Vonderplanitz made apparently miraculous claims of his clients' routinely curing their diverse diseases, but he never documented these cases. Still, he became a leading alternative nutritionist. His latest years drew him notoriety within the alternative-healthcare community for battling other raw-food advocates, for medical conspiracy theories, and for fake academic credentials.
Originally named John Richard Swigart, Vonderplanitz spent most of his childhood and adolescence in the Cincinnati suburb Finneytown, Ohio. He claimed that he had been a sickly child who was autistic and, largely through misunderstanding of that, physically abused.
At age 17, Vonderplanitz married a recent schoolmate, who soon bore his only child, a son, during his senior year. Once he graduated, the new family moved to Cincinnati, where he worked as a short-order cook and attended a computer-programming school. Divorced at 19, he moved to Los Angeles for work in computer programming. His life was mostly directionless, and he heavily consumed alcohol to numb his distress.
Vonderplanitz claimed that surgery for his stomach ulcer, acquired at his age 20, caused a keloidal scar, and radiation therapy for it caused him multiple myeloma. He claimed that he refused further treatment of his terminal cancer, and was introduced to raw carrot juice and raw dairy, putting his cancer in remission and resolving his longstanding mood problems. Yet he claimed that raw meat, rather, effected his cure from cancer.
During his putative cancer remission, the still John Richard Swigart sojourned in wildernesses and among Native Americans across the US, meeting a girl toddler who renamed him Aajonus. Long disliking his given name, a reminder of his past illness, abuse, and belittlement, he accepted the renaming, and later took his European ancestors' last name Vonderplanitz. Soon, he returned to Southern California and began his career as a nutritionist. Yet eventually, he would claim a diverse résumé.
Vonderplanitz would recall an acting career, an appearance on General Hospital, and ethically refusing an offer to be made the Marlboro Man. Upon overturning a traffic ticket in his early 20s, he sought legal expertise by private study and reading court decisions. Sometimes calling himself a "nutritional scientist", he began in the 2000s placing Ph.D. after his name, but an alternative reporter claimed to have traced the mysterious doctoral degree to a diploma mill. Eventually owning a farm in Thailand and another in the Philippines, he spent much time at his Thailand farm.
Lacking any accredited scientific or healthcare training, Vonderplanitz claimed tutelage by a Southern California nutritionist named Bruno Corigliano followed by three years of bicycle travel across the US while studying biology and medical textbooks, Native American indigenous healthcare, and wildlife habits. He claimed to have discovered raw meat's putative healing capacity when fasting in the wilderness, where a pack of coyotes killed, tore open, and offered him a jackrabbit, then watched him until he ate it.
Upon returning to Southern California, Vonderplanitz erected a table outdoors among the purveyors at Venice Beach, and thus began, at about age 23, his career offering nutritional counseling in a raw-food niche. At age 39, living in Hollywood, Vonderplanitz returned to Cincinnati since his son, estranged for 20 years, had been injured in a severe car wreck. Vonderplanitz claimed to have sabotaged his son's hospital care and used raw foods to awaken and retrieve his comatose son from imminent death and to reverse his paralysis and brain damage.
Ten years after Vonderplanitz's putative success in his son's recovery, Vonderplanitz recounted the tale in his first book, We Want to Live (1997). On its release, Robert Atkins interviewed Vonderplanitz, based by then in Malibu, on Atkins's nationally syndicated radio show. Vonderplanitz had claimed that his own protocol had cured over 200 clients of cancer. In 2000, Vonderplanitz trademarked the name Primal Diet. Unlike later diets called "primal", Vonderplanitz's Primal Diet principally includes raw meat, raw eggs, raw dairy, raw fats, and unheated honey.
Nearing 2010, Vonderplanitz was still claiming over 90% rate of cancer remission among his clients practicing the Primal Diet. Despite mainstream dismissal, his Primal Diet had gained a sizable, if underground, following. In alternative healthcare, at least, Vonderplanitz became "a modern leading nutritionist". Despite third-party allusions to astonishing remissions and cures via Vonderplanitz's counsel, he did not document any cases. He rationalized that doing so would draw incrimination for practicing medicine. No medical scientists have tested his protocols.
Vonderplanitz began campaigning for raw-food rights in 1977. In 2001, his report on raw milk and legal action got the County of Los Angeles to lift its longtime ban on raw milk's sale in stores. Around then, he formed the not-for-profit organization Right to Choose Healthy Food (RTCHF). To help consumers elsewhere obtain raw milk, he originated the legal workaround whereby private food clubs "lease" animals from small farms, a model that he claimed was more legally defensible than the "cow-share" strategy of selling club members "shares" to partially own cows. In multiple American states, as president of RTCHF, Vonderplanitz mediated these arrangements. These food clubs eventually numbered about 80, and some clubs had hundreds to thousands of members. Especially successful was Rawesome, specializing in exotic raw foods, in Venice, California.
Vonderplanitz had invested in and steered clients to the food club Rawesome. Yet in 2009, Vonderplanitz accused its operator James Stewart of deceptively sourcing eggs from one Sharon Palmer, and alleged her eggs contaminated. In June 2010, federal and local authorities raided Rawesome, and returned in June 2011 to close Rawesome and arrest Stewart and Palmer for criminal conspiracy in illegal production and sale of unpasteurized products. Claiming credit for building Rawesome, Vonderplanitz defamed Stewart and Palmer, sued them for large sums, and, allegedly lacking admissible evidence, was counter-sued. While a dragnet against food-club managers and farmers connected to Vonderplanitz ensued, Vonderplanitz claimed that he had seemingly been blacklisted from media coverage. Nonetheless, he often sought to represent raw-milk defendants in federal court, although, not an attorney, he was restricted by federal statute from doing so.
Eventually, Vonderplanitz believed himself the target of pharmaceutical or government conspiracy to neutralize him. In 2009, he had described the ongoing flu pandemic as a hoax mediated by flu vaccination. Soon, he alleged apparent retribution by invaders of his hotel room in Thailand forcibly giving him injections that sent his "mercury, barium, and chromium readings off the charts", impairing his health and causing much weight loss. Later, he claimed that on a Thailand road, his car's brakes suddenly failed, causing a potentially fatal car wreck that he likewise attributed to a plot against his life.
In August 2013, at his farm in Thailand, Vonderplanitz leaned against his house's second-story balcony rail, which proved faulty, allowing his fall that broke his spine and paralyzed him. At the hospital, he accepted pain-killing drugs, yet refused X-rays and surgery to repair internal bleeding. After a few days, he lost consciousness and died. Despite rumors of conspiracy, two of Vonderplanitz's colleagues described local circumstances suggesting a genuine accident. Vonderplanitz had authored two books: a memoir retracing his path to and introducing the Primal Diet, We Want To Live (1997/2005), and a followup recipe book citing putative scientific evidence, The Recipe for Living Without Disease (2002).