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(An Ex-Instincto's Guide to Instinctive Eating--continued, Part C)

What is the instincto scene like at present?

Well, let's back up a bit first. Guy-Claude Burger has spent more than a generation experimenting with original foods. His children were raised eating original foods, as it became clear how beneficial the practices could be. (A couple of them reportedly continue eating instinctively into adulthood.) After living for a time in Mexico, the Burger family secured a farm in France where they welcomed people curious about instinctive nutrition, or "instincto," as it became known. Later, in the fall of 1984, the Burgers opened an instincto center in the charming and roomy setting of an old chateau southeast of Paris--officially, the Chateau de Montrame. Here people could come to experiment with original foods of superlative quality (the kind of food any raw-foodist worth their saltless reputation would giddily rhapsodize over with glee ;-) ), and ask questions of experienced instinctos.

The table at the Chateau is laden with the finest naturally farmed foods from Europe and supplemented with imported fruits from Africa, Southeast Asia, and California. An astonishing variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, sprouts, honeys, eggs, shellfish, fish, meats, and organ meats are presented (just for one's sniffing and tasting pleasure). Herbs, dried at room temperature, are sometimes attractive in small quantities, and dozens of varieties of bottled water are available. Orkos, a food warehouse and distribution center for original, undenatured foods, supplies the whole of France and may have expanded to surrounding countries.

However, all is not well at the Chateau. As with many other alternative dietary philosophies, the claims of super-health and virtual immunity to disease have proven to be excessively idealistic in the real world. Mr. Burger's wife, Nicole, died of cancer a few years ago in 1994; and Guy-Claude himself reportedly has had a few bouts with rapidly growing skin tumors (although apparently not cancerous, though whom the diagnoses were made by is not clear). One early occurrence was removed with minor surgery; later occurrences have receded and disappeared when the amounts of raw meat in his diet were reduced to small amounts. A few other instinctos are also said to have experienced similar fast-growing tumors after extended periods of eating large amounts (1-2 lbs = 0.5-1 kg) of meat per day, which reputedly disappear as rapidly as they first appear, once the levels of meat are significantly reduced.

(Note: As some who are followers of instincto may be skeptical about the existence or occurrence of the above events, the source of this information is worth mentioning. A discussion of the Burgers' problems, and attribution of the cancers to very large amounts of meat, was given in a letter sent out by the Chateau de Montrame itself, explaining their version of the events. One of the recipients of the letter posted a summary of the letter's contents on 6/10/1998 on the Internet's Live-Food email listgroup [formerly:, now at:], a forum devoted to the high-RAF [raw animal food] diet proposed by Aajonus Vonderplanitz.)

Many followers also seem all too willing to overlook behaviorial evidence suggesting the possibility that Guy-Claude Burger's anopsological theories may be based as much in his own personal proclivities toward hedonism and libertinism as they are on anything approaching real research about "instincts." He has had a few conflicts with the police over the years that include a conviction by the Eclepens court in 1978 (and four years' jail time, with the sentence reduced a few months for good conduct) for pedophilia. (Charges of additional alleged pedophilia, brought in 1997 in connection with children of followers living at the Chateau, were eventually dismissed. The 1997 scandal was reported in the French media--one published in the June 26, 1997 issue of the magazine L'Express, the other in the June 30, 1997 issue of the newspaper Liberation. The report in L'Express includes mention of the earlier time served; see p. 49 of that issue.)

As discussing the jail time for pedophilia and later allegations of similar behavior here might be construed as nothing more than ad hominems (character attack)--when the present discussion centers on instincto food practices--why mention it at all? It basically has to do with the elaborate justifications that often surround idealistic philosophies like instincto which may be based as much in emotion as fact. In this connection, beyond just his instincto theories--and related to the pedophilia scandals--Burger has also invented a really weird philosophy (oops, sorry, couldn't help myself there :-) ) called "Meta-psychology," usually referred to as just "Meta," which--to outsiders--has the appearance of being an elaborate justification of his own neuroses, sexual and otherwise, along with some grandiose pronouncements about civilization and human nature. (For example, one of the tenets of "Meta" is that to blossom as free beings, children should be allowed to physically/sexually fulfill any Oedipal or other precocious sexual tendencies they may have that could be satisfied by adults, and adults should not be unwilling to violate societal taboos against incest or sex with children to accommodate them.)

Thus, not only can "Meta" be used as a psycho-philosophical underpinning for "instinctual" behavior where "instinctive eating" is concerned (i.e., the principle being that desires/instincts should, generally, be indulged); at the same time it also seems rather conveniently to have justified Burger's sexual proclivities by redefining impulses toward pedophilia as just the normal operation of "instinct." The point being that these considerations raise the legitimate question whether Burger's theory of instinctive eating--at least as he has put it forward himself--can really be viewed as "scientific" rather than being in large part an elaborate emotional justification for his own behavioral tendencies.

Note that we are not saying here there may not be something quite legitimate and worth pursuing where "instinctive nutrition" is concerned. However, most proponents of the theory do not seem to have considered that the roots of a dietary theory can often tell us much about not simply what physical needs it may or may not serve, but also why it may have come into being for more personal or prosaic reasons. This in turn raises serious questions about how much the theoretical underpinnings of the theory are actually based on suitably empirical observations or some kind of reliable science, or are instead primarily emotional/philosophical conjectures attempting to masquerade as something more.

News from French correspondents on the Raw-Food email list posting translated French newspaper reports (see above for sources)--plus their own commentary gained from local French sources say that most of the long-timers at the Chateau left in the aftermath of the 1997 scandal. The whole scene at the Chateau is very cult-like, as it was even when my wife and I visited in the late 1980s, and it appears to have gotten worse over time.

Estimates vary as to how many instinctos there are in Europe. Some claim that over the years, many, many thousands of people have visited the Chateau de Montrame for weekend seminars and longer visits. Are there thousands of 100% instinctos in France? In Europe? I seriously doubt it. Are there hundreds? Probably, but one has to wonder how strict they might be. ORKOS sells tons of food, but that can hardly be used to determine how strictly the purchasers are in following the instincto regime.

I don't live in Europe, don't speak French, and most of my info on the scene comes secondhand. Hopefully, some of our European friends close to the scene will furnish us with updates here to help provide an antidote to the inevitable spin-control put on reports emanating from within the more idealistic sector of the movement. [Contact me via email with information you might have, and I'll post informational updates here if they can be sufficiently confirmed and are newsworthy enough to warrant it.]

With the publication in 1987 (and reprint in the early 1990s) of Severen Schaeffer's book, Instinctive Nutrition, a few Americans started to eat instincto. One named Zephyr has gone on to write a book himself, Instinctive Eating: The Lost Knowledge of Optimum Nutrition (see review of the book here on Beyond Veg, plus ordering information on the Rawtimes site to receive direct from the author; also available through retail channels). My wife and I also wrote up a considerable manuscript, much of which deals with instincto, but have not found a publisher--just as well since our views have changed significantly since the last editing was done. ;-)

As well, there is another book in English on instincto published in Australia, Instinctive Nutrition: Food, Your Body and You, by Helen Young (see review on this website), which is interesting, but it doesn't add much information. (Ordering info: ISBN 0-9587607-0-5, published 1995, by Accord Health and Lifestyle Management, P.O. Box 41, Flemington 3031, Victoria, Australia. Send AUS $21.95 per book.)

Bruno Comby has written many books--among them, Maximize Immunity, which has been translated into English and is reviewed here on the site. He has a website as well.

So how many instinctos are there in the USA? That's a good question. I know personally of four people who claim they are serious instinctos, and of another dozen or so who have experimented with instincto for a time and follow some sort of individualized modification of instincto. The majority of these folks are in California, a few in Hawaii--and who knows how many people are experimenting with instincto who aren't online and who think they might be the only ones in the USA doing it? That's certainly how I felt in the late 80s. (Note: I no longer call myself an instincto--I say I eat a paleo-diet.)

Any summary of the "state of instincto" would be incomplete without mention of the darker side. Now that we are getting a look at some anecdotal information from long-term instinctos (let's say, at least five years or more), the rosy picture of Perfection painted by the writers and other enthusiasts is being tempered, to say the least, with a heavy dose of reality. I've already made mention here of the cult-like nature of the Chateau de Montrame, and Nicole Burger's early death from cancer.

Further, Zephyr became very ill recently, reputedly from ingesting raw parasite-infested mongoose, and finally resorted to medication to stem his deterioration from what was diagnosed as trichinosis. (Note: He eventually recovered well and is very strong at present but has been humbled a bit by the experience. (Note on sources: Zephyr reported on the experience firsthand on the Raw-Food list in May 1997, as a follow-up to an earlier report posted there in April by a close friend who had nursed him through the ordeal.)

Even further, I know personally, firsthand, of a long-time instincto in Hawaii who had been laid out with a humongous staph infection which had oozed probably a gallon or more of pus over a five-month period (during which he also suffered from nematodes). He finally started an antibiotic and slowly recovered. Whether or not this is "detox" gradually becomes a moot point when symptoms are both acute and chronic. Or more to the point, it becomes irrelevant when death threatens, as in the cases of several instinctos who have resorted to anti-malarials when the malaria "detox" did not "self-limit" as predicted by instincto theorists. ;-) One instincto woman did indeed die of malaria in Thailand without the proper medication.

In general, in long-term instinctos we are not seeing the deficiency symptoms which so often develop on raw vegan (and especially fruitarian) regimes, but we are seeing that the parasite issue is not as simple as it was once thought. An instincto who tells you that as long as you eat 100% instincto you have no worry about parasites (or degenerative disease) is either ignorant or very misguided.

So ARE instinctos super-healthy?

Though very few people are able or willing to eat 100% instinctively, it is CLAIMED that they can expect the following improvements in health. It hardly need be said, of course, that this list of results is little different from the litany of claims made by any new alternative health approach:

In short, instincto claims to be the ultimate path to health. And the claims above are almost identical to those made by fruitarians and other rawists.

Of course, the price one pays to achieve all this health is sickness... er, uh, slap me for saying that, I mean "detox." ;-) It may well be that one's body casts off waste when the diet is improved, but while many instinctos may experience some of the improvements mentioned above, needless to say they are unlikely to experience them all. Like other regimes that promise the stars, instincto is big on idealistic talk and short on any actual data to back up its claims. And as mentioned, some instincto experience is not very healthy at all--like the experiences already related of dying of malaria as a young woman; like dying of cancer as an older woman; like almost dying of trichinosis in your late twenties; or like Guy-Claude's inability to get beyond his neurotic ideations.

But the instincto litany of blessedness doesn't stop with the claims of making people super-healthy. Instincto is also claimed to be a cure-all for most every disease named. People diagnosed with various diseases have undertaken strict and supervised instinctive nutrition, called "Instincto-therapy," with--it is claimed--stunning success. But again, documentation is very hard to come by. The theory of instincto is so elegant, so simple, that at times it seems it must all be true, but we are a long way from the paleo-days, and even longer from the jungle.

We should take any claims about disease remission with a huge grain of salt for (at least) a couple reasons. We don't know what happens to these folks down the line. Is the remission permanent? And we don't know that the anecdotal evidence hasn't been completely hyped and overstated. And we certainly have no double-blind, state-of-the-art scientific research to support such claims. Of course, there isn't any research which invalidates such (admittedly) questionable anecdotal evidence either. Even if these claims turn out to be 80% hyperbole, it might still leave 20% which could be useful to the health practitioner or health-seeker. But so far, you could take the sum total of research on raw-food diets and health in one hand, and a quarter in the other, and have enough to play a game of pinball by yourself.

With that as caveat, here we'll note the symptoms and diseases that it is said have seen improvement, and in some cases, complete remission when individuals undertook supervised Instincto-therapy where there was at least some review of the individual's practice of instincto. These include:

But how seriously can we take such lists when some long-term instinctos are seen to develop brand new disease states? I, along with a lot of other folks, am awaiting the day when serious research is done on the role of raw foods (and sensory selection of raw foods in disease states). Until then, we will probably continue to hear much of what must be considered idealistic over-enthusiasm at best, and deliberate hyperbole at worst.

Still, the power of testimonial anecdotes is hard to resist. Try reading the two below (from Severen Schaeffer's book Instinctive Nutrition) while remaining unaffected...

Roseline: Age 61

Rheumatoid arthritis beginning in 1982, wrists affected. Latex Waller Rose test highly positive. Increasing stiffness, redness, pain and inflammation spreading to knees, shoulders, and elbows. Anti-inflammatory treatment beginning in 1984 was halted because of gastrointestinal side-effects. Turning to naturopathy, with a diet of eggs, vegetables, limited fruit and rice, for nine months. Then reverted to "normal" diet for two months which caused symptoms to "explode," paralyzing her.

Began Anopsotherapy [Instincto] in May 1985, at home, with fruits and vegetables. By third day had high fever, and articulations were blocked (there was no elimination of toxins). When she began correct practice at the Center, all pain was gone in three weeks.

During the fourth month detoxination began seriously with skin infections (abscesses) on fingers, hands, top of wrists and at base of spine. Was attracted almost exclusively to overripe fruits and spoiling fish during this period which lasted a month. Then skin infections subsided and healed overnight, and she recovered movement of articulations (with minor stiffness remaining occasionally). Extremely active and in good health: now easily hikes eight kilometers or more. In conclusion: Rheumatoid arthritis regressed almost completely in nine months.

Vincent: Age 2 years, 6 months in April, 1985

The child had been fed original foods by instinct from the age of one year (with occasional small amounts of cooked foods). In April, the child falls into a fireplace, burning palms of both hands to the 3rd degree. Is taken to emergency burn clinic at hospital. Proposed treatment includes: hospitalization, antibiotics, sterile chamber, bathing of wounds. Doctors foresee ablation of necrosed tissues and probable amputation of the more severely burned right hand. Mother refuses and takes the child to Anopsotherapy [Instincto] center.

Between the 1st and 5th day: serum drains continuously from burned areas, but the child begins to move his fingers and has no complaints of pain.

Between the 6th and 10th day: noticeable improvement, with child fully using his hands, which are visibly healing.

By 30th day: no visible trace of burn, no scars, no sequels.

[Schaeffer, Instinctive Nutrition, pp. 123-124]
Of course, there is no certifiable documentation on such dramatic cases like these. For myself, upon hearing of these two cases, my jaw drops--half in earnest disbelief, and half in "what if that is really true!" suspended disbelief. In any case, the above examples and lists are part and parcel of the tactics used (in lieu of scientific documentation) to get people's hearts a-pumping on their way to being a super-human instincto. My heart was a-pumping for years, but though I consider my health very much improved on my raw adventure, I can't possibly deny that the above claims sound too good to be true. And unfortunately, the overboard claims of instinctos are SO overboard that most people are likely to dismiss it all as just another nutty scam. That there is something to instincto I have no doubt, but the true nature of that something will have to be ferreted out by hard-nosed (that's a pun if you didn't get it ;-) ) research--research which may never take place if instincto keeps up the charade of hyperbole.

In general, I am more skeptical than ever about instincto, but conversely also ever more curious as to what unbiased research would tell us about the role of raw foods and/or sense-selection of such foods and how they may correlate with human health. Instincto needs some serious debunking, but beyond that, it has some serious growing up to do. (To me, it still seems stuck at the stage of an orally fixated toddler ;-) ). At that point maybe the academic world would take more interest than it has so far. I'm not holding my breath, though--my instinct tells me ;-) I should instead take a deep breath and then pray I can still blow out the ever-increasing number of candles on my birthday cake, even if it is made of blended raw durian, mammey sapote, and bone marrow. ;-)


(The Gap between Theory and Success in Instinctive Nutrition)

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