Don Bennett took a commonsense approach to health and learned the value of looking past the “conventional wisdoms.” This approach, in conjunction with researching the teachings of healthful living pioneers and their modern-day equivalents, and putting into practice what he had found to be true, allowed him to discover the realities of health. Thirty years later, as a Disease Avoidance Specialist, Don Bennett now shares this wealth of enlightening and empowering knowledge with others for their consideration and benefit.
Note from Fruit-Powered’s Brian Rossiter: I began 10 sentences with targeted words, presented in boldface below, that serve as conversation starters and asked Don Bennett to complete the thoughts in this Raw Vegan Transformations: Conversations piece.
My journey to health really began when I was a teenager and I noticed some people in my family living to over 100 and dying in their sleep of nothing specific, and other family members living to only around 65 and dying from some horrible but all-too-common disease. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to notice the difference, and I wanted to know what that difference was so I could go the way of those who lived a nice long life in relatively good health. So this started my awareness and curiosity of health-related issues. It’s like if you buy a Honda Civic having never owned one before, you then start noticing all the Honda Civics on the road that you never noticed before. Because of this observation, I started to notice things that might have something to do with health. Diet was the obvious first category, but the others soon followed.
Health conditions I suffered from fell into two categories: the ones that were obvious or ones that had symptoms that I just hadn’t realized represented a problem. And the ones that I weren’t aware of yet because there weren’t any noticeable symptoms yet … issues my body was dealing with that I wasn’t aware of. And FYI, we all likely have one of more of these, which underscores the importance of adopting healthier or the healthiest lifestyle practices now, and not when these conditions start causing noticeable symptoms.
In my youth, I had what are called “roller coaster” blood-sugar levels; very high highs, and equally low lows. I liked how I felt when I was in the “middle,” but this part of the range represented only a third of my day. I wanted to feel this way all the time, and this hypoglycemia is often a precursor to diabetes, which I didn’t want either.
I was also exposed to an occupational carcinogen from age 20 to 30 that wasn’t identified as a carcinogen until just after I left the industry (now technicians must wear filter masks). This didn’t bode well for my future.
And my right ear was damaged in an on-the-job accident that caused a warbling-type ringing in my ear (tinnitus) that was very distressing to someone who loved to go wilderness camping and listen to the silence of Nature. This was determined to be permanent by one of the country’s top neurologists.
Long story short, at 61, I now have stable blood-sugar levels, no sign of diabetes and my body must have finished dealing with any life-threatening conditions (like the cancerous tumors I likely got from that chemical exposure) because my body finally got around to healing the tinnitus (which was shocking to that neurologist).
So taking a “start/stop” approach, as I came to call it, no doubt accounted for my improved health. I identified and stopped doing the things that burdened my body’s efforts at keeping me healthy, and I started doing the things that I came to discover would support those efforts. A double whammy in favor of my “future health.”
I discovered Natural Hygiene. Literally! I’ll explain. I was not aware of the concept of Natural Hygiene. At the time when I was heavily into researching health issues, the personal computer had yet to be invented, so I couldn’t Google anything. The only tools in my toolbox were logical, independent, rational, critical thinking skills. And I realized that my research had to be done with zero biases, both my own, and anyone else’s. When looking at diet, I quickly figured out that I couldn’t rely on info from the food industry or from government, and diet books in the library were equally useless, so I was on my own. But by using those tools that were in my toolbox, I was able to figure out what all human physiologies were designed to eat. It couldn’t require cooking or processing because that wasn’t part of our “original diet,” so I decided to only eat foods in their natural state, and ones that I didn’t have to cook to be able to eat and enjoy. Although before this epiphany I had first ditched dairy products and then all other animal products, so my “transition” was a slow one compared to what people go through today (because of the availability of information at people’s fingertips). So my biggest improvement in how I felt was after I went “all raw.” But I didn’t know this was a tenet of Natural Hygiene.
After I figured out my diet, I realized that diet couldn’t be the only thing that affected health, so I set my sights on the other “basics of health,” as I came to call them. I went on to rediscover what had been the tenets of Natural Hygiene. And when someone who had become familiar with my very unique lifestyle practices told me, “You’re one of those Natural Hygienist people,” I discovered there were others who had figured out the same things I had … and they were having their annual conference in a week about 30 minutes from where I lived! To say I was overjoyed to find others who were like-minded would have been the understatement of the year. But the takeaway here is that I was able to figure out what the tenets of Natural Hygiene are. And this was critical to what I’d discover next.
Being an independent researcher who didn’t tend to “follow” any preconceived set of ideals, I also came to discover that there were some fundamental issues with the traditional way Natural Hygiene was being practiced today. Some Natural Hygiene “purists” said, “How dare you imply that Natural Hygiene isn’t perfect … what gall to think that you know better than people like Herbert Shelton.” But I was taught by my Mom that my brain was just as good as anyone else’s, and therefore my opinions were no more or less valid than anyone else’s, and therefore I had just as much a right as anyone else to form hypotheses and work toward proving or disproving them, so I came to realize that Natural Hygiene — as thought of by many health educators — needed a re-evaluation and some tweaking to represent how we live in the modern world. This was also based on my experiences with counseling a ton of people who had been “following Natural Hygiene “as written.”
Things I noticed that impacted how people lived and what their future health would likely be were realizations that people fell into two groups: the ones who weren’t comfortable thinking for themselves and preferred to “follow the crowd” so they weren’t seen as “the other,” and the ones who were very comfortable thinking for themselves, and didn’t care what others thought about them when they adopted behaviors and ways of living that were not considered “the norm.” The former group was very difficult to have rational, dispassionate conversions with, and the latter group was very heartening to speak with, as they were also truth seekers who didn’t care if the heavens fell when they realized that a long-cherished habit was not in their best interests health-wise.
More than two decades into teaching people about a raw diet, I’ve found that the sharing of what I’ve discovered, uncovered, learned and unlearned has allowed me to help people to live to their health and longevity potentials, and by way of the Body-Mind Connection, their happiness potential, too. When I realized that the information I had unearthed had the potential to help people in ways the medical/pharma industry couldn’t, my path was clear: I quit a very lucrative career and became a Health Creation Counselor specializing in disease avoidance. While my atypical “people-before-profits” business model causes me to live frugally, I’ve come to enjoy this way of living even though I wish I had more closet space (I live full time in a small motorhome).
Key lessons learned: Don’t follow a “do-whatever-works-for-you” philosophy. This is because you won’t truly know what works for you until you know what worked for you, and you won’t know that for a very long time. So you shouldn’t judge what works and doesn’t work in the short term based on how some practice makes you feel; the effects of a particular diet and the other equally important “basics of health” can take a long time to let you know if they were in your body’s best interests or not. This is why — when living in a non-natural environment — we need to base decisions about lifestyle practices on information that informs the “what-is-most-likely-to-work” conversation. And that conversation should include knowledgeable health educators who are truly caring and sincere people who have a “people-before-profits” business model, and not the other way around.
Nutrition, I’ve learned, is not just about the foods we eat as part of our biologically adapted diet. The specific foods we consume are important, but nutrition matters, too, and the two are not automatically linked, meaning, just because you eat the foods that humans are designed to thrive on doesn’t automatically mean you’ll thrive on the foods you are eating. It depends how those foods were grown. If there’s a lack of certain nutrients in the soils, those foods may not and often will not supply enough of all the nutrients a person requires for optimal healing and optimal future health. This sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how difficult it is for some people to hear this self-evident statement. It is indeed a lovely notion that “Once you start eating enough fruits and vegetables, you don’t have to worry about nutrition,” as stated by a popular raw food diet educator, and I’d certainly love to believe this, but I can’t because it turns out not to be true. And yet this notion is still being touted, and is still negatively affecting health outcomes of raw fooders.
So I’ve learned that information about nutrition is best obtained from multiple sources, and acquired as a researcher and not as a student learning from one educator; this allows you to discover conflicting information, which, although distressing to hear, is important to discover if you want to end up following 100% accurate health information, which is needed if you want to thrive during the last 15 years of life instead of merely surviving, even if it is surviving better than 90% of the general population. I know that’s a mouthful, and a lot to consider, especially if you’ve been getting your dietary info from one source, but true health care is self-care, and — human nature being as diverse as it is — there are some health educators who care more about their success than yours, so consider taking a multisource educational approach. And although it’s more time consuming than learning as a student from one program, think of it as an investment in your future health. What better investment can you make in your life?
Physical activity is another one of the “basics of health,” and is no more or less important than diet if optimal future health is the goal. Here’s an observation of mine regarding exercise: Most people either do way too little or way too much. And both are bad for your health, but for different sets of reasons. I figured out a long time ago that the best amount for things like exercise, sleep, sunshine, hydration, etc. is an “appropriate” amount. Or “enough without being too much.” We all know we can get too much sunshine, water, calories and fat, but how many people realize that physical activity can also be overdone? We have no problem identifying what underdoing exercise looks like, but from the surveys I’ve taken, most people don’t have a handle on what overdoing physical activity looks like, either in practice or physical appearance.
Some people feel that it’s healthiest to build their musculature up to its maximum potential, and some have fitness goals that entail excessive exercising from the body’s perspective but not from society’s perspective. And not respecting your body will (not may) end up biting you in the butt one day. It’s always amazed me how some people are devoted to eating the diet that humans are best suited to eat — the diet that will help result in the best health outcome — while refusing to hear anything that suggests that the physical activity they’re doing may be harmful to their future health, all things considered. But my neurological studies have shown just how partitioned the human brain can be, which explains how a person can hold two conflicting viewpoints in mind at the same time. This is why, when trying to figure out the healthiest way to live, we need to be vigilant against falling prey to our own confirmation biases, and this can be difficult when a particular lifestyle practice makes us feel really good, as do the endorphins and other hormones that excessive physical activity causes to be released.
So when it comes to physical activity, a sound approach is to be able to do those activities that we would have done when living in our natural biological “eco-niche” many millennia ago and to do them well: walk a lot, climb like a champ and be able to sprint like the wind. Getting “good” at doing any other activity should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism when the activity has the potential to do damage to the body over the long term.
Some goals of mine are to live in as natural an environment as possible; one where a cell phone can’t get a signal, where there is a babbling brook, or even better, a nearby waterfall. Where my meager energy needs for my desktop computer can be met by the sun, and where I can obtain enough of the foods of my biological adaptation to meet my caloric needs, and those foods are hopefully grown in nutrient-rich soils. I also want to continue enlightening and empowering people so they can live to their health potentials, and I want to continue doing so not as an optimist or a pessimist, but as the person I’ve always been: a realist who makes a conscious decision to deal with reality regardless of how sucky it can be.
I envision a world with a growing population who have cleared out the cobwebs of their minds and unlearned the info that is in someone else’s best interest and not theirs. I envision a day where there are only electric cars on the roads, where 100% of consumer electricity is from solar and geothermal, where people have woken up to the evils of companies like Monsanto and pharmaceutical firms, and have done something about it. And I wish for and work toward a time when people stop killing humans and other animals over beliefs, ideologies and personal preferences.