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Photo: Noah Davis I can’t shake the feeling that there’s an obvious tension between fruitarianism’s holistic origins and the reality that successful, charismatic gurus like Freelee can make a living by selling ideas and philosophies. Samuel Arthur Mielcarski — the physical therapist whose life was changed — before the festival and asked him about the monetization of the fruitarian lifestyle.“You’re going to find that in all niches,” he said, “not just raw foods or natural health.Michael Arnstein, one of the movement’s most prominent figures, is a 36-year-old gem salesman and former long-distance runner turned fruit-diet guru. “I eat almost only fruit.” On a typical day, Arnstein will snack on, say, two dozen bananas.Some health experts say fruitarianism can lead to all sorts of nutrient deficiencies.
The seven-day fruit festival is a serious undertaking: Arnstein’s budget runs upwards of 0,000, including 0,000 for fruits and vegetables.
For dinner, head chef Alicia Ojeda — a former Dreamworks Studio executive chef — preps things like a “high-end” salad bar with “honey mustard” dressing consisting of sweet dates blended with mustard seeds that have been soaked overnight to activate enzyme inhibitors.
The week’s activities are typical of any retreat: The days are filled with workout sessions and lectures such as “Figs, Grapes, and the Diversity of Fruit” or “Create Raw Soup Recipes with Leftover Produce in Your Fridge.” So, who comes to something like this?
Every movement has its leaders — who live in a world of micro-celebrity — and fruitarianism is no exception. Douglas Graham — inventor of the 80/10/10 diet (he literally wrote the book on it) — is the elder statesman, hosting daily talks and exercise classes (“He’s paid well,” Arnstein confides to me). She founded the fruitarian site 30 Bananas a Day and has nearly 70,000 subscribers to her You Tube channel.
At the festival, Arnstein says, “Her exercise classes are like a mob.” He adds, “She’s like a god to the girls here.” Freelee the Banana Girl.