And the Lord God said:
Drink goat’s milk!
Get a suntan!
Buy more blueberries!
And cook with extra-virgin coconut oil!
Well, maybe not in those exact words.
But that’s what God meant, says Jordan Rubin, creator of The Maker’s Diet.
Based on God’s words in Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and other books of the Bible, the diet recommends a natural approach to eating: Nothing processed, everything organic and with a few “Eews!” thrown in — cod-liver oil, anyone?
The 40-day program begins with an intense, two-week “detoxification” period that bans most sugars, starches and fruits, and then gradually guides dieters toward the menu Rubin believes God intended humans to follow.
“By returning to ‘the manufacturer’s specifications,’ your body will naturally return to its ideal weight, shape and strength levels without any dangerous side effects,” Rubin writes in a daily log for dieters that accompanies his new book, “The Maker’s Diet: The 40-Day Health Experience That Will Change Your Life Forever.”
Rubin, a devout Christian, has a degree in naturopathic medicine from the Peoples University of the Americas in Puerto Rico and a doctorate in nutrition from the Wyoming-based Academy of Natural Therapies.
He also has a head for business. Only 28, Rubin is founder of the $40 million-a-year nutritional supplements company Garden of Life, which is based in West Palm Beach. The Maker’s dieters are encouraged to use some Garden of Life products to improve health, but Rubin says that’s not absolutely necessary.
Rubin says he developed the program eight years ago while fighting Crohn’s disease. He had wasted from 180 pounds to 104 pounds, and, unable to help him, doctors had recommended removing part of his intestines as a last resort.
Instead, Rubin tried an alternative therapy — a diet by eccentric California nutritionist William “Bud” Keith. Keith thought Rubin was ill because he wasn’t eating the way the Bible instructed.
Intrigued, Rubin began his own study of the Bible’s culinary advice and of nutrition in other civilizations. He says he found that the world’s longest-living cultures eat “living” foods full of nutrients, enzymes and beneficial microorganisms that are no longer present in most American diets. Rubin moved to Southern California to be near Keith and begin his program.
The diet, Rubin believes, saved his life.
Now Rubin has started a campaign to get his message out.
In October, he led some of the staff at his own church, Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens, through the diet. In early January, more than 100 employees at Garden of Life started the diet, as did the staff at First Baptist Church of Atlanta, where Rubin supporter and televangelist Charles Stanley is senior pastor. In March, the congregation at Christ Fellowship will try it.
When the book (published by Siloam Publishing, part of Christian publisher Strang Communications in Orlando) comes out in April, Garden of Life will begin a drive to bring the diet to churches, synagogues and even mosques across the country.
“I would like to see (the book) be a New York Times bestseller and sell a million copies and become the ‘it’ diet book of 2004,” Rubin says, “so people can go around saying, ‘I’m on The Maker’s Diet.’ “
The fresh-faced Rubin knows he’s aiming high, but he calls it his purpose in life: bringing the people of God back to health.
So what is God’s plan for your refrigerator?
Lots of health food, for starters. The Maker’s Diet assumes that God created certain things for food and that we should eat them in the form he created them.
That means to go organic, wild, raw or natural whenever possible: Ocean-caught fish instead of farm-raised. Raw honey instead of sugar. Organic, grass-fed beef and free-range chickens instead of factory-farmed meat and poultry. And raw goat’s milk (and goat’s-milk cheese and yogurt) instead of homogenized and pasteurized cow’s-milk products.
It also means breaking your addiction to sugar and starch. Toss the bread, rice, potatoes, cereals and desserts. Also taboo are highly processed grain products and everything marked low-fat, fat-free, processed or artificial (including sugar substitutes). Alcohol is out, but organic, home-ground coffee is OK, as are sunflower seeds, almonds, berries and cherries. (Berries are filled with vital antioxidants, Rubin says.)
During the two-week “detoxification period,” other fruits and most dairy products are off limits.
Some foods are added back during the second two weeks, though only in their least-processed forms. Fruits reappear slowly, after your body has gotten “the Three I’s” balanced, Rubin says, referring to the health factors the diet attempts to moderate: insulin, inflammation and infection.
After four weeks, you get back — all organic, of course — sweet potatoes, corn, beans, fruits and many other foods, including some grains. Rubin recommends whole-grain sourdough bread, brown rice, oats and a few others.
During the diet and beyond, some foods remain forbidden: pork, veggie burgers, shellfish, soy products, margarine, corn oil, soda, sugar.
Some foods aren’t allowed for biblical reasons. (Leviticus 11 lists animals that may be eaten, calling pig and shellfish unclean.)
Other foods shouldn’t be eaten for health reasons, Rubin says. He encourages eating natural fats (those in dairy and meat) but avoiding processed ones such as margarine and vegetable oils, for example.
Soy products — despite some health benefits — can reduce assimilation of minerals, cause growth problems in children and produce toxic and carcinogenic substances in the body, Rubin says. (But fermented soy, including soy sauce and miso, are, he says, OK.)
The Maker’s Diet’s complete “40-day health experience” also calls for twice-daily prayers, exercises and hygiene sessions — scrubbing your hands and fingernails and dunking your face into a sink filled with water and “cleansing formulas.”
It also calls for choking down a nightly serving of lemon mint-flavored cod-liver oil; partial fasting one day a week; and gulping six to nine vitamins every day, plus two supplement drinks, if you’re among the most devoted dieters.
It also recommends listening to uplifting music, hitting the sack by 10:30 every night and spending time in the sun every day. Ultraviolet rays cause skin cancer primarily in people who eat unhealthy diets, Rubin believes.
The rules are a lot to keep up with, but Rubin and successful dieters say it’s worth it.
Many people lose 8 to 12 pounds in the first two weeks, although most also struggle through cravings and detoxification symptoms such as fatigue and headaches.
But by the end of the 40 days, many people report more energy, better sleep, improved digestion and lower blood pressure.
Devotees are split on what’s hardest about The Maker’s Diet. Is it the harsh, two-week detox period, spending extra money for organic food, or the cod-liver oil?
But they agree the diet not only makes you lose weight, it also makes you feel better.
“In one word, it was great,” says Jon-Mark Davey, a gregarious soul and Internet technology director for Christ Fellowship. He and his wife started the diet with the church staff in October. They each lost about 10 pounds, felt more energetic, changed their shopping habits, started eating breakfast and decreased stress.
His wife, JoAnn, also overachieved on her goal to fit into a size 10. “One day she was size 12, and the next she was a size 8,” Jon-Mark says, laughing. “She literally blew right through size 10. She had to eat breads over Christmas to get back to a 10 and into her clothes.”
“I felt better than I anticipated I would,” says Brian Benjamin, director of the church’s counseling ministry. “I didn’t feel the mid-afternoon slump, when I’m normally reaching to make more coffee. I had natural energy. And my sleeping habits improved. I was more rested on the same number of hours.”
Benjamin lost 10 pounds, ending up at 183 pounds at 6-foot-5, and dropped his body fat percentage from 12.7 to 11.5 percent.
On average, the 33 Christ Fellowship staffers who finished the diet lost 8 1/2 pounds and 1.7 percent body fat, says Sherry Dewberry, an educator with vitamins and supplements maker Garden of Life.
“For the most part, what I saw were changes in health,” she says. “People saying, ‘Wow, I can sleep,’ ‘I don’t have to go get surgery on my hands for carpal tunnel, because I don’t have pain anymore.’ “
Many still try to follow The Maker’s Diet, because they feel so much better. Benjamin still fasts occasionally, more for religious reasons than weight loss, and Davey and his wife remain committed.
As for its religious roots, well, so much the better, Davey says. He liked the prayers and the diet’s ties to the Old Testament, but he didn’t feel the hand of God upon him every time he munched carrots instead of cookies. “It wasn’t what I would call a religious experience,” he says of the diet, “but it didn’t hurt.”
Jordan Rubin isn’t the first to base a diet on biblical teachings. Here are books recommending other religion-based diets:
“What Would Jesus Eat? The Ultimate Program for Eating Well, Feeling Great and Living Longer” (Thomas Nelson, 2002, $22.99): Dr. Don Colbert promotes a diet that Jesus might have eaten: whole grains, fish, fruits and vegetables with modest amounts of olive oil, meat and wine. The diet also bans shellfish and pork, as does the Old Testament.
“3D: Diet, Discipline and Discipleship” (Paraclete Press, 2002, $25): This program, designed by pastor’s wife Carol Showalter in 1972, puts spiritual guidance first, in the form of weekly support meetings and devotional materials. The food plan borrows from the American Diabetic Association. Millions have completed the 12-week program.
“The Weigh Down Diet” (Galilee, 2002, $12.95): No menus, no special foods, no calorie-counting and not even any exercise. This faith-based diet, designed in 1997 by registered dietician Gwen Shamblin, preaches weight loss by getting right with God. Dieters study the Bible and learn to eat only when they’re hungry and only until they’re satisfied, not stuffed.