Different lenses

I saw the item about the woman who attempted to demonstrate that humans can live on “light” instead of food the other day, but opted to ignore it out of my usual tact and compassion. But Roger sent me a link to the Guardian’s coverage and my tact and compassion faded away when I read her profound thoughts on the subject.

A Seattle woman is attempting to go 100 days without eating to prove that humans can “live on light”.

Naveena Shine says she believes it is possible for human beings to survive without food and is conducting what she describes as an experiment to prove it.

Well it wouldn’t prove that. It would show that one woman could survive a hunger strike of 100 days. That wouldn’t show that humans can survive without food.

The 65-year-old, originally from Birmingham in the UK, has been consuming just water and “one, maybe two cups of tea a day” for the past 41 days, losing 30lbs in the process.

Hm. You would think she’d be able to spot a trend there, and then extrapolate from the trend, and thus figure out that she didn’t seem to be on the road to showing (much less proving) that humans can survive without food.

A doctor pointed out that humans aren’t plants and so they can’t live on “light”; it isn’t physically possible.

Shine contends that “a doctor can’t see living on light because he looks through different lenses” and has said she is not undergoing medical tests as during the experiment. She said she had experienced a “calling” which inspired her to stop eating.

“It came as an idea that became so powerful, I knew I had to do it,” she said. “And this has happened a few times in my life; I suddenly got this strong desire or need to do something that nobody in my world could imagine but it came so strongly to me, it was just like: ‘This is what I need to do.’ It’s intuition.”

Intuition that humans can survive without food? That’s a dopy intuition.

She said she had heard of others who claim to be able to forgo conventional nutrition, including a friend who claimed to have survived without food for three years.

“I know that people say it is [possible] and I don’t disbelieve them, and I don’t believe them, so the only way to find out is to do it,” she said.

No, it isn’t. There are other ways to find out, which are much less trouble and less hard on the body.

While Shine says her inspiration to eschew food does not come from a particular set of beliefs, her website praises Jasmuheen, an Australian woman who describes herself as an “ambassador of peace” and “international lecturer”, and whose teachings that it is possible to subsist on light alone have been linked to the deaths of four people.

Oh! Well how inspiring.

Jasmuheen claims to have lived for years on light alone, but tried and failed to go without food and water for 10 days in an experiment for Australian television program 60 Minutes in 1999. A doctor for the network noted that after 48 hours Jasmuheen displayed symptoms of dehydration, stress and high blood pressure. The network cancelled the experiment after four days when Jasmuheen’s health continued to deteriorate.

Without food and water? That’s idiotic.

Shine has eschewed medical evaluations.

“Doctors can’t really have that much to say with this, because it’s not within the doctors’ paradigm. A doctor can’t see living on light because he looks through different lenses, he looks through different eyes.”

That’s some dangerous woo.



  1. says

    A prominent Breatharian (same thing as the Australian woman(‘s ideas) was caught out back when I lived in Santa Cruz. Wiley Brooks was going around giving lectures, but was seen eating. The funny part is it wasn’t just any old eating, but a 7-11 burrito.

    Amazing though that people will actually pay to hear that sort of thing, and even try to follow it. Kinda scary.

  2. hjhornbeck says

    A doctor can’t see living on light because he looks through different lenses, he looks through different eyes.

    That’s a given, because “he” isn’t looking through rose-coloured glasses.

  3. Kevin Anthoney says

    Luckily, she’s given up. She was having financial problems, and decided they were the Universe sending messages to her to tell her to stop.

  4. Cam says

    I would have thought that losing 30 pounds in 41 days would be an entirely sufficient message from the universe.

  5. says

    Met a Breatharian in Santa Cruz in the 1980s — I wonder if that’s when you were there, anthrosciguy? The really scary thing was that she was the live-in caregiver for an elderly relative; fortunately, she realized that she herself wasn’t “spritiually attuned” enough to go off food entirely, and wouldn’t dream of imposing it on someone in her care.

    But she did accept that the lecturer she was so impressed by lived on air, with only a little lemon juice from time to time to counteract pollutants.

    So…if you’re going to buy into that belief, then…what makes lemon juice so special???

  6. Robert B. says

    Apparently the idea of non-overlapping magisteria has killed four people. Thanks, liberal religion!

  7. says

    She lost a ton of weight. So, obviously, it worked as a slim-down program (albeit an unhealthy one) but not a means of nutrition. Maybe she’ll write a diet book.

  8. thalarctos says

    ”what makes lemon juice so special???”

    Because they make the body more alkaline, and a more alkaline body is a Good Thing(TM). Surely alternative medicine proponents wouldn’t lie about something so important!

    From the LiveStrong website: “The pH nature of lemons changes during the body’s metabolic process, however, and they become highly alkaline-forming. Adding just 1 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice to a glass of water is an easy way to give your body a boost of alkalinity. Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/498141-can-adding-lemon-juice-water-make-water-alkaline/#ixzz2WyYAbolG

    If you’re asking yourself how *citric* *freaking* *acid* can make anything *more* alkaline, that just means you don’t believe hard enough, you skeptic, you.

  9. triamacleod says

    At what point does it go from being nothing more than a goofy belief to a diagnosable (sp?) situation? We really have to get society passed the point where any religious belief is beyond question. Look at how many children die from parents who insist on praying or meditating away a disease. This is the same line of thinking and it is frightening.

  10. triamacleod says

    @ Marcus

    I’ve heard that a cooked potato and a glass of butter milk has all the nutrients a human needs to not only survive, but to thrive. Are soy beans and sushi vinegar/rice the same way? I imagine each region has their own nutritionally packed foods.

  11. Claire Ramsey says

    I read this nonsense last week, and immediately my razor sharp inner psychiatrist called out “Sick Woman. Very Sick Woman. Needs Mental Health Intervention Pronto.” Really, this kind of deluded thinking is too easily accepted, justified, and interpreted as “religious.” Embarrassing for the species.

  12. Hamilton Jacobi says

    The 100 days would be doable if you were putting the right stuff in your tea.

    She was actually putting milk in her tea. But that doesn’t count as food because British people always put milk in their tea.

  13. hjhornbeck says

    triamacleod @12:

    I’ve heard that a cooked potato and a glass of butter milk has all the nutrients a human needs to not only survive, but to thrive.

    It’s plausible, though you’d have to eat a hundred servings daily to satisfy the recommended value of niacin and iron. I wouldn’t recommend it.

  14. James Howde says

    A slight tangent – but I saw in the papers that Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, wants to starve himself to death. The authorities are likely to deny him this on mental competence grounds.

    I wonder if it would make a difference if he claimed instead to have suddenly got religion and that part of his new beliefs was breatharism.

  15. Ysanne says

    A co-worker of my mum wanted to convince her ages ago that “light nourishment” works and lent her the how-to manual that was hip at the time.
    We started reading it for laughs at the dinner table. The author started with the claim that sunlight energy is absorbed through the skin at a certain rate per square inch, and then wanted to work out how much that adds up to in an average human: She assumed that a human body’s skin can be approximated by a square with sides 7 feet, and then proceeded calculate the resulting skin surface as 7 to the power of 7 square feet. The book was given back without reading even the next sentence.
    In hindsight, we may have missed out on a lot of hilarious rubbish.

  16. says

    @ Hamilton Jacobi

    Tea without milk isn’t tea, but some kind of herbal infusion i.e. closer to medicine than a comforting drink.

  17. Hamilton Jacobi says

    In China, where tea originated, they still do it right, without any bovine secretions. A good tea is only diminished by impurities.

  18. lpetrich says

    There is a way for us to try to live off of sunlight. We could do it the way that many coral animals do, by having algae grow in our skin. That’s what gives coral is colors.

    But I’ve attempted to work out the numbers, and they are not very good.

  19. says

    A good tea is enhanced by impurities. You may as well say adding spice or herbs to meat is diminishing it.

    No, there’s “a proper cup of tea” and there’s “foreign tea”.

    Great British rock bands do world tours and come back saying they had spent the whole time craving a proper cup of tea.

  20. anne mariehovgaard says

    Well if she was talking about British “tea” I don’t see the problem. Eating just one meal per day is probably a bit unhealthy, but it’s not like she’d starve…

  21. says

    @ anne – yeah – scones with cream and jam and iced cakes and buttered tea cakes isn’t the healthiest diet, but you wouldn’t starve. Even the more modest version of digestive biscuits would keep you going.

  22. says

    This reminds me of the time I got the idea to go on a hunger strike, protesting the existence of the universe.

    In my defense, I had eaten a pile of mushrooms that evening and in the morning, it no longer seemed like such a good idea.

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