Warning about the raw vegan diet

 

“When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest.”

 

Dear all,

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 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. 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 appauling 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,

Gosia.

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.
(Naomi Wolf)

 

Recommended reading:

Harley and Leanne use science

Request for data in support of the claim that 30BAD advice is not working

and

30 Bananas a day Cult

Progress Update, Please Add You Own

Response to Durianrider’s post ‘Hate site dedicated to Durianrider and Freelee.’

Former vegans now turned haters–Evidently I am now eating meat…news to me

Death Threats from Harley Johnstone aka Durianrider

Who exactly is “Wayne” and what did he do to Harley??

Harley fabricates lies about Anthony Colpo using his own troll account – BUSTED!

More Angry Nonsense from Harley “Durianrider” Johnstone

What kind of experience does Harley really have?

Historical notes on Bob’s high-carb diet

Sorting fact from fiction on the 30bad diet…

Questions for an Interview with Doug Graham

My experience at Doug Graham’s fasting retreat

The Age Of Raw Vegan Cyber Bullies – Who Are Against Other Vegans

Investigating Raw Vegan and Other Diet Gurus: Can You Trust Them?

Code of Conduct for Health Activists

Also, please read this very relevant article by Lennie Mowris, Doug Graham’s former assistant:

All I Have to Say On the Matter

 

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 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.

(the image is the courtesy of the 30 bananas a day cult website, the owner of which kindly preserved the evidence)

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. Their highest level of education is no more than secondary. 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. Or, read one poster’s claim of Leanne “diagnosing” Crohn’s disease over facebook messenger here. There are reports that Harley bully those who report the stories (also see relevant reports here, here, or here).

Apart from these, I’ve read some other, rather bizarre reports such as about alleged death threats (also see here), self-confessed fake identities (Anthony Colpo here and here, and Anthony’s response here and here), or some strange claims about anorexia and other “typos”. 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):

DRtreath04062012v2

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.

 

 

Updates:

  • 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). ;)

 

Note: Submitted work is the expressed and unqualified personal opinion of the author and is not to be interpreted as an assertion of fact or false statement.

While I do believe that if any such discrepancies exist they should be fully investigated by the relevant authorities, I do not make – and have never made – any claim about the veracity of these allegations until such time as they are proven true or false.

Be your own guru! 

10 thoughts on “Warning about the raw vegan diet

  1. Pablo

    Hi, gosia, I am surprised too about your expulsion from 30bad. I am there too, I was very ill some years ago and thanks to graham I began a low fat diet, hig raw, never totally because of problems of supply and now I know for other reasons.
    I have learn much from you and from Adam, I am sure you know him.
    I am now in Mexico and it is far more easy to stay totally raw sometimes, but I and my wife have experimented cravings that dissapear when we eat certain foods, raw or cooked, so we have gone deep into the stuff about protein and essential aminoacids, I remember to have read about this in 30bad from Adam’s posts.
    We have discovered that we can stay easily totatally raw when we have a variety of fruits and vegetables (spinach) in right amounts, otherwise we feel better with some cooked foods and this phenomenon is totally correlated with the essential aminoacid needs.
    In other words, if one wants to eat totally raw with only the common fruits and lettuce with no overts, then one will develop a deficience in some of the essential aminoacids.
    I think this can be the reason number one that could explain most of the failures.
    I will post this information in 30bad, I have written something yet, and someone have posted that cronometer is only for macronutrients, enough calories=enough protein.
    Our experience is clear about it.
    What do you think?

    thanks very much for your unbiased thinking.

    1. Gosia Post author

      Hi Pablo,

      It’s good to hear from you. :)

      Yes, I do (virtually) know Adam and consider him to be my friend.

      I think that your insights are quite spot on.

      The various stories reported by people struggling on the diet, which I mentioned above, indeed seem to have common symptoms that do look like symptoms of deficiencies, and amino acid deficiencies have been suggested to be the base of the problems by various observers. I share their views.

      I find that in order to stay raw, I have to be fed very well, and this does not mean merely having enough food. I do need to have enough variety, and I do need to follow my desires, and do so shamelessly. There is no place for guilt, or dogmatic thinking. Instead, freedom, experimentation, changing, doing what feels best at the moment.

      For example, in the recent couple of weeks I had this desire for hazelnuts and so I’ve been including them on daily basis. I admit that I do feel good with them in my diet.

      warm regards,
      Gosia

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  3. Ahimsa Fruitarian

    It amazes me why only the diet eaten, rather than the diet that could be eaten, is factored into all the vegan posts I read. Why not just don’t worry about what you eat now -(do any veg diet that works) but aim to grow all the world’s highest nutrient fruit trees – so that -for sure – you can have the world’s best raw diet that really works. Logic to me – but I need a partner to help me grow all those fruit trees …… Find me on Facebook.

  4. Harrison

    Hi. I’m Harrison from 30BAD. I’ve been there since the beginning. I was wondering why you disappeared from 30BAD. You created a lot of great content on the 30BAD site, and I am frankly surprised that Harley decided it a good idea to delete you considering that you have credentials as a scientist and provided a reasoned and mature voice in the forum.

    The 30BAD forum is now populated with newbies and “experts” who have been at it for five months and think they know the right remedy for every problem. I’m having second thoughts about creating content in a forum where the owner doesn’t think twice about deleting a member such as yourself. If I owned that forum I’d pay you to be an active participant. Your voice is missed.

    1. Gosia Post author

      Dear Harrison,

      Thank you for your contact. I remember your ‘orange’ eyes. :)

      Me vanishing from 30BAD was an inevitability, as it was for others who like to use their brain, and heart too. I could not be a part of an intellectual abyss that contributes to the health degradation of people, who often are very young and very vulnerable. That, to me, was the main reason I could not possibly stay there. I do not want to be responsible in any way for someone’s mental or physical decline.

      Warm regards,
      Gosia

  5. Anon

    The people who told me were close to him and afraid to speak up publicly anymore because he is very slanderous and threatening to them.

    I think there were some old links years ago where he mentioned something about not taking his medication because a raw food diet cures it, but I don’t know the website. You could privately ask around on the forums probably. I just don’t keep a Harley file, you know?

    Regardless I think people are seeing his behaviour as extreme and not normal and that should be sending red flags to followers that something is amiss here and that even on the internet most people are not as obsessive and violent about promoting/defending their beliefs.

  6. Anon

    It is true Harley was supposed to be on medication for his mental illness, he went to a raw vegan diet in hopes it would “cure it”. He hasn’t had a a real job in years because he was on disability leave because of his mental illness. This is not made up. Why do you think he goes by the name DurianRider as much as possible, so as to disassociate from his real name? People close to him in Australia can vouch for this. Mental illness is serious and it is affecting his life and is clear from his obsessive and fixated behaviour that he behaves in ways many of us do not. He makes things up, changes stories, has rapid mood swings, there is something serious going on here. This illness is not his fault but it’s not right that his followers blindly believe everything he says when he stretches the truth or makes things up as he goes.

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