Inside a 100-year-old sporting lodge on the shores of Moosehead Lake, venison and trout are off the menu, replaced by tofu and vegetables. Welcome to The Vegan at Tomhegan.

The first vegan health retreat in Maine, it’s run by osteopathic doctor and orthopedic surgeon John Herzog, who practices in Falmouth.

“It’s really casual,” Herzog said. “It’s about going into a pretty place and eating good food.”

While there, guests can make appointments with Herzog for an osteopathic adjustment, an ultrasound or a natural treatment for a musculoskeletal injury.

Or they can just kick back on the porch and take in the views of Mt. Kineo, explore the massive lake by kayak, hike in the adjacent 6,000-acre game reserve, play a round of golf, swim in the crystal-clear water or feed the tame deer in the yard.

Unlike more intensive health retreats, The Vegan at Tomhegan provides three meals a day, an evening talk and a nightly film, but leaves guests free to fill the rest of their days as they wish.

The majority of the food served at the retreat will be prepared by Little Lad’s Bakery at its production facility in Corinth. Best known for its herbal popcorn, Little Lad’s serves up vegan breakfasts and lunches at its restaurants in Portland and New York City.

At the retreat, guests will start the day with waffles, French toast, fruit and granola (including Herzog’s own Brain-ola). Lunch will come in a box, allowing guests to bring it with them on day trips, and will include a wrap, a piece of fruit, a scoop of popcorn and a dessert.

Dinner will be served buffet-style and feature the veganized comfort foods that Little Lad’s specializes in, such as shepherd’s pie, quiche and pot pies, in addition to vegetables and whole grains. Scratch-made pizzas and veggie burgers from the grill will also be served.

“People are usually surprised that our food tastes familiar but is made without any animal products,” said Maria Fleming, who owns Little Lad’s with her husband, Larry.

Herzog began his own journey to a vegan diet five years ago after he read “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. Impressed by the mountain of medical research the book contains linking animal-based diets and disease, Herzog decided to adopt a diet based on plants and promptly lost weight, saw his knee pain disappear, and watched his cholesterol level plummet by more than 150 points.

“After I read ‘The China Study,’ this became too important not to talk about,” said Herzog, who often counsels his orthopedic patients about how diet-induced inflammation exacerbates many musculoskeletal conditions.

Herzog has owned the lodge, which is flanked by privately-owned cabins, for the past 18 years, and decided to convert it to a vegan retreat this summer.

“I’ve brought a lot of medical school friends up there,” he said. After wowing meat-eating guests with a series of vegan meals, “they said, ‘John, you should do a vegan retreat.’ “

He took their advice, and has already booked 20 guests for this season. The lodge can sleep up to 24 people, six to a room, with space for many more if guests want to rent the surrounding cabins.

Building on his own personal experience, the experiences of his patients and the independent medical research, Herzog will give a talk each evening in which he’ll discuss healthy living and the connection between a diet based on animal foods and diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes and high blood pressure.

As Herzog says, “The main focus will be you are what you eat, don’t eat what you are.”


Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]

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