Diet From Hell

A valley vegan couple's fear of obesity was no picnic for their kids

You can calculate how much you would have to weigh to make a BMI of 21, or even 19. It may seem thin, but you wouldn't be underweight, according to modern science. You may even live a lot longer. Experiments with animals show that near-starvation diets over a lifetime can lengthen lifespans by 30 percent or more.

The pressure to lose weight has never been greater. But don't start the fast just yet.

A lot of the hype over obesity is often just that. It's fodder for gossip rags and book deals and advertising time.

Hospital officials testified that the Parkers’ older children, Michaela (pictured) and Caleb, were also malnourished.
Hospital officials testified that the Parkers’ older children, Michaela (pictured) and Caleb, were also malnourished.
Caleb Parker
Caleb Parker

Plenty of questions about fat and health remain unanswered despite the mounds of research.

True, studies do show it's not good to be obese, or even overweight. But the research can be contradictory or interpreted loosely. As Paul Campos' 2004 book The Obesity Myth points out, connections between weighing too much and problems like cancer and heart disease aren't nearly as strong as many think.

The idea of low-calorie diets as a way to extend life in humans, meanwhile, remains controversial.

Any restricted diet could be dangerous for young children. Even veganism, healthful as it may be for adults, could be harmful to kids if not handled carefully. Nutritionists say that's especially true in the first few years of life, during growth spurts when extra proteins and fatty acids are needed for the brain.

The point is, concern about child obesity and nutrition is warranted — but there's no need to get extreme. Children who are malnourished face a far greater — and more immediate — health risk than overweight children.

Kimu Parker may not deserve decades behind bars for her misguided mothering skills. But when she and her husband became convinced that they were right about their children's feeding pattern, they blinded themselves to the simple truth that their kids were starving.


On a warm day in September six years ago, little Aaliyah "Lily" Parker was coming down with something. She was whiny. She felt hot, then cold. She didn't want to play with her older siblings.

Then she had a seizure. The toddler went silent and seemed frozen for a few moments.

Most parents, if they had not already called a doctor, certainly would have done so by that point.

But the Parkers didn't have much faith in doctors. They shunned vaccines. Blair Parker worked but didn't buy health insurance, which didn't matter because the kids didn't go for checkups. Lily had been born with the help of a midwife and had never seen a doctor.

The Parkers didn't even take the kids' temperatures; thermometers contain mercury, and mercury is dangerous.

The Parkers didn't call for help after Lily's first seizure. Or the second. Or the fifth.

The seizures seemed to escalate in strength. The Parkers tried massaging the little girl. The self-fashioned experts on herbal medicines gave her one-sixth of an adult dose of valerian and passion flower in an attempt to relax her muscles.

Lily vomited as they tried to feed her apple juice through her clenched teeth. The Parkers let her lie down in their bed, and they prayed.

Then came what Blair Parker would later call a grand mal seizure. Every muscle in her little body seemed to tighten.

Her breathing became "like a frog, raspy," a cop later recorded Blair as saying.

She stopped breathing about 10:30 p.m. The Parkers shut off every appliance in the apartment, hoping her breath would be audible in the silence. It wasn't.

That's when they called 911.

The Scottsdale police officers who responded to the apartment saw no evidence that a crime had occurred, a police report stated. The Parkers seemed appropriately distraught. Lily's body looked "well-nourished" and showed no signs of trauma. The apartment was neat; the refrigerator and cabinets well-stocked with vegetables and other health food. If this was child abuse, the Parker's apartment had none of the hallmarks of an abusive home, such as filth, disarray, or drug paraphernalia.

The police report doesn't mention that, at the time, Kimu was pregnant with the couple's fourth child, Zion.

Scottsdale police officer J. Leduc noted that the Parkers' two other kids "appeared healthy" but that Caleb, then 5, was "very small for his age."

Leduc underlined the word very.

Blair Parker, then 31, explained that his grandparents had died despite mainstream medical care, and that Kimu's uncle had died of a seizure. Epilepsy ran in the family, he said. Blair said he worked at Bill Heard Chevrolet in Scottsdale, and didn't qualify for state assistance. Kimu was a former teacher who home-schooled the children.

They had moved to the apartment in the mid-'90s from a small town in Montana. Before that, they lived in Oakland. Blair said he originally was from Baltimore, had been in the Navy, and aspired to be a naturopathic physician. He said he had taken college courses in business administration, marketing, nutrition, medicine, nursing, and engineering.

A few months later, Dr. Marco Ross of the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner ruled that Lily had died of aseptic meningitis, which is rarely fatal. His report shows that Ross deemed the body's appearance "well-nourished," though he also recorded that the 3-year-old weighed 20 pounds, which is very light for her age.

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4 comments
calebrussell41
calebrussell41

this caleb parker now caleb russell and i am healthy nowi weigh 138 pounds and am 6 ft 1

HealthyVegan
HealthyVegan

People so love using that story to bash on veganism, all angry & righteous as this article is, and it’s a LIE: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/07/04/20080704parker0704.html

 

Here's a statement from the prosecuting attorney:

"The problem is not that Blair Parker or Kimu Parker fed these children a vegan diet, the problem is that they didn’t feed them. I’m sorry that the news has publicized this as somewhat of an attack on a vegan diet... I believe you can raise very, very healthy children on a vegan diet, but you can’t raise healthy children on the food that the Parkers were giving their children."

 

Parker obsessed about the children's bowel movements, gave them enemas that further impeded absorbing any nutrients.

 

"Vegan children who are fed properly grow," said Deputy County Attorney Frankie Grimsman. In fact, when the kids were placed in foster homes, they immediately began to gain weight - while still on vegan diets.

 

HealthyVegan
HealthyVegan

I of course meant "angry & righteous as this PhoenixNewTimes article is," not the linked one...my linked article is very fair and honest.

 
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