Freelee the Banana Quack,

A dangerous charlatan fighting science and promoting eating disorder.

Freelee is a terrible role model for everyone and I am particularly concerned about her influence over younger women who might have been fighting eating disorder and are interested in veganism who stumble upon her unhealthy guidelines.
Eating fresh food and exercising is good for you. There. Sound advice. Eating kilos of bananas most days as part of a diet that entirely lacks variety must be detrimental in the long term (as is any extreme diet that lacks variety). She is an athlete and burns off the carbs she consumes. Eat plenty of carbs if you’re an athlete. Preferably as part of a balanced and varied diet. If you’re not an athlete, move on.

As my friend Brenton said, “Freelee” gives out baseless diet advice and knowingly goes against the relevant science. This undermines the legitimacy of veganism.

She once stopped menstruating for 9 months due to her diet. She doesn’t view this as a bad thing or cause for concern, but instead says it was a good thing, that her body was balancing itself out after eating junk food.
Now, I am not saying that women MUST have their period because it’s natural. I am saying that she is promoting a diet that is inadequate. I would also say that it is irresponsible to be telling people not to have proper cancer treatment. I reckon she is dangerous for her followers and the worst possible example of a “vegan”. Freelee associates the label “vegan” with claims that I personally believe are criminal when she encourages people to refuse chemo and to dramatically change their diet and follow an extreme one instead.
If someone needs chemo, they ought to start it as soon as possible rather than delay it and become even weaker through an unbalanced diet.

She (or the people behind or around her?) preys on victims of eating disorder and gives unhealthy advice. The fact that it is sometimes seen as a “beacon of hope” is problematic. She is a beacon of hope in the same way heroin might be a beacon of hope. She is intelligent enough to use the “every opinion is valid” myth and exploit the anti-scientific prejudice in order to gain fame and make money. She isn’t scrupulous.

It has been said to defend her that many nutritionists and doctors have been ignorant, judgemental and mistaken regarding vegetarianism and veganism and that everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Well, I could start any new diet and if experts point out it’s unhealthy, I can just say that some nutritionists are wrong and therefore I can spread any non-sense I want. Just because there are various opinions and various diets doesn’t mean that they’re all valid or that they all deserve respect. I am looking at you, homeopathy (which is harmless unless you take it instead of real medicine when you really need care), anti-vaccination rubbish (which is potentially very dangerous and poses a genuine threat to everyone else) or climate change denial.

These beliefs are allowed to spread because of a lack of decent nutritional education at school and a dramatic lack of funding for science in general. I mean, didn’t Abbott in Australia get rid of the Ministry of Science and significantly slash funding for CSIRO? I believe it’s all related.

If a consenting adult decides to experiment a little with it whilst keeping their critical mind switched on, I suppose it’s all good. I suppose. Freedom of speech. It is when misinformed folks start following these quackeries and turn their children into the victims of an unbalanced diet and a lack of necessary medical care that it becomes a serious and dramatic public affair.

The following part was written by Elisa Mac:

The vegan community is relatively small and if you’ve spent any time finding your way around in the online community, you may have noticed there are some “health gurus” who are not qualified to be giving health advice but create a business from doing exactly that. They operate their own niche communities in a way that seems totally counter intuitive to the compassion that motives people to become vegan in the first place. Two of these self-proclaimed vegan weight loss coaches are known on YouTube as “Freelee the Banana Girl” and “Durianrider” and if you’re a vegan you’re bound to have heard of them. They promote their online presence by being intentionally provocative and openly target vulnerable people who are sick or suffer from eating disorders. They do this by explaining that they also have suffered from a host of illnesses, physical and mental, but now have an elite level of health which you can also have if you follow their high carbohydrate diet. In fact, even if you think you’re not sick, they can always diagnose you with “metabolic damage”, whatever that is.

When we see this type of quackery anywhere else, we don’t need to have any special qualification to see the deception. For example, there are very few people who think staring into the sun will provide you with all the nutrients you need to sustain life because that is simply insane. But breatharian “gurus”, people who claim to have lived decades without food, will try to convince you that it’s, not just possible, but the optimal state of being. They claim your dependence on food is purely psychological and to attain elite self-transcendence you must give up food. Somehow, despite these people being obvious charlatans, they continue to sell books and meditation CDs to desperate believers. There still exists a breatharian school where you can heal “womb trauma” and learn the bliss of having a breatharian family. That’s right, according to these enlightened “gurus”, babies can also exist without food. These ideas are so dangerous if people are vulnerable enough to accept them. Why do these people sell these bogus ideas to vulnerable people? Are they truly interested in growing the breatharian movement? I would say money is the motivating factor. If someone is selling you a book, a CD, a t-shirt — they have a bias and a strong personal invested interest in you buying their idea.

Veganism is weird enough to most people without adding on more, often arbitrary, restrictions. But if you’re looking for information on how to sustain a vegan diet online, it’s possible that the first thing you might stumble on are videos by Freelee and Durianrider. Please, take a pause before drinking the “datorade” on this one. If someone makes a claim that adopting their specific, ultra-restrictive diet is optimal for absolutely everyone, that tap water is the government trying to “program” your brain, that chemotherapy kills more people than it saves, that fat people prevented fit, health people from escaping the World Trade Centres during the 9/11 attacks — these are hefty scientific claims that needs to be backed by hefty scientific evidence. Personal anecdotes do not qualify as evidence.

Along with the hammy catchphrases and oddly aggressive attitude the pair projects, you’d think this would be a community on the periphery of the wider, more rational, vegan community. It’s not. If you’re looking for vegans to connect with online in your early days of changing your lifestyle, you will easily stumble upon these “gurus” and you might even be convinced that this is how you need to live to be a vegan. So why has this community appeared to gain so much traction in the last few years? It might boil down to the tactics Freelee and Durianrider use to garner attention from vulnerable people online in order to spread the “vegan” message and how their community appears to function. The diet creators insist the diet works for everyone, bar none, so if you join the legions of people who gained weight, felt sick or got sick from attempting this diet — the diet creators and their community members will let you know in less-than-kind words that the problem wasn’t the diet, it was you. Through bizarre circular reasoning they can deduce that anyone who the diet failed just didn’t do it right, because the diet works for everyone. People who say the diet does work too for weight loss or athletic-edge can be zealous and fanatic in their promotion of the diet. They look up to Freelee and Durianrider , twinkle-eyed and unquestioning of their all-knowing-ness. In fact, if you do a search online, you can find footage of Durianrider fielding questions from his fans on a hilltop in Thailand. It appears they’ve forgotten how to live and need to ask him how as if he has all the answers. It really has made me think… is this some kind of wacky cult?

If anyone has ever read anything about cult anatomy, one of the first things any cult leader will try to establish for their followers is that the entire world is sick. If you participate in a sick world, you’re sick too. Once you convince people they are sick, you encourage them to join your exclusive group that will heal them of their sickness and transform them into something elite. Critical thinkers like scientists (medical doctors, dieticians) are written off as corrupt shills and so it follows that anyone who begins to think critically or question the practices of the group is considered a traitor. There is a highly polarised environment within and you can either follow the rules or leave. The methods to convert people are all justified because the end-goal is to make everyone like them. There is a pressure to grow the community and indoctrinate new members where possible. Ex-members are depicted as the worst of all people (bitter, hateful, fat, incapable) as a warning to anyone considering leaving — there is no exiting the cult without penalty. Cult members begin to feel that their leaders “living by example” is proof enough of their correctness… The leaders can change the rules to suit themselves and they’re not accountable to any authority. The community Freelee and Durianrider have created certainly has a lot of these qualities. I’ve never been a member of their group but as an outsider looking in on the strange dynamics of that crowd, it’s very easy to draw the comparison without any imagination stretching. Plus, as a vegan, I see compassion towards human and non-human animals as a virtue. Body shaming, name calling and bullying are not my idea of compassion. Vegans shouldn’t be targeting the vulnerable to gain converts. These are the methods of charlatans and I would be genuinely surprised if these tactics resulted in long term change for most people.

If people want to experiment with their diet and eat raw or cooked foods, play with macro-nutritional ratios, eat more or less calories in their vegan journey, that’s their choice and their right. Don’t let that stop you from questioning the people giving you diet or weight loss advice. And if you’re suffering from an eating disorder, chronic illness or raising children — don’t neglect to consult medical doctors or registered dieticians before any large diet or lifestyle changes just because some unqualified quack convinces you they only exist to profit from your illness.

“Durian Rider” and “Freelee the banana girl” are two celebrities the vegan movement could do without! See the following article: