Weight-loss vacations that really work! Shape evaluated 30 spas to find the best places to get fitter, healthier and slimmer
Shape Magazine, March 2006 by Jeanine Barone
Finally! You’ve earmarked your vacation fund for a trip where your souvenirs are a smaller dress size and a suitcase full of new eating and exercise habits. To help you do it right, Shape evaluated the health, fitness and nutrition programs at top U.S. spas and retreats. We looked for sound, balanced practices and real-world strategies (no starvation diets allowed). Our final cut includes eight places where you’ll look, feel and live better, some in as few as three days (all rates are per person).
Cooper Aeroblcs Center, Dallas
Founder Kenneth Cooper, M.D., is considered the father of aerobics, and his fitness and health research forms the foundation for the six-day Wellness Program. It kicks off with a fitness evaluation with a personal trainer who designs your workout program. A dietitian dines with you during several meals to illustrate smart eating choices.
Workouts Try kickboxing, indoor cycling, resistance-band training, or any of 75-80 additional classes at the state-of-the-art Cooper Fitness Center.
Pampering Services include traditional, stone-therapy and Thai sports massage, facials and nail treatments.
Meals 1,200-1,600 calories a day
Details From $2,895; includes meals, classes and two training sessions (other programs are available); accommodations are extra (from $810, single occupancy); cooperwellnessprogram.com
Canyon Ranch, Tucson, Ariz.
The desert setting here provides that calming “aah” feeling so you can focus on getting healthy with the seven-night Life Enhancement Program. In addition to a physician visit and blood work-up, guests get $625 in allowances to use for consultations with behavioral therapists, nutritionists and exercise physiologists as well as spa and sports services.
Workouts Explore the Sonoran foothills on any of five daily morning walks. In the gym, choose from classes like Boxercise, Deep Water Pump, Extreme Cardio, yoga and Pilates.
Pampering Get facials and body treatments in the 8,000-square-foot spa and fitness complex.
Meals 1,600-1,800 calories a day
Details From $6,120 (single); includes accommodations, meals, all classes and lectures; canyonranch.com
CLASSIC & PROVEN
The Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, Aventura, Fla.
The Pritikin Program offers plush surroundings for women who want access to the latest body and beauty treatments in addition to a proven health and weight-loss approach. You’ll start the week with a physical, blood work and stress tests, then meet with a trainer to set fitness goals. Exercise physiologists, nutritionists and psychologists offer several classes, workshops and counseling sessions daily.
Workouts Classes include Ball-a-tes (Pilates with a physioball), salsa dancing, circuit training, cardio-boxing and yoga.
Pampering The spa offers a variety of massages and microdermabrasion in addition to chemical peels, Botox and collagen injections.
Meals 1,600 calories a day
Details From $3,600 (double) for one week; includes accommodations, meals, all classes and excursions; pritikin.com
Heartland Spa, Gilman, Ill.
Comfy, unpretentious accommodations await visitors at this lakeside spa that used to be a dairy farm. The Perk program (up to five nights) includes lectures on nutrition, exercise and stress management. If you choose the five-night plan, you can add the State-of-the-Heart package for $495 and get a health assessment (EKG and blood work), metabolism testing and consultations with a nutritionist and personal trainer.
Workouts The fitness facility, housed in a former barn, offers classes like Hillbilly CardioDance, high- and low-impact aerobics, body sculpting, boot camp, kickboxing, tai chi and yoga.
Pampering Indulge in a variety of facials, massages and body treatments, plus manicures, pedicures and waxing.
Meals 1,500 calories a day
Details From $1,300 (double) for five nights; includes accommodations, meals, four massages and one facial, all fitness classes and lectures; heartlandspa.com
INDULGENT & HEALTHY
Cal-a-Vie, Vista, Calif.
Luxurious Cal-a-Vie in sunny southern California is the ideal place to establish healthy eating and exercise habits without feeling even the least bit deprived. The fitness team will help you design a workout schedule for your stay, and a dietitian offers nutrition lectures throughout the week.
Workouts Mornings start at 6:15 with a hike through the property’s 200 acres. Then it’s on to the 17,000-square-foot fitness pavilion for classes like yoga, kickboxing, group Spinning and water volleyball.
Pampering Afternoons are all about spaing. Try hydrotherapy and aromatherapy or indulge in a massage or facial.
Meals 1,200-1,500 calories a day
Details From $3,195 (single) for the three-night La Petite package (other plans are available); includes accommodations, meals, classes and six spa treatments; cal-a-vie.com
NO-FRILLS, OUTDOOR RETREAT
New Life Hiking Spa, Killington, Vt.
The accommodations are basic, but what it lacks in luxury it more than makes up for in lush outdoor surroundings, where you’ll be spending most of your time. The 11-Day Weight Loss Retreat focuses on hiking, which makes it perfect for gym-phobes. Staff experts give lectures and cooking demos.
Workouts Every morning begins with one of three guided hikes for different fitness levels. Afternoons are reserved for classes like water aerobics, Pilates, strength training and yoga.
Pampering Enjoy a variety of massages and limited facial and body treatments.
Meals 1,600 calories a day
Details From $2,519 (single); includes accommodations, meals, all fitness classes, cooking demos and three spa treatments;newlifehikingspa.com
MORE THAN A BEACH VACATION
Hilton Head Health Institute, Hilton Head, S.C.
There’s a Southern charm to the rooms and staff here that makes the one- to six-week Healthy Lifestyle Program appealing. You’ll start off with a work-up that includes a cholesterol check, then meet with a lifestyle coach to evaluate your health and weight-loss goals and choose education classes for your stay.
Workouts You can start the day with a 30-minute sunrise beach walk, then tackle classes such as kickboxing, Treading, mat Pilates and stretching.
Pampering There’s a full range of massage and body treatments.
Meals 1,200-1,300 calories a day
Details From $5,350 (single) for 14 days; includes accommodations, meals and all classes; hhhealth.com
REALISTIC & RELAXED
Green Mountain at Fox Run, Ludlow, Vt.
Visitors often describe the low-key atmosphere here as hopeful. The staff focuses not on diets but on no-deprivation eating habits. Choose a one- to four-week plan and take advantage of daily lectures designed to identify roadblocks and develop maintenance strategies.
Workouts Enjoy yoga, Pilates, step, Fitball, circuit training, hiking, aqua classes and more.
Pampering Choose from several types of body treatments, but no facials.
Meals 1,500 calories a day
Details From $2,775 (single) for one week; includes accommodations, meals and all classes and lectures; fitwoman.com
JEANINE BARONE, M.S., lives in New York City and is the nutrition and fitness editor for the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
BY JEANINE BARONE, M.S.