by Anne Dimon
A yoga retreat, hiking holiday or spa getaway. We all have our own ideas of what we need to be healthy and have a greater sense of balance in our lives. 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 that will become the better choice. Enter Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami.
In the 1970s, California visionary Nathan Pritikin was ridiculed by medical establishments for espousing that a combination of exercise and good nutrition might be the best way to prevent, and even reverse, heart disease and other lifestyle-induced medical conditions. Time, and countless scientific studies have proven him correct, and now more than 40 years later, the Pritikin philosophy endures.
Ensconced in an upscale resort setting, the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami is a self-contained environment with a designated dining room, a demonstration kitchen, fully-loaded gym (staffed by certified exercise physiologists), Group Exercise and Strength Training Studios, medical consultation rooms and the hotel’s full-service spa. Spacious and beautifully appointed guestrooms are located in separate villas spread around a golf course.
The Center offers a two-week core program but one week stays are also available, and some guests choose to stay longer than the two weeks. With being “medically-based” the singular point of distinction, these all-inclusive programs are fully scheduled from morning to night. The program includes medical testing, educational lectures, cooking classes, one-on-one consultations with in-house physicians, and various fitness activities. Several times a year, the Center also offers a three-night Taste of Pritikin, which I was recently invited to experience for this story.
I found it to be a comforting environment for solo guests. 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 partakes in the same activities and share personal stories over meals.
The Pritikin Eating Plan doesn’t count calories, but the menu – which changes daily – is strict: No added salt, sugar or fats. Not only is the food nutritious, but it is varied, beautifully presented and there is plenty of it. The dining room staff is exceedingly accommodating. You can even order seconds. I witnessed guests ordering more appetizers which consisted of a side order of baked potato, plus refills on the desserts – think chocolate mousse.
Feeling “peckish” between meals? Baskets of fresh fruit and platters of prepared vegetables are set out throughout the Center and available for 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 and take-home tools as well as 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, Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure – but there are also those who come for prevention and to make a lifestyle change. 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’ve straightened 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 guest is aged 40 to 65 years old, but there are some younger ones too. Twenty-four-year-old Sally comes with her mom. She says she has to lose 70 pounds, and her mother joins her so they can both learn how to eat healthier.
Average weight loss with the program is 11 pounds over three weeks. With the Tasting 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, plus a body composition test that pinpoints areas to work on. I’m proud to say that on the body composition test I scored in the 1st percentile for my age group.
Maryana from Jacksonville, FL attending 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.”
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