The Genesis Diet: The Biblical Foundation for Optimum Nutrition by Gordon S. Tessler, Ph.D. (1996)

Another week, another book called The Genesis Diet. This Genesis Diet actually predates the Genesis Diet I discussed last week but the diet Gordon Tessler laid out was ahead of its time. In this diet from 1996 Tessler explained the dangers of trans-fats, processed food and what he called the “four white deaths” (white salt, white sugar, white flour and white fat) as he urged readers to adopt a simpler diet based on the book of Genesis. Tessler described the diet of modern Americans as a diet of man-made foods and the Genesis Diet as a diet of God-made foods.

Tessler’s book brimmed with bible verses that helped him convince readers that Genesis contains a divine diet plan that requires their attention. For instance, he discussed the deceptive power of modern processed foods by comparing this deception to that of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Tessler wrote, “Eve, like so many after her, didn’t realize how dangerous it can be to eat something that God commands us not to eat” (17). Tessler continued to illustrate the deceptive processed food that modern Americans consume and reminded readers that “food processors are not concerned with your life but with shelf life” (22). Tessler also dedicated a decent portion of the book to exploring New Testament passages that many people believe altered the original diet laid out in Genesis. According to Tessler, the unclean foods of Genesis remain unclean. He asserted that God’s word is consistent. He included lengthy discussions of Acts 10, 1 Timothy 4:4 and the writings of Paul which seem to point to an end to concerns of unclean foods and carefully suggested alternate readings that imply that the New Testament retained the unclean food designations of the Genesis diet.

The Genesis Diet, described by Tessler as “the optimum diet for optimum health,” is composed of 50% grains, seeds and nuts, 10% fruit, 6% dairy, 4% meat and 30% vegetables. Tessler restricted meat consumption to clean animals that have been slaughtered properly and had their blood removed, following the traditional laws of Kashrut. Tessler bolstered his advice for animal consumption with biblical evidence but it is interesting to note that the verses related to animal consumption appear in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, not Genesis. Tessler connected the rules for animal consumption to Genesis through Noah. Tessler explained that after the flood, “Noah sacrificed clean animals and birds” (46) suggesting that Noah was aware of the restrictions. In addition to the consumption of proper foods (in correct proportion) Tessler also promoted fasting “for spiritual and physical renewal” (123). Finally, Tessler listed a number of herbs from “God’s Pharmacy” and their common uses. He supported this diet with scientific studies of healthy cultures and testimonials from people who read this book and improved their health with the Genesis Diet. One testimonial from an Ohio woman described putting her whole family on the diet with success and she concluded her letter with the proclamation: “We are all experiencing greater health God’s way” (171). Tessler published two related books Breaking the Fat Barrier and Cooking for Life that support The Genesis Diet, but unfortunately I have not read them. A project for another day!

New Year, New Blog

Today is the first day of 2013. Like many of my fellow Americans, I woke up ready to get to work on a New Year’s resolution. While my own resolution was to start a blog (check!), many Americans are kicking off 2013 with a new diet and/or exercise program. There seems to be a diet out there for everyone but my interest is in diet and exercise programs that are based on religious principles. Over the next few weeks, I will be highlighting some of these diets and giving an overview of their religious foundations and diet and exercise prescriptions. And now for my disclaimer – I am not a medical professional and I am not recommending these diet plans. I have not followed any of these diet plans myself. I am simply reading these books as a student of American religion and recording some of my thoughts on the diets as they were presented. I had many diets to choose from but deciding where to start was fairly easy – week number one will start “in the beginning” with The Genesis Diet.

The Genesis Diet: A complete wellness program to help you GET WELL, BE WELL, and STAY Well by Joseph Vetere, DC (2012). 

The cover of The Genesis Diet proclaims “Lose 1 pound of body fat every 3 days!” Despite this enticing claim, Joseph Vetere made it clear early in the book that his plan is not intended as a quick and easy route to weight loss. Instead, Vetere provided his readers with “an overall wellness program, based on biblical principles.” Joseph Vetere wrote the book as both a health professional and a minister. He is a doctor of chiropractic and holds a diploma in ministry from Oral Roberts University. With The Genesis Diet, Vetere sought to do more than shrink waistlines, he endeavored to transform lives.

The diet is grounded in the idea that humans, and especially Christians, need to conform to God’s divine plan. Vetere invoked Genesis 1:25 to illustrate this point:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Vetere 3).

Vetere described this passage as the motivation and foundation of his work and he employed the passage to remind his readers that their “goal should be to fulfill God’s design and plan for mankind to have dominion over all life.” Vetere reiterated throughout the book that humans were created in the image of God, and that, according to I Corinthians 6:19, their bodies are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (Vetere 5). Such carefully created bodies should be treated to proper health and wellness and Vetere provided his readers with a plan to restore the proper condition of their bodies.

Vetere set out biblically based principles, or covenants, to prepare readers for the diet. Vetere used the tests of Abraham to model his 8 principles. These principles are stop making excuses, take initiative, be willing to make sacrifices, stop taking short cuts, be committed to following the Plan, release yourself from past failure, endure and sometimes long suffer and make yourself accountable. Vetere stressed the above principles as necessary to long-lasting change.

Most of The Genesis Diet is dedicated to mental and spiritual preparation for the diet plan but the sections on the actual diet are clear and thorough. A companion website,, provides printable resources and video tutorials to assist readers with the exercise plan. The diet requires a calculation of the proper daily caloric intake based on current weight, body fat percentage and basal metabolic rate, or the amount of calories burned in an average day (Vetere 95). The daily caloric intake goal is then broken down into percentages that ensure dieters are eating the right foods: 30% each of carbohydrates and proteins and 10% each of vegetables, fruits, dairy and butter/oil. Vetere requires that dieters keep a food diary log to ensure their caloric intake is within the limits generally and within each category. Finally, Vetere laid out workout program that helps dieters establish a 20 minute/day workout in weekly increments. Vetere concluded the book with a chapter entitled “Why You Will Succeed” that encourages readers to pray daily to ensure success. He provides guidelines for prayers that can help his followers as they struggle to improve their health.

Interestingly, The Genesis Diet contains very few actual food recommendations. Instead, readers are given a fairly flexible diet plan that they must fill in with their own food choices. No foods are overtly prohibited or recommended. Instead, Vetere provided ratios, a general plan for how to approach menu planning and calorie calculations for common foods. This approach seems amenable to the busy and varied lives of the contemporary Christian audience Vetere targeted with his diet plan. Vetere presented his well-rounded diet and exercise plan as more than a mere suggestion for his Christian readers. Vetere insisted throughout the book that for Christians, health is a gift that they are responsible for maintaining and it appears that he gave his readers the tools to do so.