Choosing a health resort | The diet should meet your needs.
Most health resorts specialize in providing a nutrition regiment that is designed to achieve specific goals. If you are committing to a health resort experience, the diet needs to present an opportunity to help you lose weight or improve whatever ailment you are striving to remedy. The diet’s foundation, recommends virtually every major public health organization, should be fresh foods that are not processed, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and lean, healthy sources of protein like fish, white poultry, and legumes (beans). Health resort chefs should be prepared to accommodate any special needs, such as vegetarian preferences, food allergies, sensitivities, or gluten-free requirements.
You also need to like the menu. There’s no point in going to a health resort to lose weight or learn healthy habits if you don’t like the food. Even if you can stick it out during the time you are at the resort, you’re not going to maintain the same diet when you get home.
But do consider that your palate may actually change. “We see it happen all the time at the Pritikin Longevity Center,” smiles Anthony Stewart, head chef at the Pritikin health resort in Miami. “For example, some of our guests arrive telling us they hate just about every vegetable imaginable, but by the end of their stay here, they’re actually enjoying the flavors of many vegetables, and asking for seconds.”
Adds psychologist and Pritikin educator Dr. Coral Arvon: “We’re often unaware that all the hyper-salty, hyper-sugary, hyper-fatty foods we’re accustomed to in our society can actually mask the subtler flavors of fresh, whole foods. We need to get away from our typical diets so that our taste buds have a chance to open up to delights like the natural saltiness of fresh tomatoes or the wonderful, multi-layered sweetness of a mango.”
So when looking at diets of various health resorts, consider your own likes and dislikes, but be open to new adventures and new ways of eating.
And do look for resorts that have healthy cooking classes so that you return home with new skills for maintaining your healthy lifestyle.2
Choosing a health resort | Look for personalized experiences.
While health resorts have a general approach to how they help clients lose weight or follow healthy lifestyles, they should also customize all clients’ programs depending on their goals and needs. Let the resort know what your goals are, and find out how the staff will work with you to help you achieve your goals.
When you arrive on site, a staff member should sit down with you to make sure the health resort understands your goals and is ready to accommodate you. Consider, too, who you’ll be talking to. What are his or her qualifications? Will you be consulting with a physician? Registered dietitian? Psychologist? Exercise physiologist? Optimally, you want your initial consultations to be with health professionals like these.
To avoid losing time, the first day is a good opportunity to go over and modify, if necessary, your daily schedule for the remainder of your stay. You should also have input over which activities to participate in to ensure that you are able to include all your favorites.3
Choosing a health resort | Pick one with qualified professionals who are involved throughout your stay.
Health resorts are safer and more effective when qualified professionals not only design but also implement their guests’ plans. Weight loss and healthy lifestyle programs should be physician-approved. Physicians should be on hand for physicals, overall supervision of exercise programs, and ideally, periodic consults throughout your stay to chart your progress and manage your cardiovascular or metabolic function.
Other professionals to ask about when comparing health resorts are those in charge of the nutrition and exercise programs.
- Will certified trainers design your exercise program and work with you one-on-one? Optimally, you want exercise trainers with undergraduate and/or post-graduate degrees in fields such as exercise kinesiology.
- Does a registered dietitian oversee meal planning and preparation? Look for professionals with an “RD” credential, which means they have received a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. regionally accredited university or college and course work approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education of the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
Choosing a health resort | You like the atmosphere.
Your time at a health resort is probably doubling as vacation time, so it’s important to make sure the experience will be pleasurable. All staff should be welcoming and friendly, from the time you first make contact with the facility to inquire about staying there, to the time you leave to return home. These other options can also turn your healthy trip into a dream vacation.
- Lectures from health experts or concerts in the evenings.
- Day trips into town to see attractions or go shopping.
- Options for spa services, such as massages.
- Movie nights at the resort to let the guests relax.
Choosing a health resort | The facilities are top-notch.
Your experience at a health resort will be more pleasant if the facilities are relatively new. Be sure to carefully evaluate photos or videos of the bedrooms, dining hall, and other accommodations to make sure the environment is comfortable, upscale, and most importantly – convenient. Check out travel sites like TripAdvisor to see how previous guests evaluated their stay.
If you’re planning to walk or hike outside, ask about access to nature trails or other scenic routes, from golf course paths to ocean promenades. Take note of social and recreational facilities in addition to the accommodations provided by the resort.
Current trends in health resorts suggest growth in facilities that are multi-purpose. Before you commit, ask whether your destination resort has all of the equipment and other resort amenities you expect. Having a wide variety of recreational opportunities at your disposal can help maintain motivation and give you a better chance of discovering healthy, fitness-related activities you’ll enjoy continuing after you return home. Ask whether you will have access to the following amenities when considering a health resort:
- Pool, lake, or ocean access
- Gym and fitness studios with new equipment and enough of it – you don’t want to get stuck waiting for an elliptical or treadmill.
- Tennis courts
- Yoga studios
- Golf courses either on site or near by
- A classroom for group fitness classes, such as spinning, Zumba, Pilates, or weight training.
Choosing a health resort | Look for an experience that is lasting.
You may only stay at a health resort for a few days or weeks, but the effects can last a lifetime. You can jumpstart your weight loss and live a healthy lifestyle while staying at the resort, but a truly exceptional health resort experience gives you the tools to continually meet your goals when you’re back at home. See whether the resort offers the following to help you make long-term progress.
- Educational opportunities, such as healthy cooking demonstrations and nutrition classes.
- Individual consults with professionals like psychologists and registered dietitians to help you zero in on your specific needs and goals
- Help making a plan for when you go home so you can continue your healthy habits.
- An option for ongoing support, such as phone calls or emails with a dietitian after you go home.
A health resort can be the catalyst to help launch a healthy lifestyle, improve your physique, maintain a healthier lifestyle, or lose a few pounds. While there are dozens of health resorts to choose from in the United States, be sure to consider multiple options before making a commitment. Take the time to evaluate what each health resort has to offer, what makes each resort unique, and what matters most to you.