Belle Gibson, Pseudoscience & Strawberries – A ‘Wellness Guru’ Response

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A major news story broke this week in the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine about Belle Gibson – popular ‘wellness guru’ and blogger. 23 year old Belle claimed to have cured herself of a terminal brain tumor by adopting a more healthy diet – specifically cutting out refined sugar and gluten. But it turns out that this was all an elaborate lie and she never actually had brain cancer at all, as she admitted in an interview with the magazine.

This saddens me for a number of reasons, not least that she was in a place in life where she felt the need to fabricate such a story for attention and money (her app has been downloaded over 300,000 times), but also because it may prompt us to question the legitimacy of others who also, genuinely, make claims to have healed health issues and diseases by adopting a better diet – namely a plant-based alkaline one.

I have had e-mails from, personally met and worked with hundreds of such people who are testament to the fact that a healthier diet (not necessarily the one Ms. Gibson was advocating), has helped them tremendously.

So, firstly, I think we should be mindful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.


23-year old ‘wellness guru’ Belle Gibson conned thousands to believe that she had brain cancer and cured it with her diet

The Guardian newspaper in the UK did a follow up story, saying that we need to be on the alert for these so-called food bloggers and ‘wellness gurus’ and to question the legitimacy of their ‘pseudoscience‘.

Since I promote healthy eating, have a blog and have just released a book, published by world-leading natural health and wellness publisher, Hay House called The Alkaline 5 Diet, I guess that I fall into the category of the said ‘wellness guru’. So I’d like to share my perspective on the matter…

I actually agree in the most part with what Hadley Freeman says in her article. She points out that most gurus are attractive young women with stylised Instagram accounts, a friendly manner and a story of how they’ve gone from ill to well through their diet.

Hadley says that most have no formal or substantiated nutritional training or background “beyond feeding themselves” and “being photographed nibbling on a strawberry”.

The article mentions hugely popular bloggers, Vani Hari – the ‘Food Babe’ and recent British sensation, Ella Woodward, whose new recipe book ‘Deliciously Ella’ has become a best-seller

I very much agree with Hadley about not getting seduced by pretty photos in favour of solid credentials. I have been working and researching in the health industry for over 10 years and in that time have gained qualifications as a Nutritionist, and Advanced Gym Instructor and I managed the medical research in my local health service and wrote governmental health research reports for 2 years.

I have also interviewed and worked with pioneering and world-leading medical doctors who have hugely substantiated credentials and an authentic record of what Belle Gibson falsely claimed to do – reverse a serious disease by means of a plant-based diet.

Dr Neal Barnard, President of the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM), author of a plethora of best-selling diet and health books and who wrote the forward to my book, is one of these highly credible doctors whom the health bloggers should be paying attention to and citing from, in my view.

Dr Barnard’s work is scientifically impressive and weighty to say the least and he leaves a host of healthy patients in his wake.


For me, when I started my health website in 2007, having qualifications seemed like an obvious factor in legitimising its establishment; backing up my opinions with good evidence and experience – especially since I did a Law degree at university. These days, it does appear that social media popularity trumps that somewhat.

The key point? I think that we most definitely need to be discerning in who we take diet and health guidance from. I would advise you to neither take as gospel what the traditional health services say, since they are often heavily funded by Big Pharma and Big Food, but also to look closely at the credence of the alternative ‘wellness guru’ advice about diet.

Hadley Freeman has a swipe at Vani Hari, which I do not agree with. She says that Vani uses her questioning of the motives of the mainstream food and medicine industries as a marketing ploy. Vani’s work is excellent and is well-substantiated by science and fact, notably her food labeling info.


Vani Hari, the ‘Food Babe’ – lobbying for GMO labelling

The fact is that a plant-based and more alkaline diet – low on animal products, artificial chemicals and processed foods and high on vegetables, fruits, starches and wholegrains and some nuts, seeds and legumes – is the optimum diet for good health, as well as being highly tasty and satisfying.

If a particular health blogger promotes this way of eating then, in my view, you’ve pretty much got the green light to follow their recipes and give a ‘like’ on their Instagram photos.

I think books like ‘Deliciously Ella’ are great on this front and why shouldn’t Ella make the most of being a pretty, slim young woman (she looks healthy), who can cook and take a vibrant food photo?


Food blogger Ella Woodward has had huge success with her book ‘Deliciously Ella’


What I would like to see more of from this new wave of health bloggers and recipe book writers is more of their entire diet protocol – how much fat, protein and carbohydrates are in their diet? Do they eat their recipes all the time? What do their average daily meals consist of? How many calories?

I ask this because as someone who has experimented a LOT with these factors, I have found (backed up by solid science – see the work of Drs Neal Barnard, John McDougall, T Colin Campbell), that a diet high in plant-based and fibrous carbohydrates is the best for health, healing, energy, anti-aging and sports performance.

In my career as a long distance and ultra-marathon runner, as well as having a background of going from ill-health to great heath, I can attest to the fact that this is by far the most superior way of eating.

A lot of new health and wellness gurus advocate very high fat gourmet recipes, albeit they are plant-based. This can cause problems with energy levels and could result in health issues later down the line.

Bottom line – carefully choose your health gurus.

Check out my book ‘The Alkaline 5 Diet’ for a diet book rooted in solid science and with a 21-day kickstart programme for easy and sustained weight loss and increased energy, with lots of delicious plant-based recipes.

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