The Daily Beet

19 Jul Finding TrueNorth.

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One of my favorite places to be is TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, CA. The center has helped me in so many ways with my health and well being. I decided to come up to TrueNorth for a few days, get some appointments in with the MD’s (check ups). It’s always a great stay, no matter how long I am here. I’ve done 2 water fasts in the past, both which were very good experiences for me. This time I was just here for a short time, so I didn’t fast, but I thought I would walk everyone through what a day at TrueNorth is like.

7:45am – The Doctor comes by to see how I’m doing, see if there is anything I have questions about. They take my blood pressure (90/68), my temp (97.1) and my pulse (62). They also take your weight, I choose not to know what my weight is everyday, that’s up to you. (I don’t like my motivation to come from the scale)

I’m not fasting right now, so I get to shower. When you fast you can’t shower. A lot of people find this strange, but trust me, you don’t want to shower when you fast, the change in temperature , even standing up for an extended period can make you really light headed, or worse, pass out. YIn my previous fasts I was always surprised that I didn’t feel grimy, and my hair was fantastic 🙂 No product, no washing + fasting does wonders for the hair 🙂

So then it is off to breakfast. There is a salad bar set up 24/7. It has all of the vegetables you could want, plus fruit and 3 different dressings. There is a small condiment bar (salt free spice, ground flax, vinegar, 1 kind of nut.

This morning for breakfast they had oatmeal and they had an oatmeal french toast. Everything is salt/oil/sugar free as well as gluten free and except for rare occasions, soy free. They try to make it all allergy free.


The kitchen here is really amazing, if you want something special you can always ask. So the other day I really wanted steamed brussels sprouts, so I asked and for lunch they had a huge bowl waiting for me.

After breakfast there was a karate demo and lesson by one of the participants. One of the great things about TN are the incredible people who stay here. This week I’ve met a black belt in karate who is also a psychologist, a world famous photographer (he was the photographer for the Beatles), a Columbia professor who has a philosophy in changing the way people go about business and management, featured TED speaker and author, a director working on 2 major films. Many times they will have a guest do a special talk.

After the karate demo, Doug Lisle did a 1 1/2 hour talk, and it is all Q&A. It’s always fascinating, he answers everything from relationship questions to questions on addiction. Dr. Lisle takes appointments, my insurance reimburses me for his sessions, not sure how all of the other insurance works. He is around every weekend.

After Doug there is lunch. Each day for lunch there is salad (as always), soup, a grain, a main dish. Everyone who is eating is encouraged to eat as much as they want. People who fast often hang out in the dining room, being around food is generally not an issue.

If you are fasting, there are pretty strict guidelines in how you go into the fast and how you stop fasting. You have to eat 100% clean for at least a week before the fast, and the few days before, only raw and steamed vegetables. This makes it a lot easier when you start fasting. When you stop fasting there is a very exact method to re-feeding. It’s a slow transition back into eating. You are supposed to “re-feed” for half the time you fasted. So if you fasted 10 days, you should re-feed 5 days before going home.

2-3pm today is a lecture by a Columbia professor called “How to Succeed by Not Trying”

After that you can do whatever you like. Some people see one of the doctors (who work on the weekends), some get massages (available every day), you can workout, take a walk, go into town (if you are not fasting). If you are fasting you can’t leave the facility, but it’s a nice place to be, and again, you don’t want to be out and about when you haven’t had any food.

They have a HUGE video library. Each room has a flat screen and dvd player. You can watch every lecture you’d ever want to watch. They have all of Jeff Novick’s videos, McDougall, Dr. Lisle, Klapper, Dr. Esselstyn and more. There is no shortage on learning experience. Or you can just lay out in the courtyard for a little while, talk to new friends. And of course, you can just take it easy, take a nap, read a book.


Before dinner the doctors go back on rounds and come visit you. They check to see how you are feeling, they don’t do blood pressure in the afternoon, just a general checkup.

I should note that every week they also do blood work and urine samples to make sure everything is ok. The lab work comes in really fast – usually the next morning.

Dinner starts at 5:00 and is set up like lunch generally. Salad, soup, grain, main dish, beans. They usually have a special salad as well, last night it was eggplant/onion/pepper.

The doctors and staff mostly live at the center, so they are around all the time. They sit at meals with you, and are always available to talk, 24/7 there is a doctor on call.

After dinner people usually hang out and talk, occasionally there might be a talk, but usually it’s just time to relax/watch dvd’s, read and of course get some sleep.

They also have cooking demo’s all through the week. Cathy Fisher, from “Straight Up Food” is one of the weekly guests that comes in and does a demo.

The beds are all sleep number beds, and the linens are comfortable. You can always get more pillows/blankets.

Some rooms have their own bathroom. And then there are a few other rooms in the suite that share a bathroom.

Everyday the house cleaning staff comes by, cleans your suite and room. They will change out sheets/towels as well when you want.

You can also get your clothes washed/dried and folded as much as you want, which is a nice (free) service. You never have to worry about laundry, so you don’t have to bring a ton of stuff with you.

People come for every thing imaginable. On this trip I’ve met several people with lupus (they have a tremendous success rate with lupus and diet change/fasting), people who have early diagnosed cancer, or who have gone through treatment, t2 diabetics, heart disease patients, people with MS, Parkinsons, people who are going through drug/alcohol rehabilitation, people fighting food addiction. I’m always shocked by what happens when people come here, to all of those conditions (and more) it’s pretty remarkable.

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The cost Is really affordable, especially when compared to hospital stays or even some other programs. The medical part (appointments/labs) is generally covered by insurance, but even if it isn’t they do a lot to keep that cost as low as possible.

All of the doctors we work with have been to the center, most have fasted. Dr. Campbell is an avid supporter of the center after his fast cured some serious health problems he had: http://www.vegsource.com/news09/031612.html

It is 100% safe. Everyone reacts differently, but you are so closely monitored that there is very little worry. I like to remind people that eating all the time is not a normal thing, that has been (for the most part) recently introduced to our behavior. We were set up with amazing bodies that can use the reserves that we have been feeding it. Now of course, you need water, and there is a limit to when you can fast up till (depending on different factors), but we’re set up to do this. On that note, you should NOT fast (water only) at home. There are things that can go wrong and you should be medically evaluated to see if it will be safe. Because we don’t live in a perfect world, we don’t have the most ideal bodies, things like medications (past or present) can make a big difference as well as certain medical conditions, and there are blood levels that need to be tested before you fast to make sure everything is ok. 


I’ve done 2 long fasts. My experience was great both times. It is definitely something that you get what you give (while you are there and when you come out of it).

It’s done a lot of good for me, emotionally, physically and mentally. And I NEVER worry about skipping a meal now 🙂  

I hope that answers a few questions. If you have any questions, or are interested in a fast, it’s best to call the center and ask for Dr.Goldhammer (and tell him Engine 2 sent you).

Also, be sure to follow them on facebook for articles, recipes and more plant-strong inspiration.

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Natala Constantine
  • VegPrincess
    Posted at 12:52h, 19 July

    I went to TN about a year ago, it was the best experience of my life. I was suffering with many health problems, some that doctors had no idea what to do anything about. I did a fast, and re-fed. The doctors are all caring and are always there when you need them. I also learned a great deal of information and made very close friends while I was there. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

  • healthygirlskitchen
    Posted at 12:55h, 19 July

    I would love to hear some of the nuggets from that lecture, How to Succeed by Not Trying!!! TrueNorth sounds like a wonderful place to go.

    • Engine2Team
      Posted at 12:59h, 19 July

      It’s actually a lot like Doug’s suggestions, in setting up your environment so you are less likely to fail – like not having anything in the house that is a trigger, having your clothes out ready in the morning to workout, prepping all of your food earlier in the week, making small habit changes, not focusing on small details of things, and just approaching things reasonably. Just making it so that it is more a routine than it is a chore.

    • Chef Aj
      Posted at 12:31h, 23 July

      Well you could have gone!

  • Susan
    Posted at 13:00h, 19 July

    For me, my stay completely cured my food addiction, which was very severe. Fasting was very helpful in re-setting my pallet. Now I don’t crave the things I used to, and my health has become so much better.

    • Chef Aj
      Posted at 12:33h, 23 July

      I think they are the only ones in the plant based world who address emotional eating and food addiction. Congratulations on resetting your palate!

  • Chef Aj
    Posted at 12:31h, 23 July

    True North enabled me to get off my thyroid meds and psychiatric meds ( which conventional doctors said could not be done ) and lose 35 pounds with out fasting, Dr. Goldhamer said I was able to become a “skinny bitch” instead of just a bitch! :-).

    Now I get to work there as a guest chef/ lecturer the entire month of December,

    • susan
      Posted at 15:28h, 28 August

      How long did it take to get off the psych drugs and how did you do it?

  • MMdownSouth
    Posted at 10:24h, 09 August

    Thanks for this article NATALAE2. I am still trying to decide if I should try True North, I am a slim man but have experienced borderline blood pressure issue. Would they be able to help?

  • Jack Hamilton
    Posted at 02:18h, 07 June

    What martial arts did Dr. Lisle use?

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