Monday, September 3, 2012

Daniel Suelo, the man who quit money, seems remarkably healthy

Daniel James Shellabarger (better known as Daniel Suelo) is portrayed in the bestselling 2012 nonfiction book by Mark Sundeen titled “The Man Who Quit Money” ().

Apparently Suelo stopped using money in 2000, and lives in a cave near the city of Moab in Utah. His diet comprises primarily wild vegetables and fruits, insects, and road kill; as well as discarded or donated food he gets from others when he visits the city. The photo below is from a recent BBC documentary. An interesting 2006 YouTube clip on Suelo is titled “Moneyless in Moab” ().

Suelo is listed as having been born in 1961 (), and the photo above appears to have been taken in 2012. If these dates are correct, he is 51 in the photo above. I cannot help but think that he looks remarkably healthy. The 40-50 age period is one that often sets the stage for many diseases of civilization in urban societies.

Suelo’s decision seems like a radical one, at least to me. There are always complex motivations behind radical decisions. In the case of Suelo, some of these motivations are captured in the comment below, which is part of a review of the book “The Man Who Quit Money” posted on by a reader.

[…] a picture of Suelo not as an untarnished hero, but a man who has wrestled with heartbreak, depression, disillusionment with his family's faith, and his repugnance to working for the pure sake of making money and buying things. Whether or not you are inspired to follow Suelo's example, this book will make you think.

Many people have been inspired by Suelo’s story, to some extent because they see that adopting a radical form of “simple living” () may not only be possible but also liberating. Obviously Suelo’s lifestyle, as it is now, would not be possible without the help of others who adopt a more “traditional” lifestyle. Below is a critical review by a reader of the book, posted on, which harshly reflects this perspective.

Any infantile mentality charmed by this inane story should simply generalize the message - visualize a world in which all of us live like the parasitic protagonist. How fortunate for Suelo that there are still people who engage in productive work and indirectly and unknowingly keep the human sponge alive […] Suelo never quit money he simply quit contributing anything and continues to survive simply as a parasite.

Still, Suelo’s story is interesting, including from a human health perspective. An article on by Christopher Ketcham provides a glimpse at what a day in Suelo’s life looks like (). It seems that on most days he has one main meal per day.

It is hard to get a sense of the nutrient composition of his diet. It looks like his diet is limited in but not devoid of industrial foods, and one in which food consumption is sporadic, opportunistic, and driven primarily by hunger and availability – not by stress or set meal times, for example.

He probably walks a lot; his cave is one hour away from Moab by foot, and it looks like he goes to Moab often. Apparently he almost never gets sick.

Suelo also writes a blog (), which has many followers, and also maintains other websites, from the Public Library in Moab. His first blog post has over 1,000 comments under it ().