By Shelah Segal
Hi Victoria and all,
I just want to share what I posted on another forum about my experience at Tanglewood 3 years ago:
"I chose to go to Tanglewood because I wanted to be an intern, but also to fast. His internship program involves each intern starting with a 21 day fast, a week or so refeeding with rest, a month of training and the last month assisting paying fasters and the next group of interns. Sounded very comprehensive and it was affordable because you would pay pretty much the same as a paying faster would for a 28 day stay, and after you completed your internship, you'd get almost 1/2 back. So off I went.
My reason for wanting to fast was that I was very underweight, had tried a million different holistic approaches to try to gain weight, none of which worked, and had already been eating LFRV for over a year before the fast. I'd read that Shelton had fasted (usually for 1 to 2 weeks) underweight people with great success. I am 5'2" and was at 80 lbs when I started the fast. Loren had assured me that all would be well and that at my weight I probably wouldn't lose weight as rapidly as other fasters, so I might even be able to go the full 21 days, though he'd monitor closely as with all fasters.
Well, after 8 days, I had dropped to 68 lbs and was a bit freaked out about it. I felt a bit strange in the chest area as well and called Loren in to tell him that I thought I should end my fast. He was very agreeable, which surprised me because I had already been hearing from others there that he could be very insistent and controlling. Another couple that were there as interns as well were told to leave when the woman decided to end her fast after 5 days -- he said they had thereby broken their internship contract.
The next morning, I began to refeed slowly and continued to do so for a full week when Loren came to me and informed me that I would need to resume my fast. He tried at first to convince me by saying that my health goals would be better met that way, but I was not feeling good about it. During that week, there had been more strange incidents and reports of rude and inappropriate behavior with other fasters. (Since I didn't witness those first-hand, I won't give those details here) But I was feeling nervous. I asked him for how long he'd expect me to fast and he said 6 or 7 more days. I had only gained back 2 lbs, so I asked what he would do if I asked to stop before the 6 or 7 days. He openly said, with a smile, that he'd give me a really hard time! I knew that I was feeling stronger at that moment, but that I'd surely be weaker and more vulnerable if I started fasting again. I thought deeply about my decision and finally told him no. He then began to harass me about being an intern and having to do whatever the coach says, that it was like being on a sports team and arguing with the coach -- no matter what he may ask of his athletes, they must obey. I knew then that I was making the right decision because I saw his attitude as potentially dangerous. He continued to harass me for another day and a half and finally told me that I would have to leave Tanglewood, immediately, since I was breaking my contract. I had no place to go, no transportation,no time to book a new plane ticket home, and no Spanish skills, weighed under 70 lbs and felt physically weaker than I'd have liked. I was scared. Maybe he thought I'd give in to his will -- luckily, I was not psychologically weak!
I did end up staying another 10 days because my room mate, another intern, who was just finishing up her 40 day fast, did not intend to stay there as the only intern remaining and be subjected to his whims, yet she was too weak to just leave. She threatened to walk out with me if I left right away -- and Loren had enough (barely) decency to acknowledge that her leaving before at least a short controlled refeeding could be very dangerous. We both left after she'd been refeeding for about 8 days, then I stayed with her at a beach house to help her recoup for another week before we parted ways.
Loren was left with no interns, his staff assistant/ office manager quit and several other paying fasters left early with great feelings of trauma. Yet the center still operates -- I hope enough people tell enough people about their experiences so that others can be spared such an ordeal.
As an aside, none of the interns, who all left under duress, were re-imbursed any of our payments."
I'd like to add that my room mate, who was fluent in Spanish, shared with me many of her conversations with the staff, who were all underpaid, ill-treated, afraid of Loren and only remained because work was so hard to obtain.
Also, after my run-in with Loren, when he ordered me to leave immediately, I was visibly shaken up and told others who asked about it. A couple of outspoken guests decided that this was a last straw for them and we all confronted Loren as a group. One of them really laced into him, sharing stories about some incredibly rude and inappropriate comments that he'd made to some of the other fasting guests (these being the incidents I mentioned in my account that I hadn't personally witnessed).
I am glad that you are speaking out here, Victoria. The more details of unprofessionalism, inappropriate behavior and control tactics that can be given, the more others will know to keep their distance from such an unstable and, I think, dangerous man.