Living On Light, Air -- `Breatharian' Says Food Is Poison But Pops An Occasional Twinkie

Instead of a cheeseburger today, how about a nice gust of autumn wind?

Instead of ice cream for dessert, maybe a crisp evening breeze?

And tomorrow morning, rather than grabbing cornflakes or a cinnamon roll, how about standing on the back porch and sucking in a heaping helping of pure, fresh air?

Preposterous, you say? Wiley Brooks may beg to differ.

Brooks, promoting seminars in Bellevue this month, is the chief proponent of "Breatharianism," a philosophy that holds that humans, in their natural, healthy state, need only fresh air and sunlight - not food, water or sleep.

"He sleeps one to seven hours a week and eats only when there is no fresh air to breathe or when he cannot get enough sunshine," his promotional ads say.

Perhaps you saw him hoisting weights on "That's Incredible" in 1980, or read about him under the National Examiner headline: "Man doesn't eat, but lifts 1,000 lbs."

Or maybe you heard about the flap in 1983, when a top assistant quit and accused him of sneaking junk food into his room at night.

Guru, kook or con artist? Or a little of each?

Brooks, 58, promotes a complicated philosophy including elements of the New Age movement with a spin all his own.

He maintains that consuming and digesting food uses up energy that should go into focusing a person's creative powers on attaining happiness.

The junk-food revelation a few years ago was a bit of a setback, and he now admits that even though food is poison, he does in fact eat a little - perhaps some orange juice and honey, an occasional sandwich or even a Hostess Twinkie.

"I use it the way you would use medicine," he said. For example: He says city air and freeway smog create an imbalance that a sugary snack can help correct.

But he insists that if he could get enough good air and five hours of sunlight a day, food would be unnecessary.

Brooks says he has never told people to give up food, but his philosophy does seem to hold that as the ideal.

"I strongly recommend that people do continue to eat until they learn the things they must know in order to stop eating," he said.


Brooks, by the way, is not Seattle public-relations executive Wiley Brooks, who runs a firm by that name, but the PR Brooks says he has received phone calls inquiring about Breatharianism.

Brooks the Breatharian is a former Californian who has been in the area several months; he has a West Seattle apartment and conducts seminars at the Bellevue Hilton.

His apartment is lined with a bank of full-spectrum lights to counter the grayness common in Seattle skies.

So far, the Breatharian philosophy hasn't netted him much money, but he is frank about saying he hopes it will.

"I have spent a fortune learning how to do this," he said. "I intend to get a return on my investment."

At his $10-a-head introductory presentations, he pitches his $150 two-day seminars and admits that disciples may need to attend several before they can truly understand his philosophy.


Among those who dispute the Breatharian message are nutritionists and dietitians, though they sometimes don't know whether to take it seriously.

Natalie Gonzalez, a certified dietitian with the state Health Department, said she'd heard of the teaching a few years ago and hoped it had died out like one more fad.

"I wouldn't call it harmless," she said. "Lack of eating certainly does result in malnutrition; witness what is occurring in Somalia and Eastern Europe."