Essie Honiball was born Esther Maria Wiese, in Edenburg, Orange Free State, South Africa. She attended Orange Girl High School in Bloemfontein, before studying at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Orange Free State, where she graduated in Biology (B.s.c.), Physical Education (Performers Licentitate) and Music (piano). She then travelled to Europe to continue her Physical Education studies in the Netherlands, Denmark and London.
After teaching Physical Education at schools in South Africa, Honiball lectured in health and biology education at the Cape Town Training College and at the Pretoria Normal College in Physical Education. She also served as Assistant Head of the Elizabeth Conradie School for disabled children.
A keen swimmer, she became a junior diving champion of Orange Free State, and a senior diving champion of Western Province (in the Western Cape) in 1946. However, in 1958, Honiball became very ill with tuberculosis and was hospitalized in Kimberley, Northern Cape. Although the illness disappeared, Honiball failed to regain her strength and fell into depression. After hearing of the healing power of fruits by a friend, the author Cornelius Valkenburg de Villiers-Dreyer, whom she married in 1959, and influenced by the writings of South African author Johanna Brandt, she recovered from her condition. When her husband died in 1962, Honiball went on to marry, T. O. Honiball in 1973, a notable cartoonist for The Burger (South Africa) and its magazines.
After withdrawing from normal life, and adopting a fruit diet (fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, and sometimes vegetables) which she later described in her book I Live On Fruit, she felt transformed, acquiring a healthy body, new outlook on life and new lifestyle, to the surprise of her family and friends. Inspired by the results she had obtained, Honiball initiated the Hokaai! Movement with Herma Loubsa, establishing clubs in different regions of South Africa. The club members, known as Hokaaiers, met every year to attend lectures about the fruit diet and relax in natural surroundings.
In 1971, Essie Honiball participated in a rare scientific study into the fruitarian diet, conducted by B. J. Meyer, Dean of the Faculty of Basic Medical Science at the University of Pretoria, who was investigating this diet from 1969 to 1973 in co-operation with the Council for Atomic Research and the Medical Research Council. The results were referenced in the South African Medical Journal and in Professor Meyer's book "Fruit For Thought". Meyer described how lipid profiles and glucose tolerances improved on a particular fruitarian diet, and how his earlier tests on a 45-year-old teacher (Honiball) who claimed she had eaten only fruits for the past 12 years, showed her to be in ‘excellent health’.
Honiball went on to write several books about her experiences with the fruit diet which were published in Afrikaans and some in English including I Live On Fruit, I Live On Fruit And Nothing Else, and, A Fruit Eater Is Born, which documented 50 years of her life’s work and experiences with diet. According to her writings, she sustained an exclusive fruitarian diet, for a period of 20 years without break, and has continued with the fruitarian diet throughout her life. In 2010, her books Ek leef van vrugte and I Live On Fruit will be updated and republished by Benedic Books.
In 2010, well-known South African author Anoeschka von Meck, signed an agreement with Benedic Books for the writing of Essie Honiball's biography. Initially the book will be published in Afrikaans with the title: Essie Honiball: Die Ontwaking, and later translated into English with the title: Essie Honiball: The Awakening. The Afrikaans edition is scheduled for release at the end of 2010, and the English edition, at the beginning of 2011.
Honiball is one of a series of latter-20th century writers who writes about fruitarianism, raw nutrition, fasting and detoxification. She has produced a series of 12 books in Afrikaans and English, about the fruit diet and is featured in the book Stellenbosch Writers by Rosemarie Breuer. She is also cited in Raw Knowledge: Enhancing The Powers of the Mind, Body and Soul, by health author, Paul Nison. In 2002, Morris Krok, republished her book I Live On Fruit. The high fruit, low fat and all raw diet, which Honiball promotes has been referred to in the writings of health authors including Anne Osborne, Brian R. Clement Ph.D, Dr. Douglas Graham, and Viktoras Kulvinskas. She received an honorary certificate from Orange Girl High School, Bloemfontein, in 2006.
Honiball's fruitarian diet consisted of fruits, berries, nuts and seeds. Health writers including Robert Gray, Arnold Ehret, Morris Krok and Johnny Lovewisdom, have described how nuts and seeds are not botanically fruits, and too concentrated to form part of the optimum fruitarian diet.
- Ek Leef Van Vrugte, (I Live On Fruit), South Africa, Pretoria, Makro Books, 1974, 1979
- Ek Leef van Vrugte - Vandag (I Live on Fruit - Today), South Africa, Somerset West, Benedic Books, 2010
- Hokaai: Op Pad Na Môre, (My Fruit Diet After 40 Years), South Africa, Pretoria, Makro Books, 1982, 1998
- Die Tuin, (The Garden), South Africa, 1985
- Stééds Vrugte, (Fruits Forever), South Africa, Pretoria, Benedic Boeke, 1989, 1998.
- Ek Leef Van Vrugte, (I Live On Fruit), South Africa, Pretoria, Benedic Boeke, 1991 - Omnibus of Ek Leef Van Vrugte (1974), Hokaai (1982), and Die Tuin
- Skokkende Goeie Nuus: Uitgebeeld In Christelike Perspektief, (A Fruit Eater Is Born: A Book For Fruitarians & Hokaaiers), South Africa, Pretoria, 1994, 2002
- Op Pad Na More, (On The Way To Tomorrow), South Africa, Pretoria, Benedic Boeke, 1998
- I Live On Fruit, USA, Texas, Life Science Publications/Life Science Institute, 1979, 1981, 1990 (with Terry Fry)
- I Live On Fruit And Nothing Else, South Africa, Pretoria, Benedic Boeke, 1989
- I Live On Fruit, USA, Texas, Mabcgacam Books, 1990
- Forum 2000 (Issue 2) (compiled by Johan Nel), South Africa, Pretoria, Benedic Boeke, 1993, 79 pages, ISBN 0-86812-382-X, ISBN 978-0-86812-382-0
- I Live On Fruit, South Africa, Pretoria, Essence of Health Publications, 2002
- A Fruit Eater Is Born: A Book For Fruitarians and Hokaaiers, South Africa, Pretoria, ABC Press, 2005,
- The Supreme Law, Cornelius Valkenburg de Villiers-Dreyer, Rushkin Press, 1931
- The Bible of Nature and Book of Wisdom, Cornelius Valkenburg de Villiers-Dreyer, Rushkin Press, 1936
- T. O. Honiball: culture with a smile, Francois Philippus Verster, AFRICAN SUN MeDIA, 2004, page 56 "Mrs Honiball believes that a study of her late husband's work can do much to help foster better relations between cultural groups in South Africa."
- A Fruit Eater Is Born, Essie Honiball, ABC Press, 2005, page 23, "Prof. B. J. Meyer, D.Sc, M.B., a graduate of the universities of Pretoria and Stellenbosch, received special training in research on the relationship between nutrition and various bodily functions. At that time he was Dean of the faculty of Basic Medical Science at the University of Pretoria, and in co-operation with the Council for Atomic Research and the Medical Research Council, scientifically investigated this diet from 1969 to 1973."
- South African Medical Journal (Suid-Afrikaanse Mediese Tydskrif), 20 February 1971; vol. 45, pp. 191-5.
- South African Medical Journal (Suid-Afrikaanse Mediese Tydskrif), 20 February 1971; vol. 45, pp. 191-5. ‘Some physiological effects of a mainly fruit diet in man.’, ‘Our interest in this matter was aroused when a lady of 45 years of age consulted us and claimed that she had subsisted entirely on a fruit diet for the past 12 years.’, ‘These tests confirmed that the subject was in excellent health.’
- Perfect Health: The Natural Way, Mary-Ann Shearer, BenBella Books, 2007, page 27, "Essie Honiball, who had lived on fruit and nuts for fourteen years and then submitted herself to a series of extensive tests by Professor BJ Meyer (at the time, chairman of the physiology department at the University of Pretoria), was found to have alkaline urine. If fruit is indeed acid-forming, this result would not have been possible."
- The fruit hunters: a story of nature, adventure, commerce and obsession, Adam Gollner, Simon and Schuster, 2008, page 97, "Morris Krok's Fruit: The Food and Medicine for Man relates how he attended a fruitarian lecture with Essie Honiball, author of I Live On Fruit. Asked what one should eat, the answer is: "Fruit, of course."
- Blatant raw foodist propaganda!, or, Sell your stove to the junkman and feel great!, or, Consider your true nature, Joe Alexander, Blue Dolphin Publishers, 1990, page 60, "Essie tells how she converted her husband to fruitarianism, though he had no interest in changing his conventional diet."
- Stellenbosch Writers, Rosemarie Breuer, 2005, ISBN 0-620-32948-3, ISBN 978-0-620-32948-4.
- Raw Knowledge, Paul Nison, Three Forty Three Pub Co; 3rd edition, 2002
- The 80 10 10 Diet, Douglas N Graham, FoodnSport Press, 2006
- The Mucusless Diet Healing System, Arnold Ehret, Ehret Literature Publishing Company, 1994, chapter, The Destructive Diet Of Civilization