Don't you just hate how your body makes its needs known at all the wrong times? Like when it wakes you up in the middle of the night, reminding you of all those drinks you poured into your system that are now sloshing around your bladder, or jolts you awake to bolt to the bathroom, or sweats profusely on a first date or important job interview?
Peter Filak has found an answer to these nuisances: Stop drinking water. Hell, stop drinking any and all liquids.
Filak is a former registered nurse, a current webcam model—his far more civilized term for online pornography actor—and an avid health and lifestyle reformer, and he claims to have not taken a sip of water since May 5, 2012 at 5 PM. (That's not counting some sodas and chocolate milks here and there, in the early days of his experiment. Cut him some slack—he's waging an intense battle against a gnarly addiction to processed food.)
Filak says he survives on around 800 to 1,000 calories a day, solely consumed in the form of whole fruits and vegetables. Even his dog, a chihuahua-shih-tzu-papillon-Pekingese mix named Sachi, is on the diet. He'll have a couple apples and a banana before their standard eight- to ten-mile hikes; she'll get a kiwi or some carrots if she's thirsty.
"Even when you're filtering water, you're taking out one chemical and putting in another ...[especially] the filtered water where chlorine and fluoride and all those other happy things are added to it," he explains in one of the many videos about nutrition, disease, and addiction that he posts to his website, More Apples a Day. "Especially as I went into a raw fruit and vegetable diet, I'd be waking up two to three times a night to pee. So it just didn't make sense to me. I didn't understand why I had to be drinking all that water."
There are other lifestyle benefits, too, Filak explains: He spends almost zero time in the kitchen, has seemingly boundless creative energy (see: his YouTube channel), and, his personal favorite: "I don't sweat or produce any odor."
When I first learned about Filak and his no-water gospel, it sent a shiver down my well-hydrated spine. If I have a religion in this world, it is water. To me, it is the crystal-clear, ice-cold answer to most of life's daily discomforts: colds and coughs, dry mouth, killer hangovers, mid-afternoon slumps, existential crises. I am a bottle-carrying member of the eight-glasses-a-day club. When in doubt, I drink H2O.
Filak, on the other hand, doubts the very premise of hydration. As a raw-food vegan, he aims to survive only on fruits and vegetables. (Along with a Taco Bell burrito here and there; more on that later.) His goal is to live as long as possible; he hopes to reach 150 years old. This dream has been brewing for a while for the 26-year-old; he decided he didn't want to drink alcohol or do drugs when he was only in third grade. He signs his online treatises with the phrase "LIVE longer we will."
"I began this process of self-education at an an early age," he tells me over Skype, from his bed in Seattle. He moved west six months ago from Pennsylvania because there was more interest and enthusiasm there for his message of healthful eating and non-drinking. He voraciously reads books about disease and addiction, citing The China Study, The Emperor of All Maladies, and the documentaries Forks Over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead as fundamental influences.
Filak doubts the very premise of hydration. As a raw-food vegan, he aims to survive only on fruits and vegetables. He hopes to reach 150 years old.
Another reason for his move is ongoing tension with his family; he told me his parents found his lifestyle choices difficult to stomach at first.
"The general consensus was that I was being a moron," he says. "I've always had revelations with my parents. When I told them I was a vegan, my mom was crying, my dad was upset, they said I was OCD, and that there was something seriously wrong with me." But now both of his parents (his father is a former executive chef; his mother, a nurse) are vegan, and his father has even done a juice cleanse—though both are still drinking fluid.
Filak walked away from his nursing job in December of 2012, in large part due to his increasing disagreement with the dietary recommendations being made in his hospital. "I just realized that hospitals are run like businesses," he told me.
Since then, he has focused on his writing. (He has penned five books, which he self-publishes on Amazon, on topics ranging from sexuality to food addiction; two more are on the way.) In addition to his YouTube proselytizing, he has also been a contributing performer on Chaturbate—a website whose slogan is "The act of masturbating while chatting online"—though he has taken a break recently.
In any case, I couldn't see how we were going to get along, let alone get through this interview. And that was before he urged me to try it.
"If you want to bring some interesting perspective to your piece, I would ask that you take my no-water challenge," he wrote to me in an email prior to our Skype chat. "I always actively encourage my readers and viewers to doubt me in my beliefs, and beyond that, to see for themselves instead of just believing me, or in other words, to take the necessary risk. So here it is:
"Go one day where you eat nothing but watermelon. Don't eat anything else or drink anything at all. By the end of the day, you will likely never want to eat watermelon again because you will be peeing so freakin' much (this is the very reason I don't eat it that often). Then go a day, or a few, it's up to you, where you eat nothing but apples or pears. Then a day, or a few, of nothing but bananas. Then a day, or a few, of nothing but carrots. Do this all consecutively."
I balked, but I had to admit I was curious. I didn't think I was putting myself in danger—I've seen many a seven-day juice cleanser live to tell the tale—but I still checked in with a nutritionist about the non-liquid lifestyle choice.
"Any diet that excludes any food group is a fad and completely unsustainable," Lisa Sasson, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at New York University, told me. "Dehydration is very serious. Water has fluoride, which is important for dental health. It cleanses our palates, contributes to important bodily functions, helps our kidneys. I could list 20 critical functions of fluid."
With that advice in my back pocket, I forged ahead with Filak's suggestions anyway. I forwent my morning chug of two glasses of water, bought a giant container of chopped watermelon, and headed to my office job, determined to give it my best shot. By lunchtime, I was feeling pretty good, and hadn't peed nearly as much as I had been warned. Maybe this Filak character is on to something, I thought.
Then, my co-workers ordered pizza for a birthday. My greatest obsession, after water, is pizza. You can guess how the rest of my challenge went. By the time I stumbled to a water fountain that afternoon, I might as well have emerged from a week-long desert wander. The cold gush of water hitting my mouth was a revelation. I briefly wondered if I was a hydration addict.
Addiction is central to Filak's food philosophy: He struggles with an addiction to fast food, counting Taco Bell and Pizza Hut as among his greatest vices, which he makes a point of confessing on Twitter. He prefers the term "modern food" to designate anything under the umbrella of food that's industrially processed or not found in nature.
"I no longer look at someone addicted to any drug, whether it be food or heroin, the same way. I understand," he says. "If everyone is addicted to something, no one is addicted at all. If a few are addicted to something, it will be avoided by most, because it is recognized as an addiction. And this is the thick concrete wall between addiction to modern food and something snorted."
But Filak doesn't expect you to buy his way of life hook, line, sinker, and chopped watermelon.
"I always tell people, 'see for yourself.' I was very cynical for a while, calling everyone a moron. I embraced what made sense and what was obvious to me. I've come to understand i can't force my perspective on others. I'd rather people educate themselves."