LARKSPUR, Calif. -- Wiley Brooks, 47, says the secret to his strength, health and youthfulness is that he hasn't eaten in 19 years.
Brooks, who co-founded the Breatharian Institute in Marin County six months ago, has been traveling around the country preaching his message that 'all food is poison' -- at $10 per lecture, $100 per daylong seminar and $500 for a five-day 'intensive.'
He has won about 400 followers. But his group recently has been severely shaken by charges that Brooks ordered chicken pot pie and biscuits in a Vancouver hotel.
Another person reported seeing him leaving a 7-Eleven store with a bag of groceries.
Co-founder of the Breatharians, Lavelle Lefler, charges her partner with 'sneaking junk food into his room after everyone is asleep.'
Miss Lefler and 12 of 15 officers have quit the organization.
'I have taught yoga for 15 years and I have been to India, where people survive without eating, so I know the breatharian concept is true,' Miss Lefler said. 'When I first met Wiley I believed in him so much I gave him my own phone and office to serve as headquarters for the institute.'
About a month and a half later, she said, 'I saw him eat an INElette. I was so shocked, I didn't react. He thought he was safe and started eating around me all the time.
'The truth is he sneaks into 7-Elevens and fast food places and eats just like the rest of us -- except worse because he has to rely on places that are open late into the night.'
Brooks, who maintains he has consumed no food or liquids in 19 years -- except for several glasses of orange juice -- waves the charges aside and muddies up the issue with an accusation of his own against Miss Lefler.
'We were romantically involved. We broke up. Now, she's out for revenge. What she says is a bunch of garbage,' Brooks said.
'I go into 7-Elevens all the time, but only to buy magazines. I go to restaurants and to health food stores because my friends eat. No one can prove I've taken any food.'
Brooks claims the body's cells replace themselves every seven years, and the body is self-sufficient, obtaining from the air all the vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates and fats necessary for survival.
He shows off his black mop of hair and 6-foot-quarter-inch, 135-pound frame, noting he can lift heavier weights than when he was eating.
'When I was 28 years old, my hair was thinning and falling out. I was aging. When I fasted, I noticed renewed strength. When I went back to food, it was like a drug. Now, I'm strong, need very little sleep and am very healthy.'