More than four decades ago, long before the term Standard American Diet had been coined, the Rev. George Malkmus was just an ordinary pastor living with his family in upstate New York. He didn't anticipate that a cancer scare and the way he chose to treat his tumor would one day become Hallelujah Diet, a way of living that would impact the lives of thousands of individuals.
Reflecting on 25 Years
Heeding the advice of a close friend, Hallelujah Diet founder Rev. Malkmus gave up junk food and burgers for a primarily raw, plant-based diet rather than enlist the help of medical treatment for his tumor. A year later, it was gone. But that wasn't all: His eyesight and energy improved and he no longer experienced allergies. It was then that he decided to spread the word.
Today, more than 1 million copies of Rev. Malkmus' original book are in print, over 10,000 individuals have become health ministers for Hallelujah Diet and thousands have come to recognize the intrinsic self-healing body that God created.
"I think humbled would be the word to best describe the feeling," said Hallelujah Diet President and CEO Paul Malkmus reflecting on the growth and success of the Hallelujah Diet over the years. "It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years."
Starting Out as the Lone Wolf
Paul acknowledged, however, that the journey to this point was not always an easy one, describing the early years for his father, Rev. Malkmus. As a Baptist preacher, Rev. Malkmus was used to the fellowship he shared with other pastors. That changed however when he began preaching the message of eating a primarily raw, plant-based diet.
"He was kind of out there on his own," recalled Paul. "There were very few people who embraced or accepted what he was teaching."
Paul described one of the many trials that his father encountered during those early days. After the publication of his first book, "Why Christians Get Sick," Rev. Malkmus borrowed $1,000 to have the books printed and stored in his barn. Shortly after, the barn caught fire, taking all of the books with it.
"It was those kind of struggles that really tested his resolve," said Paul. "But he felt so impassioned by the message that God had given us these miraculous, self-healing bodies. The Lord gave him real insight and he used his testimony to push forward."
Rev. Malkmus first began to spread his message in an antique shop in Rogersville, Tennessee, where he would give lectures and sell health products. From there he moved to a small local restaurant where he served healthy food and gave seminars on Saturday, which would become the model for a few years. The people who heeded his advice saw the results of this way of living and eventually, those testimonials began to spread.
When Rev. Malkmus closed the store to travel and give seminars full time, he was speaking day after day in one city after another, preaching for upwards of three hours at a time. Paul spoke of his father giving selflessly during this time to keep up with a grueling schedule.
"He had a passion for sharing this message with people and for giving to them what had been given to him," he said.
A Scientific Turning Point
Very little has changed about the core fundamental teachings of the Hallelujah Diet, according to Paul.
"The message that we started out with 25 years ago is still valid today," he said. "It's based on the belief that God created within us a miraculous self-healing body and when we activate that body, whether we're a believer or not, the body responds positively because it is the innate self-healing that he created inside each of us."
"Today, science continues to validate the core principles of Hallelujah Diet."
The message has been replicated over the years, in various trends and diets, and as Paul explained, Hallelujah Diet is no longer the "Lone Wolf." What has changed, however, is the development of scientific validation. As the company grew and expanded, there were several things that the team at Hallelujah Diet wanted to better understand for themselves so that in turn, they could educate their consumers. In 1998, Hallelujah Diet hired Dr. Michael Donaldson, Ph.D, as the director of research.
Dr. Donaldson's research eventually led to revamping the products offered. In 2002, the team began testing and comparing the products received from manufacturers. It didn't take long to discover that these suppliers could not always be trusted. Hallelujah Diet began testing products, adjusting ingredients and developing its own supplements.
"Because people were looking to us for guidance, we wanted to make sure that whatever product we offered was the best one out there," said Paul. "So we used the science through our research to isolate which were the best and we then came out with our own Hallelujah Diet line."
Paul Joins the Team
After growing up as a "preacher's kid," Paul initially had little interest in his father's teachings and way of living. He didn't want to be in the spotlight and initially shied away from becoming involved. Five years after opening the Hallelujah Diet restaurant and health food store in Rogersville with wife Rhonda, Rev. Malkmus again asked Paul to join the mission. For Paul, the faces and the stories of the lives that were being changed was the real turning point.Today, if you ask him about the people whose lives have been turned around, Paul could relay one story after another.
"When you see someone's health completely transform and they actually have their life back, it makes the whole thing worthwhile," he said.
Paul officially joined the team in 1997 and has been a leader ever since. And though he's the first to admit that carrying out the mission of the Hallelujah Diet each and every day is a lot of work, he knows there is still much to be done.
"You're fighting against the media, you're fighting against traditions, you're fighting against pharmaceutical companies," said Paul. "It's almost like you're fighting everyone to get that message out, that message that people can take control of their health and see results."
"The movement to help educate people needs to continue."
Though the medical and nutrition communities have come a long way - Paul has said that the Hallelujah Diet team applauds the steps taken over the last five years - they still have a long way to go. And that is why the movement needs to continue, he said. It's the mission of Hallelujah Diet to help people understand what healthy really means.
"It's about helping people progress toward that second layer of health that goes beyond just making smart choices," he said. "It's about creating a world where people understand that they have a true choice and they don't have to be afraid of cancer, they don't have to be afraid of heart disease, they don't have to be afraid of old age."
Building on the last 25 years, continuing to spread the word and carry out the mission is the goal for the next 25 years.