Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa, A Wellness Vacation for the Health of it

by Anne Dimon

We all have our own ideas of what we need to be healthy and have a greater sense of wellbeing.  A yoga retreat, hiking holiday or spa getaway can certainly be the perfect fit depending on the goal, but when the very quality of one’s life might be at stake, there may be a need for something more medically-focused and scientifically based.

Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa
Photo: Courtesy of Pritikin

The name Pritikin has been around for decades. It was way back in the 1970s when California visionary Nathan Pritikin was ridiculed by the medical establishment for espousing that a combo of exercise and good nutrition might be the best way to prevent, and even reverse, heart disease and other lifestyle-induced medical conditions. Of course time and countless scientific studies have proven him correct, and 40 plus years later, the Pritikin philosophy endures.

Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami offers one and two-week, medically based wellness programs with food and fitness as the focus. With ”medically based” the singular point of distinction, these one-week and longer all-inclusive programs are fully scheduled from morning to nighttime. The program includes medical testing, educational lectures, cooking classes, one-on-one consultations with in-house physicians, and Group Exercise and Strength Training studios. Several times a year, the Center also offers a three-night Taste of Pritikin, which I was recently invited to experience.

Ensconced in an upscale resort setting, the Center is a self-contained environment with a designated dining room, a demo kitchen, a fully-loaded gym (staffed by certified exercise physiologists), yoga and aerobic studios, medical consultation rooms and a full-service spa.

Spacious and beautifully appointed guestrooms are located in separate villas spread around a golf course, and an easy walk from the main building. It’s a comforting environment for solo guests in particular. Spokesperson, Jennifer Weinberg tells me the Center attracts “a lot of single travelers who appreciate being with the like-minded on these life changing journeys.” I personally experienced the camaraderie that grows over the course of the program as everyone is taking part in the same activities and sharing personal stories over meals.

And when it comes to meals, the Pritikin “diet” (read “way of eating”) doesn’t count calories, but the set menu – which changes daily – is strict: No added salt, sugar or fats. But, the food is not only nutritious, it is varied, beautifully presented and there is plenty of it. You can even order seconds. I saw people ordering a second appetizer, a side order of baked potato, a refill on the dessert – think chocolate mousse. Dining room staff is exceedingly accommodating.

Feeling “peckish” between meals? Mini fridges are stocked with single servings of fruits and vegetables for easy snacking. Which is actually encouraged. In her Mindful Eating Luncheon session, director of nutrition Kimberly Gomer, reminds the group to “have a little snack when you are a little hungry – apple, banana, veggies – before you get ravenous and make a poor decision.”

A supportive staff in a safe (away from temptation) environment plus take-home tools and the availability of ongoing support helps make it easier for participants to stick with the program. Jeff, who started the program when he weighed in at over 400 pounds tells me he has lost 100 pounds over the last two years and is now working on the next 100.

The main conditions addressed at the Center are weight related – heart disease, Diabetes 2 and high blood pressure – but there are also many who come for prevention and to make a lifestyle change. Forty plus Harvey, a real estate broker from New York who has spent the last month on the program, says he plans to stay until (in his own words) “I straighten myself out.”  Beyond the solo guests, Weinberg says, “We see mother/daughter duos, spouses, even family groups, so everyone in the home can understand the rationale behind the program.”  The average age is 40 to 65 but they do get younger guests. Twenty-four-year-old Sally is here with her mom. She told me she needs to loose 70 pounds, and her mother joined her so they could both learn how to eat healthier.

Average weight loss with the program is 11 pounds over three weeks.

With the Taste of Pritikin program there is no medical consultation or testing but you do get four to five educational lectures a day, cooking classes, several fitness classes, a private session with a nutritionist, a spa credit, plus a body composition test that pinpoints areas to work on. Proud to say on the body composition test I scored in the 1st percentile for my age group.

Maryana from Jacksonville, FL here for the Taste of Pritikin sums up the program with this: “They look at the whole person and offer advice for good holistic living, and the way information is broken down in bites makes it easy to pick the pieces you need for your own life.”   For more on Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa

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Anne Dimon is the founder/editor of Travel to Wellness and the President/CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association.