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The Skinny on Weight-Loss Vacations

The Skinny on Weight-Loss Vacations
Canyon Ranch
Photo: Canyon Ranch

There are plenty of facilities that boast the ability to help you shed pounds fast. However, Dr. Howard Eisenson -- executive director of Duke University's Diet and Fitness Center -- says that the more magical a place sounds, the more skeptical you should be. The only way to produce real results is to incorporate what you learn on a wellness vacation into your life at home. "There needs to be an honest acceptance that this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint," he says.

 

"It takes a while to become overweight, and it's going to take awhile to get in shape," Dr. Eisenson says. That said, if you're serious about attending a wellness program to lose weight, it's important that you find a facility that caters to both your needs and your budget. "You need to have a serious conversation with yourself about why you're attending these programs," says Dr. Eisenson. "You need to ask yourself: 'Am I willing to make serious changes?'"

 

If you feel that a wellness retreat is the right way to approach weight-loss, Dr. Eisenson advises finding a program that balances nutrition, physical activity and mental health. And it's also a good idea to do a little research, ensuring that the regimens and treatments are medically sound and right for your body. On that note, we've gathered information on some of the best health and fitness retreats out there.

 

*All prices listed in this article are for single rooms for a week-long stay unless stated otherwise.

 

Canyon Ranch

According to Mel Zuckerman, founder and chairman of Canyon Ranch, "Losing weight and becoming active changed my life profoundly … There is no way to exaggerate the difference that sustainable weight loss can make in an individual’s health, in how a person feels and what a person can accomplish." During the one- or two-week Weight-Loss Program offered at the resort's Life Enhancement Center, participants learn to make small changes to their daily routine that will yield a healthier lifestyle overall. Members of the program take part in a variety of group fitness activities (including hikes, yoga, Pilates and even Zumba) and dine together on specially prepared, well-balanced meals. Each participant also receives personal consultations with on-site nutritionists and fitness specialists, and is provided with a detailed post-program plan to help them follow through with weight-loss goals after the retreat is over.


Location: Miami Beach, Fla.; Lenox, Mass.; and Tucson, Ariz. (The Tucson location is the only one with a specific weight-loss program.)


Price: $7,730


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Three meals/day

* Access to fitness classes and spa amenities

* Guided hikes, biking excursions, wellness presentations and healthy cooking workshops

* Personal wellness planning and health assessments

* Resort amenities

* Sales tax


Tips for Success: According to weight-loss specialist and program leader Param Dedhia, M.D., the key to successful weight loss is to establish a routine rather than rely on willpower. "It's the habits and related routines that promote our health as opposed to willpower that can be derailed by negative emotions and stressors. Perfection is not required. We tend to dwell on mistakes and fears which in turn can make us feel like quitting our routine … Every day is a new opportunity to practice a better lifestyle."


Red Mountain Resort & Spa
Red Mountain Resort & Spa
Photo: Red Mountain Resort & Spa

Red Mountain Resort & Spa

The tranquil Red Mountain Resort & Spa -- set amidst the burgundy hills of southwest Utah -- made both Condé Nast Traveler and Spa Magazine's 2010 Readers' Choice Awards lists. Boasting a diverse selection of fitness programs -- including guided hikes, biking excursions and horseback rides -- the Red Mountain makes being active fun. If you're serious about losing weight, the week-long Fitness Boot Camp program is designed to help you find fitness activities you’ll enjoy, since you're likelier to continue activities you don’t hate. Participants in the program receive one-on-one health consultations and a heart-rate workshop (with a take-home heart monitor) as well as unlimited access to work-out facilities, fitness classes and cooking demonstrations. And thanks to Red Mountain's creative chefs, participants are served three delectable (and nutritious!) meals each day. According to testimonials on the spa's website, participants claim that they lost several pounds during their stay, which inspired them to maintain a healthier way of life at home.


Location: St. George, Utah


Price: $2,093


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Three meals a day

* Personal fitness consultation and training session

* Heart rate workshop with take-home heart monitor

* Daily guided morning hikes

* Unlimited specialty fitness, health and cooking classes

* Personal discovery activities

* Use of all fitness facilities


Tips for Success: Red Mountain Resort's on-site nutrition experts, Dr. Brad Crump and Dr. Reema Sayegh, agree: You need to eat more to lose more. Research shows us that under-eating can lead to weight gain just as easily as over-eating. Adding a balanced breakfast to your daily routine is a sure way to shed pounds.


Rancho La Puerta
Rancho La Puerta
Photo: Rancho La Puerta

Rancho La Puerta

Having earned the top spot on Travel and Leisure's 2010 Readers' Choice list of the World's Best Destination Spas, Rancho La Puerta has earned a reputation as one of the best wellness retreats in North America. Sitting just south of the border in Tecate, Mexico (about a 45-mile drive south of San Diego, Calif.), this wellness resort specializes in lifestyle-improvement through healthy eating and engaging physical activities. During their stay, customers have access to more than 50 different fitness classes and a variety of health-conscious meals, as well as organized hikes, cooking and wellness classes and private consultations with on-site fitness specialists. Although there is no program specifically designed to help people lose weight, program participants typically claim to lose three to five pounds during their stay, according to Roma Maxwell, a public relations official for Rancho La Puerta.


Location: Tecate, Mexico


Price: $3,615 - $3,780 (depending on the season)


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Three meals and two snacks per day

* Use of all fitness, spa, recreational and educational facilities

* Scheduled group classes, hikes, activities and workshops

* Evening programs and entertainment

* Round-trip transportation from San Diego International Airport (SAN)


Tips for Success: According to Yvonne Nienstadt, the nutritional director at Rancho La Puerta, not all weight is fat. She says you'll see positive results if you remove refined foods -- sugar, alcohol, coffee and most allergenic foods -- from your diet. Also, in a video posted by Rancho La Ruerta on Youtube.com, Nienstadt encourages filling your plate with more fruits and vegetables, which she says can help you maintain muscle mass and help prevent your joints from corroding.


Hilton Head Health
Hilton Head Health
Photo: Hilton Head Health

Hilton Head Health

Resting on the shores of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, the Hilton Head Health resort has been helping people get in shape for 35 years and has placed in the Top 10 on SpaFinder's readers' choice list of Best Weight Loss Spas for the past four years. During the week-long H3 Healthy Lifestyle Program, participants take part in several hours of fitness activities each day, as well as nutrition seminars and cooking classes. Three meals a day (not exceeding 1,400 calories) as well as 100-calorie snacks known as "Metabo Meals" keep guests full without allowing them to over-indulge. Also part of the program are SELF (Stress management, Empowerment, Longevity, Fulfillment) discussions during which participants can share their short- and long-term health goals. According to Hilton Head Health's marketing manager, Kelly Hillyer, guests lose between seven and 14 pounds on average while at Hilton Head Health.


Location: Hilton Head Island, S.C.


Price: $3,050


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Three meals per day plus snacks

* Personal health assessments and private consultations

* Unlimited participation in daily fitness activities, nutrition seminars and cooking classes

* Group stress-management, motivation and self-discovery sessions

* 24-hour access to fitness and recreational facilities

* Taxes and gratuities


Tips for Success: Kelly Hillyer, Hilton Head Health's marketing manager, recommends that those who are serious about making lifestyle changes take part in a program like the ones offered at Hilton Head Health, which teaches participants how to live healthy. But she says, "For anyone who’s unable to attend a weight loss resort, finding a strong support system at home (whether that is your partner, friends and/or family) plays a vital role in his/her success."


Golden Door
Golden Door
Photo: Golden Door

Golden Door

Many people are frightened by the idea of losing weight, thinking that their sole sustenance will be celery and their workout routine will be several hours on the treadmill. However, the Golden Door in Escondido, Calif. (about 30 miles north of San Diego) takes a different approach to getting healthy -- and staying that way. While balanced meals and daily exercise play a key role, Dr. Wendy Bazilian, the Golden Door's nutrition advisor, claims that the main goal of the program is to improve mental health as well as physical fitness: "Nourishing the body and the mind together is when we walk away satisfied." The spa's wellness program has four integrative components (or "pillars"): nutrition, movement, self-care and sleep. The Golden Door is also focused on helping participants succeed after they return home. And according to Dr. Bazilian, the spa's lasting success rate is high. "Once you get touched by this type of experience, you're forever influenced." Participants generally lose a few pounds and are able to keep the weight off after they've returned home.


Location: Escondido, Calif.


Price: $6,500 - $7,500


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Three meals a day

* A fully outfitted spa wardrobe

* Access to a variety of fitness classes (including daily hikes)

* Access to all resort amenities

* Personalized spa treatments and services

* Access to cooking classes, wellness lectures and behavioral modification seminars

* An individually tailored take-home program

* Transportation to and from the San Diego International Airport (SAN)


Tips for Success: Dr. Bazilian claims that the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to celebrate what you do well rather than dwelling on what you've done wrong. She says that wellness retreats, as well as making small efforts to pamper yourself, are investments in your health and your life: "It's a matter of believing that simple steps yield the greatest reward."


The Ranch at Live Oak
The Ranch at Live Oak
Photo: The Ranch at Live Oak

The Ranch at Live Oak

According to their website, The Ranch at Live Oak's key to success is low-impact exercise and moderate physical activity, which "will enhance your metabolism, cleanse and detoxify your body, allow for healthy weight loss, and offer a heightened sense of mental wellness, clarity and serenity." Resting comfortably in the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu (about 50 miles west of Los Angeles), the Ranch is known for its tranquility, and (according to a Ranch spokesperson) its ability to help guests lose up to five percent of their body weight in just one week. The Ranch's Luxury Bootcamp program combines physical fitness with stress-melting detoxification: After an early morning hike through the mountains or an invigorating yoga session, participants can unwind with a massage before retreating for an afternoon nap or some quiet reflection. When it comes time for some grub, the Ranch's chef, Kurt Steeber, cooks up a variety of organic, vegetarian dishes using produce grown on-site. The facility's dietary program excludes alcohol, caffeine or processed sugars in order to help cleanse and revitalize your body.


Location: Malibu, Calif.


Price: $5,600


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Three meals a day

* Daily group fitness activities like hiking and yoga

* Daily private massages

* Unlimited access to Ranch facilities

* Transportation to and from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)


Tips for Success: Communication is a key ingredient to a successful weight-loss program. If you've attended a weight-loss retreat, frequent check-ins with retreat staff can help reinforce the lessons learned during your wellness vacation. If you're going the road alone, consider speaking with a nutritionist on a regular basis; this can help you create and maintain a healthy diet at home.


The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge
The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge
Photo: The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge

The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge

The reputation of these resorts certainly precedes them: Anyone who's ever seen NBC's hit reality program, "The Biggest Loser," should have an idea of what to expect from a stay at Fitness Ridge in Malibu, Calif. or Ivins, Utah. In fact, the resort's Utah location earned the no. two spot on Spas of America's 2010 list of the Top 50 Spas in the country. If you're looking to lose pounds, you'll most likely do so. The week-long Fitness Boot-Camp strongly resembles the television program, with participants taking part in intense physical fitness activities like mountain hikes, water aerobics and personal training sessions. Both of the Biggest Loser resorts stick to a strict, calorie-controlled meal plan, serving up a balanced diet of carbs, protein and healthy fats, which encourage weight loss and help boost the metabolism. Although resort officials could not provide any concrete figures, previous participants claim to have lost several pounds a week. And if a smaller figure isn't motivation enough, Fitness Ridge's spa amenities -- which include hair styling, manicures, pedicures and massages -- can help you put the final touches on your new image.


Location: Malibu, Calif. & Ivins, Utah


Price: $2,695 (Malibu); $2,395 (Ivins)


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Three meals a day

* Daily hikes

* Unlimited access to group fitness classes such as kickboxing and cycling

* Access to spa amenities

* Unlimited access to healthy-eating and fitness classes


Tips for Success: Like the TV show, the motto at The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge is "No pain, no gain." Both locations provide a supportive setting that promotes lifestyle change through extensive physical activity; you'll see maximum results if you put in the maximum amount of effort. As Program Director Paige Corley explains: "You don’t need to love (or like) exercise to do it. What you need to love is the feeling you have after and how it affects your life!"


Live In Fitness Enterprise
Live In Fitness Enterprise
Photo: Live In Fitness Enterprise

Live In Fitness Enterprise

Located in sunny Marina Del Rey, a beachfront neighborhood in Los Angeles, Calif., the Live In Fitness Enterprise (L.I.F.E.) offers a weight-loss program dedicated to helping clients determine the lifestyle changes needed for success by uncovering the underlying physical or psychological reason why clients have gained weight in the first place. Through a variety of physical testing and one-on-one consultations with nutrition and fitness specialists, participants in the L.I.F.E. program build an individual weight-loss curriculum aimed at delivering lasting results, with program members losing at least two to three pounds on average during their stay. The Live In Fitness Enterprise also strives to help participants feel comfortable enough to make lifestyle changes. According to Joel Lyftogt, vice president of L.I.F.E., a person's environment (stressful workplace, familial dining routine) can play a key role in weight-gain: "There are a lot of extraneous factors," he says. "People who fail at home [don't do so] because they're lazy, it's because of their environment." Participants are also encouraged to attend group events in order to help build a strong support network. "L.I.F.E. [is a] safe place where everyone is going through the same thing," Lyftogt says.


Location: Los Angeles, Calif.


Price: $2,021 - $2,749 for shared accommodation; $4,418 for a private suite


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Four meals a day (individualized meal plans)

* Five to seven hours of group fitness per day

* Private and group meetings with on-site nutritionist

* Cooking classes and healthy eating seminars

* Unlimited access to a variety of indoor and outdoor fitness activities

* Maintenance package for life at home (includes recipes and personalized work-out routines)


Tips for Success: When deciding to go on a diet, Joel Lyftogt says that there's a better chance of success if the goals are realistic. Deciding to survive on salad alone is most likely not going to help you keep weight off; you can still enjoy a slice of pizza or a cookie, as long as you do so in moderation. If you do slip from your regimen, Lyftogt strongly recommends that you don't dwell on it, which often results in repeating missteps: "Don't let one mistake turn into two."


Pritikin Longevity Center
Pritikin Longevity Center
Photo: Pritikin Longevity Center

Pritikin Longevity Center

With classes covering everything from building bone strength to reversing diabetes to preventing cancer, the Pritikin Longevity Center at Miami's Doral Golf Resort & Spa is dedicated to helping clients improve every aspect of their lives. Pritikin's one- to two-week long program aims to not only help participants shed unwanted pounds, but to also provide the skills needed to make lasting lifestyle changes. Members of the program take part in daily fitness activities like yoga and water aerobics, as well as regular spa treatments. Bolstered by nutritious meals made from fresh veggies and lean proteins (without the use of butter, salt and oil), Pritikin's rigorous yet rejuvenating fitness program has helped many a participant reach and maintain an admirable weight. According to public relations officer, Alexandra Garvey, Pritikin clients lose an average of three to four pounds during their week-long visit.


Location: Miami, Fla.


Price: $4,900


Includes:

* Accommodation (Seven nights)

* Three meals and two snacks a day

* One-on-one health and fitness consultations

* Personalized exercise routine for use at the center and at home

* Health and fitness classes (including cooking, cancer-prevention and stress-management courses)

* Unlimited access to resort facilities

* One-month membership on the center's website


Tips for Success: According to the associate medical director of the Pritikin Longevity Center, Dr. Danine Fruge, best way to approach weight-loss is one step at a time. As they say: Slow and steady wins the race.


Heartland Spa
Heartland Spa
Photo: Heartland Spa

Heartland Spa

Not all wellness retreats require beachfront lodging or simple-yet-elegant décor in order to produce results. In fact, some programs thrive on the comfort and support that only a small town can provide. Sitting about 90 miles south of Chicago in the tiny hamlet of Gilman, Ill., the Heartland Spa makes sure that every participant feels at ease. In order to help nurture a strong support group, members of Heartland's wellness program do almost everything together, including physical fitness. Heartland's program directors also believe that participants will have a higher success rate if they find activities that they enjoy; participants can choose from a wide variety of group fitness classes, including yoga, water aerobics and cross-country skiing. Although Heartland is not a "weight-loss retreat," participants often lose two or three pounds over the course of their stay, thanks to exercise and a healthy diet. According to Kim Onnen, Heartland's health and fitness manager: "Our chef provides healthy, sensible meals (and snacks) that each of our guests can make at home. In fact, it was at the request of our guests that we decided to publish a Heartland Spa cookbook so they could prepare healthy meals on their own."


Location: Gilman, Ill.


Price: $2,005


Includes:

* Accommodation (Five nights)

* Three meals a day plus snacks

* Access to fitness classes

* Access to educational programs (including cooking demonstrations)

* Unlimited use of exercise and spa facilities

* Work-out clothing

* Taxes


Tips for Success: In order to maintain a regular fitness regime, Heartland Spa's health and fitness manager, Kim Onnen, recommends incorporating different types of activities so that you don't get bored. "Keep things fresh and choose activities that you enjoy so you are more motivated to keep going -- try your best to incorporate something from cardio, strength, and flexibility so you have a full, well-rounded program and a program that is more complete for all parts of the body."


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