Breatharianism is a movement that claims people are able to live on very little food, and that a diet of air and sunlight is enough to sustain the human body. Specially, “breatharians” believe that an energy known in Hinduism as Prana—a kind of nourishing life force—can be absorbed from the air. And naturally, this belief has proven dangerous.
Multiple deaths have been associated with Breatharianism, although in most cases it’s dehydration rather than starvation that’s fatal in the short term. Such was the death of a 49-year old Australian woman named Verity Linn, whose body was found in 1999 in a tent overlooking Cam Loch, in the Scottish Highlands. She was found to have died from dehydration and hypothermia, and a copy of the Breatharian how-to book Living on Light: The Source of Nourishment for the New Millennium was discovered among her possessions.
Yet despite bad publicity from such events, the movement continues to find new followers. There are many, in fact, who sing its praises.
Nicolas Pilartz is one such example. He was born in France, but now lives in Italy and describes himself as a “facilitator” at the Eden Pranic Center, one of the largest Breatharian organisations in the world. At 50 years old, Pilartz says he eats just one solid meal a week, on average, and consumes liquids the rest of the time.
We spoke to him over the phone to explore the intricacies of his diet, and find out why he wants to forgo food, which is surely one of the most pleasurable aspects of life.
VICE: Hey Nicolas, can you tell me about yourself and how you got into this?
Nicolas Pilartz: Well I'm somebody who's very rational, you know? I didn't do any kind of special meditations or yoga. I was living in Paris and it was a really, really normal lifestyle. I was actually a game designer: card games and board games. Then, one day I watched a documentary called Living on Light. I saw that video with my girlfriend at the time and I said "whoa, this is incredible information." I was 41 years old and I had experienced some struggle with pain in my body, and I said to myself, “this could mean there is a solution, but I need to see if it works on me.”
So how did you start?
The way you’ve got to do it is by starting with the 21-Day Process. So I did that process. I started on the 15th of November, 2012 and I did seven days dry and then in the second week, I started drinking juices. I actually went on to 35 days basically on liquids. Then in the meantime, I went back to my family for Christmas, and no one knew about what I was doing. I’d lost 14 kilograms, so I was very different. And when my mother opened the door, she said to me, "My son, what happened to you? Are you ill? Do you have a problem?"
That would have been really stressful for her.
Yes, it was a bit rough in the beginning, you know, because my mother said, "Do you have cancer? Do you have AIDS?" She was scared. But then everyone saw that I was okay; I was not too weak and I was not crazy. I said to everyone, "I'm on liquids, I did this process", and everyone was so astonished. But they knew me, and they respected me. So after five minutes everyone was eating and they forgot about me. I was drinking my juice. It was fine.
And I understand that your girlfriend wasn’t happy about your new diet either?
Yes, she didn't want to go breatharian. I wanted to go breatharian, but I wasn’t ready to break up so I went back on food. After a few months, we broke up anyway. Then I said to myself "now I'm alone, I can do it, because it's only concerning me and no longer my girlfriend."
And this was when you really got into it?
Yes. My family was away back home and I was alone. So I said "I'm going to do it now, because I was feeling so good." I was going two weeks on liquids, with maybe some coffees and teas with some honey. And then I would choose an opportunity—a birthday, maybe a wedding or a celebration—to enjoy food with the people around me. But I told myself that if I was alone, I’d only consume liquids. Because I wanted to keep all the benefits of that state. That was when I started my true breatharian journey.
So basically you never eat alone, only around other people. What do you eat when you’re socialising?
I just eat anything that is available in the moment. For example, if we are invited by some people who have cooked some meat or some fish, then it's okay, I don't see any kind of problem. But I'm going to take it in a certain way. It's a different state of consumption, and I'm going to eat less. Because if I eat too much, it's going to have an effect, like a hangover. There's always going to be a hangover on the day after, but it depends on the amount and the quality.
How do you feel when you eat?
When I eat now I feel, straight away, my vibration going down. There's the moment of going up, like when you drink a bit of alcohol, and then I have a downwards effect. I experience a feeling of seeing double, like if I get a bit drunk. I feel my vibration changing.
I have to ask: do you still poop given you eat so little?
Yes, I go. I go let's say, once a week. Or it can be twice a week; it depends what quantity of food I'm playing around with. But everything is functioning, yes.
Let's talk about the safety of Breatharianism. If it’s so good, why have there been cases of people dying, such as Verity Linn?
To answer this question properly, I would need to know who that woman was and whether she was in good shape. People who are overweight, or people who have some illness already, must not do the process. When someone is playing soccer, and has a heart attack, this is a terrible event. But no one's going to have a heart attack when they're 30 years old. You're going to have a heart attack because you're 60, and you are overweight, and you have diabetes, and so on. You don’t blame soccer. The mind that wants to find some guilt or to judge, of course they want to say “it's obvious it's about starvation.” But no, it is not. It can be so many other things.
So as a blanket statement then, you think that all the people who have died following Breatharianism didn't actually die from starvation or dehydration, but from other preexisting conditions?
For me, yes. Sometimes there are people who go too far. They just don't stop after 21 days; they don't follow the guidelines; they don't listen. Anyone doing the process needs to take in knowledge from all the breatharians, because no one wants anyone to die. We want people to feel better. This is really important. I also think that 20 years ago, Breatharianism was something very new. Now it's very different.
Would you recommend this diet to me? Should I stop eating?
First I would need to know you better. You need to be in good health physically and mentally, because we’d be putting pressure on your body, even if you are on liquids. People need to be in a healthy state. Otherwise I say to them, “Let's check with your doctor what alternative you could do,” and maybe people can start with one meal a day, or two meals a day instead of three. I would invite everyone to try this process, because I think it can only be great for the body. Our ancestors, in all civilizations, they used to fast. Our Christian civilization was fasting for 40 days. It is something that is good for the body when it is under control, and when people don't do crazy things like trying to go dry for so many days.
But the other thing about food is that it's really fun. It gives me something to look forward to. What's it like not having that to look forward to?
It's important that you are able to replace food with something else, because if you stop something, you can't leave it empty. You also need to have good reasons to stop something. This is what happens to people who are smoking or drinking: they are going to stop it with the willpower, but mostly they're going to stop via an understanding in themselves. So it is an understanding of the cause and effect. It means that now, if I would go on certain food, it's going have an effect. And that effect is exactly the one that I don't want in this moment. Because I want to have my lucidity, my clarity. I want to have my centeredness.
As we discussed at the start of this interview though, food is social. I imagine Breatharianism must affect your social life.
Yes, the challenging part is the social aspect, the life aspect. Our society is built on consumption, so if you are in a city and hanging out with friends or family in the evening, it's going to be hard. This is also why I said to myself “my next girlfriend has to be breatharian, or I will be lonely." But I was happy with that choice. I said to myself: "I will not compromise anymore because I want my happiness first." Eating doesn't make me happy, it brings down my vibration. But then, in 2016, someone saw a video of me—Rafaela—and she's now my partner. She's a breatharian also, and we are happy. It's already a gift from the universe that she arrived in my life. But I'm ready that she can go at any moment. So we are very free. I perceive relations in a very different way now.