The Coastal Star

Health and Harmony: Health Oasis opens with mission to improve eating habits

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live and the force behind Dr. Fuhrman’s Health Oasis

at the Boca Beach Club, gives free educational talks when he’s in the area.

Here he speaks at the 4th Generation Organic Market.

Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Lona O'Connor

    The lunch buffet inaugurating Dr. Fuhrman’s Health Oasis was a work of art. Big leafy heads of red oak and green oak lettuces were presented like bouquets. There were roasted beets with walnuts, toasted quinoa, oven-roasted tofu with apple, zucchini and kale. It was almost too beautiful to eat, but guests lined up to tuck into the bounty.
    The setting at the Boca Beach Club provided an elegant background to the food and for Dr. Fuhrman’s Health Oasis, which took its first clients in January.
    An awkward note: Milk, salt and sugar were confined to a small table in the corner. When a few people walked to that table, it was immediately obvious to anyone that they were seeking out substances discouraged on Joel Fuhrman’s nutritarian eating system.
    “We call that the walk of shame,” said Donna Hearn, executive clinical director of the Health Oasis.
    Fuhrman, author of The End of Diabetes, Disease-Proof Your Child and Eat to Live and star of a public television special, works on a simple principle, that every bite of food must contain the most nutrients possible. That is his “nutritarian” philosophy.
    “We want to change the face of health care in America,” Fuhrman told the group. “This is my mission, to give people all the information they need.”
Say goodbye to dairy, meat
    On the Fuhrman plan, change starts immediately. Milk, cheese, meat and butter disappear from the fridge, replaced by vegetables and fruits, nuts and whole grains.
    Fuhrman and his partners decided to locate their oasis at the oceanfront Beach Club because it provides a soothing atmosphere for changing eating habits, away from temptations and stress.
    This is no fat farm, although many clients lose considerable weight on a diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
    “We tell people, don’t worry about how much you eat,” said Laurie Marbas, oasis medical director. “Weight loss here is incidental to overall health. They are surprised at the volume, and their cravings go away in 24 hours.”
    Clients stay at the oasis from two weeks to four months, depending on their medical conditions and work schedules.
    “We want everything we’re teaching them to sink in, so they can take it home with them,” said Marbas, a board-certified family medicine doctor.
    “And we’ve found, almost without exception, almost all patients ask to extend their stay,” said Jack Frydman, CEO.

CEO is also a devotee
    Frydman had been using an anti-diabetic medicine for 12 years, when he saw Fuhrman on the Dr. Oz television program. His doctor wanted him to start taking statins for high cholesterol. By following the Fuhrman diet, he lost 50 pounds in three months and has not had any blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar problems in the five years since then.
    “According to what we read in Dr. Fuhrman’s books, no medicine can heal as effectively as the body’s own systems,” said Frydman.
    Frydman notes that the nutritarian system is based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies. Eat to Live, for example, includes 26 pages of footnotes referring to such studies.
    “Even educated people, when they have that information in front of them, have to change what they’ve been taught at your mother’s knee, what you’ve been taught by your culture and what’s been emotionally helping you through rough times,” said Frydman.
    He recently ran into his former doctor, who was amazed by Frydman’s dramatic improvement in health and weight.
    “I said, why don’t you do this yourself? And he said, you know, Jack, when I get home I want to eat something that makes me feel better.”
Medical director calling
    Besides training clients how to eat and cook healthy food, Oasis staff prepares them for returning to the world of fast food and temptations. When they leave, Marbas stays in touch once a week by phone and clients have two years of access to Oasis staff.
    Marbas is a relentless soldier for the nutritarian system. She’s heard all the excuses for not eating right — time and money come up often. She shows patients how they can eat well on $50 a week.
    She had already been teaching her patients nutrition when Fuhrman recruited her from her practice in Colorado. She even shamed drug sales representatives to replace pizza and other unhealthy snacks they brought to her medical office.
    “People would say, oh, Marbas got to them,” she said.
    Sometimes her colleagues have chided her for being a little too intense on the subject of healing illness with nutrition.
    “I don’t have time for that,” she said. “I consider this lifesaving information.”
    Medical and therapy services may be covered by health insurance. The housing portion of the program is on a self-pay basis.

    Lona O’Connor has a lifelong interest in health and healthy living. Send column ideas to

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