfect diet, and seemingly doing so well. Therefore, it would be utterly selfish and reckless of me to not to give any warning, at the cost of such tragedies. No, it was not her fault. Suggesting that when people have health problems, it is their fault, they were “not doing it right“, and has nothing to do with the person who advertizes the diet, or the shortcomings of what they promote, is a total bullshit. There, I said it. As is. The truth.
Realizing the hurt caused has been a difficult and sad experience for me. I am sorry to have been unaware of this for too long.
Commons characteristics of a quack:
- “false expert, quack, impostor, fraud, one who claims more skill or knowledge than he actually has” (ref)
- “Quacks may be placed in three different categories: charlatans, cranks, or health hucksters based upon whether they are immoral, misguided, or amoral.” (ref)
- “They are very, very sensitive to criticism and are liable to reach for their lawyers should anyone pour cold water on their claims. “ (ref)
- “They sue to intimidate their critics.” (ref)
- “They Display Credentials Not Recognized by Responsible Scientists or Educators.” (ref)
- ” Some quacks are promoted with superlatives like “the world’s foremost nutritionist” or “America’s leading nutrition expert.”" (ref)
- “They use pseudo medical jargon that sounds like science.” (ref)
- “Phony nutritionists do not have a minimum four-year degree in dietetics or related field. Phony nutritionists make claims that sound too good to be true.”(ref)
- “They Use Anecdotes and Testimonials to Support Their Claims.” (ref)
- “Promote potentially harmful therapies without adequate warning of the risks.” (ref)
- “In spite of all the obvious signs of quackery, he still thinks he is all knowing. You still cannot connect with him as a person. He doesn’t see you as a person. He won’t take your ideas and suggestions, because you obviously don’t know anything. After all, he is omniscient.” (ref)
- “Most of the time, quacks only do injury to our wallets and hopes, promising benefits they can’t deliver. However, they can cause real harm when necessary medical treatment is delayed at a time when it could be most effective in treating an illness or injury. “ (ref)
- July 2012 – Since the stories came to a greater awareness of others, people are reporting that they are getting more help. The awareness of the possible health risks is increasing too. I think that this is a good outcome and hope for more such reports.
- December 2013 – Harley and Leanne are no longer raw vegans and openly admit the high failure rate of the specific raw vegan diet they formerly advocated but could not follow themselves (ref1, ref2, ref3).
- Let this be a lesson to all ‘followers’. Many YouTube views and a large audience do not necessarily equate to the validity of someone’s recommendations. Anyone can write or say anything they like on the Internet and gain followers, in particular through advertizing, lies and trolling, and so a healthy level of discernment is necessary.
- Be extremely weary of those who claim that the only way to succeed is through their way, that their method is the one that works. That is exactly what those whose sole aim is to gain followers, and who do not care about real outcomes for individuals, would like you to believe. Be weary of the fact that such people would tell you that they care, in order to gain your trust. Try testing their level of care by talking about those who got sick as the result of their recommendations. Be extremely weary of those who are unable to be questioned. Be weary of the fact that they would tell you that they are open-minded, in order to gain your trust. Try questioning them, and see how long will this last. If you indeed consider yourself a follower of someone or some such program, then perhaps it is worth to re-examine your situation. Could you be trapped in something that is not beneficial to your well-being?
- Let this be a lesson to all ‘followees’ too. Apply high standards and be aware of your limitations. Your views may evolve even if you are absolutely certain of your current position. Honesty, humility and education goes a long way. Frankly, if you indeed consider yourself as someone that others should follow or replicate, then you did not come to the grips of what health is about, at all.
- There are many raw vegan diets, advocated by various promoters. Those that dissemble your ability to think critically, and make you a follower, rather than an independent researcher, are not the ones that could be considered a sound pathway to health. Keep eating raw but keep your brain too!
- Oh well, at the end of the day, I am glad that one can see a funny side to this story too (ref1, ref2).
- August 2014 – A story by young woman named Leah Branster who says she nearly died at Doug Graham’s fasting retreat has surfaced (video1, video2), and with it the very issues discussed here. In relation to this, see the post by Jeff Nelson at his forum at vegsource, and related discussion there, including my posts (ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5). Also, see a second-hand report of the response by Doug Graham here. Further, please refer to the related decision by the Woodstock Fruit Festival here. Note that these issues were fully exposed at the 30bananasadaysucks forum in 2012 (ref) and surfaced at vegsource forum in 2011 (ref). Earlier, the concerns were raised at giveittomeraw forum in 2010 (ref) after some people became aware if these in 2009 (ref). I hope that the decision by Jeff to allow people to speak openly without being censored will bring some positive changes in the community.
- In relation to fasting, concerns about Loren Lockman have been voiced too (ref1, ref2).
- There seem to be no end of concerns in relation to unqualified advice by Harley and Leanne (ref1, ref2).
Note: If you are a member of a group following a program and/or a leader/guru/authority and things are not working too well for you, and have not for quite some time, but everyone in the group is saying that you should persist and things will get better eventually, then note this. The reason why people listen to ‘gurus’ even when all the rational evidence is telling them to do otherwise, is the following. One could call a crowd syndrome. Or a cult syndrome. When many people in the mindless crowd are saying that the emperor is dressed, then despite the stark evidence in front of their own eyes, people will tend to believe it. There is a need to point the obvious out to an individual, to awaken them from their state. They key is education.
“In social psychology, pluralistic ignorance is a situation in which a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but incorrectly assume that most others accept it, and therefore go along with it.”
“Lack of public opposition then helps perpetuate a norm that may be, in fact, disliked by most people. A large amount of people are wrong about something but because everyone sees this wrong idea as the perceived social norm, no one speaks up against.”
“Fortunately, pluralistic ignorance can be dispelled, and its negative consequences alleviated, through education.”
“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” – Albert Einstein
“Every day thousands of planes fly, however, if one crashes they then investigate it thoroughly to see why it happened and to prevent it happening again – rather than saying ” we have thousands of planes flying safely, let’s ignore the odd one here and there that crashes ”. Car companies produce thousands of cars. If some of their cars have faulty brakes and have accidents they check to see what the problem was to avoid any more problems, they don’t say ” most of our cars have no problems so let’s ignore the ones that have issues ”. The same can be said of electricals or most things that have health and safety issues.
In the health community it’s the exact opposite. In many many cases there are trails of destruction ( teeth, eating disorders and other problems ) – and sometimes even death, but their answer is to point to themselves and the meagre few followers they can find. Why are there so many disenchanted people after following Guru A B and C’s strict advice? Because none of the Gurus have done the rigourous testing that goes into normal health and safety issues, and this is what it is. We are dealing with people’s health. The Gurus only point of reference is their own bodies and the handful of people who have been successful and ignore all the ones who have had serious issues following their advice.” (ref)
“Many raw food leaders are now losing credibility. You cannot bluff people anymore like the old days because the internet will catch you out now. I am hoping the internet will now make raw gurus become more responible, less self focussed, much better studied and much more professional. We need to develop honour and be able to trust people, and hopefully this will happen in the next decade or two as we continue to grow, learn and hopefully become wise.
I think the tired is changing. Raw food leaders are being taken down, people are becoming smarter and more aware of the nonsense spoken about in the raw movement and l think a new wave will occur when the movement becomes much stronger and smarter than it has been. The movement has been like an infant trying to tread water and we have been a laughing stock and sinking, but l don’t believe it has to be that way anymore.
We want to become well studied, ditch the pseudoscience, be responsible, open our minds, care for people and behave honourably. If we do this we can give the face of the raw vegan movement a good image instead of the circus show of baloney talk that it currently is. It’s time for good leadership and people are becoming more aware of the changes needed, but now it’s time to use common sense and read the peer reviewed research every single day.
One last word of wisdom = we are not going to be right all the time so don’t be afraid to admit mistakes as a raw food leader. People respect that quality, and when people know they can trust you you will be a shining example of inspiration for other people to want to be like that too. This respect needs to be earned by high quality integrity. You may think your lies will bluff people but karma will likely catch you out, so do the right thing and
become loved and respected by many. Good reputations are great things to have, so lets start developing
Note: While the experience reported here has taught me the value of responsible information sharing, it has also taught me that peace and harmony are equally precious and in need of preservation. This is where I invest my time and energy. As Jane Goodall said,
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make”
Be your own guru!