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The Newest Diet Trend: What Would Jesus Eat?

Whether you call it the Hallelujah Diet, the Maker's Diet or the Lord's Diet, the holy spirit is driving one of America's biggest weight-loss fads.
 
 
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God cries when you eat Pop-Tarts. But He smiles when you drink carrot juice, and when you do a colon cleanse, He beams.

That's the spirit driving one of America's biggest current diet fads. Granted, you've probably never heard of it unless you hang with Bible-believing Christians, but it goes by many names: the Hallelujah Diet, the Maker's Diet, the Lord's Diet, the Genesis 1:29 Diet. Some versions are vegan, some largely raw; all include organic whole grains -- and some of their kingpins have piously channeled this fad into multimillion-dollar enterprises, hawking must-have supplements at hefty prices. An eight-ounce bottle of phosphatidylcholine (a membrane extracted from soybeans or egg yolks) for $124.99? Sure, when its brand name reads like a promise: Divine Health.

Christians are fatter than other Americans. One of several studies revealing this, published by a Purdue University team in 2006, found that 30 percent of Baptists are obese, followed by 22 percent of Pentecostals and 17 percent of Catholics, compared to only 1 percent of Jews and 0.7 percent of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. According to the Journal of the Southern Baptist Convention, health screenings were given at the SBC's 2005 annual meeting: Over 75 percent of its 1,472 participants were found to be significantly overweight.

It makes sense that some within the movement would want to restore health to the flock. Gluttony, after all, is a sin. But how do you persuade religious Christians to adopt a dietary regimen that has been beloved by hippies for 30-plus years and by polytheists for thousands? The very fact that "health food" is an alt-culture staple is enough to taint it in the eyes of some. How do you convince them to switch their Sunday hams for lettuce-lentil roll-ups? By telling them the Bible says they must.

"Your Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom, knows which foods are not fit for you to eat," we read at Hem-of-His-Garment-Bible-Study.org, which offers a "Jesus Saves" lesson in its "What's Hot!" box. "And, in His infinite love for you, He shared that wisdom. ... God really does care what you put in your mouth." Urging readers to follow the clean animals/dirty animals rules of kashrut, as outlined in Leviticus, the site's author also endorses Jordan S. Rubin, a Christian motivational speaker and self-described "Biblical Health Coach" whose book The Maker's Diet (Siloam, 2005) was a New York Times bestseller.

At the Web site of his Biblical Health Institute, which sells online courses leading to Certified Biblical Health Coach certificates, Rubin writes that he has "known Jesus as my Lord and Savior since I was eight years old" and that he was cured of Crohn's Disease at age 19 in 1996 after spending 40 days eating only "whole foods consumed in Biblical times," mainly yogurt, whole grains, organic produce and grass-fed meats. From this, he devised his diet plan, dividing edibles into three categories. "Extraordinary" foods include soybeans, quinoa, kefir, mahi-mahi, buffalo hot dogs (without pork casings) and umeboshi paste. Merely "average" foods include amazake, agave nectar and spelt. "Trouble" foods to be avoided at all costs include ostrich, emu, cashews, Egg Beaters and eel.

He quickly followed up his original book with The Maker's Diet Daily Reminders, The Maker's Diet Shopper's Guide, The Maker's Diet for Weight Loss and more. It's heartening to see Rubin's emphasis on organic, free-range, fresh and wild, although his enthusiasm for highly saturated coconut oil unnerves some critics.

Ah, but he sells the oil -- for $15.95 per 16-ounce jar -- along with honey and supplements, through his Garden of Life brand. A $50 million company "with the goal of becoming a $100 million company," as Rubin puts it, Garden of Life offers dozens of products including the alleged fat-burner fücoThin® and Goatein®, a goat-milk powder that sells for $49.95 per 440-ounce jar.

 
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