Now a Pritikin devotee, Sue Samuels, 61, who originally heard about the program from her mother, feels younger and freer than ever. Here’s how she lost the weight, dropped her cholesterol by 20 points and manages to stay on track at home and throughout her travels.
Taste of Pritikin Weekend Retreat
Pritikin: When did you first visit the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa?
Sue Samuels: I went to the Taste of Pritikin for the four-day-long weekend about two years ago. And then I went back last August for the full week.
Pritikin: You discovered Pritikin in a unique way. Will you tell us about it?
Sue Samuels: I’m what I call a Pritikin “Gen Two.” My mom went to the Center back when it was in Santa Monica, about 35 to 40 years ago, when her husband had a heart-related scare. I was in my 20s when [my mother adopted the Pritikin way of eating], and she was always cooking and chopping. She has lived Pritikin strictly for at least 25 years.
Now my mom is in her late 80s. She has aged very well, and attributes much of that to living all of those years as a Pritikin follower.
Pritikin: Did your mother try to convince you to hop on the Pritikin bandwagon, too?
Sue Samuels: She didn’t push it, but I was exposed to the way that she and her husband ate; while visiting her at home, I ate what they ate. In that way, she was a really good role model.
Pritikin: So what made you decide to visit the Pritikin Center on your own volition, nearly 4o years later?
Sue Samuels: I had been always weight-conscious, and for most of my life I counted points and calories. But I had enrolled in school for two years to help support a family business, and as a result, I was stressed and put on 40 pounds; it was so unlike me, but I learned that it can happen to anyone.
When school was over and the stressors were over, I knew I had to do something; I’m only 5’3”, so those extra 40 pounds really showed. My clothes didn’t fit. My husband and I travel a lot, and I disliked the photographs we took. My cholesterol was high, too, and it was my preference not to take statin drugs. I said to my husband, I have to go check in somewhere, to, like, a rehab center, and I won’t leave till I lose the weight. But before I decided to do that, I figured I’d go to the Taste of Pritikin.
Sue Finds Her “Village” to Lose Weight” at Pritikin
Pritikin: Did you find the four-day Taste of Pritikin to be revelatory? How so?
Sue Samuels: The biggest early on revelation, other than feeling like my head was clearing up, was that, after decades of counting, I finally felt free. I learned to eat when I’m hungry and listen to my body. I do not count anymore.
Also, I learned how key sugar, fat and salt are to the “recipe.” Those are the three things that stimulate your palate, and when you reduce your consumption, that’s when you can make real change.
Pritikin: Was the experience humbling in any way?
Sue Samuels: Humbling is putting on a swimsuit and getting into a pool for the aquatics class! But you just get in really fast and end up having fun.
There are other people at Pritikin from all over the country, and everybody’s story is a bit different. You see people at different phases of their journey and some are really in shape. I saw that I wasn’t alone, that there are other people there who shared my same challenges.
Weight Loss Journey: Taking the Pritikin “Village” Home
Pritikin: Were you successful at maintaining your Pritikin lifestyle when you got home? How so?
Sue Samuels: Yes. But at first, I asked myself, How am I ever going to do this? Luckily, I had signed up for Pritikin On Track [nutrition-counseling sessions] with Kimberly Gomer, the nutritionist. You can learn all of these things at Pritikin, but I felt that going home would be a different story. I called Kimberly once a week for a year and a half. I believe it takes a village to be able to make this work. You need to find your village. For me, calling Kimberly made all the difference.
Also, we all have busy lives. I didn’t want to be in the kitchen all day and all night, so I would order Pritikin soups and food from their online store. It helped to make that transition of figuring out how to eat.
Pritikin: Did your stay influence your at-home exercise program as well?
Sue Samuels: For me, food and exercise always went together; because I was getting the food part of my life back on track, it was easier to pick up exercise again. I began by taking some one-on-one Pilates sessions. From there, I started going to Orangetheory, which is a combination of rowing, treadmill or biking and floor exercises. Since then, I’ve added personal strength-training sessions to my routine.
Pritikin: About two years after your first visit to Pritikin, you decided to return for a full week. What motivated that second visit?
Sue Samuels: I felt like I wanted reinforce what I had learned and to reset my palate. Also, I wanted a break from all the chopping and cooking, and wanted a big fancy menu and white tablecloths and to not have to worry about if I can eat this or that. My mom went back with me to the seven-day program.
Pritikin: What was your favorite part the second time around?
Sue Samuels: The food—and not having to cook—was my favorite part! There’s a lot of prep that goes into those meals. Staying at the resort itself is also a nice getaway.
Plus, there always seemed to be some new aspect of Pritikin to learn about each time I went. While at the resort, I took some personal-training sessions with the VP of Sales & Fitness, Jamie Costello. After my visit, I followed up with at-home fitness counseling. The village grew. Jamie helped me to think about continuing to vary my workouts. So now, I just recently added yoga to my roster. He also encouraged me to work with Kimberly on adjusting nutritional needs for building strength versus weight loss.
Success! Reflections & Advice
Pritikin: What are the most important lessons you learned throughout your Pritikin journey?
Sue Samuels: That you can live your life and still do Pritikin. You might make a mistake, but the next day is a new day and no one is perfect about Pritikin. That you have to forgive yourself—and that Pritikin is forgiving.
It’s a little more challenging to travel, but you can still do it. Also, my husband is not a Pritikin follower so that can be challenging, too, but it’s doable. I add things to Pritikin meals so my husband will enjoy them. I don’t want to make him eat what I want to eat.
Also, I always thought that when you get older, you just need to give up because you will lose muscle. But that’s not true, and it’s never too late. You can gain strength as an older person. I learned that myths can be broken.
Pritikin: How has your health improved?
Sue Samuels: My LDL cholesterol went down 20 points within a year; it had not been lowered in decades. Nevermind the 40 pounds, it was the cholesterol that was a win for me. I just returned from my first EyeCare mission, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do; I saw so many people with health issues, that it reminded me how critical it is to live a healthy life. I thank Pritikin for that. I also feel younger. My husband says he notices a difference in my overall attitude and outlook on life.
Pritikin: If you had to give someone in your pre-Pritikin shoes a piece of advice, what would it be?
Sue Samuels: I would say, get support because you can’t do it alone. So many things are easier to do if you’re doing them with someone else. For me, being able to call Kimberly once a week made things much easier (now we don’t need to talk as often). She always has tips and tricks for how to stick with it, and she is that reinforcement to remind you to not go to a party hungry or to the grocery store when you’re starving, for example.
Then, also to think about it as little milestones at a time. I didn’t think about losing 40 pounds; you have to break it into little tiny increments. It’s hard at the very beginning, but take it day by day.
Lastly, plan ahead. Even if it’s just looking as far as your next meal or food emergency. I don’t struggle as much with the planning now that I have a routine. I still order foods from Pritikin. One of my favorites is the BBQ Chicken Pizza!