The Best Weight Loss Spas in America

The Focus Now Is On Healthy Weight Loss

weight loss spas
••• Today's best weight loss spas are more about establishing a healthy relationship to food. Getty Images

Want to lose eight pounds in a week?  Who wouldn't?  The problem is that fast weight loss is not the same as healthy weight loss.  Rapid weight loss often includes muscle, which helps burn calories.  It also slows down the body's metabolism so that it is more efficient at holding onto the calories you do take in.  

American spas learned the hard way.  They started out as "fat farms," where women went to lose weight fast by eating 800 calories a day, exercising for hours, and getting into obsessive measuring.

 Lots of people still go to spas to lose weight, but now the emphasis now at destination spas (also known as health spas) is on changing your lifestyle and learning healthy habits to take home.  

Destination spas serve healthy spa cuisine and offer plenty of exercise classes -- a combination that tones you up, burns calories, and gets you eating healthy foods.  But don't expect to lose a lot of weight in one week.

Most spas let you order as much food as you want -- and it's often so good that it's easy to gain weight at spas.  Where do you go if you don't want to be tempted?  If you specifically want to lose weight or deal with some of your food issues, you should look for:

  • Controlled or customized calorie counts so you know exactly how much you're eating.
  • Daily lectures to help you make improvements to your lifestyle, including diet, exercise, and stress-management.
  • On-staff nutritionists and exercise physiologists who can help you analyze and improve your eating and exercise patterns in one-on-one sessions.

    Choosing The Right Weight-Loss Spa For You

    While you can lose weight at most destination spas, look for the style, approach and price that suits you. Here are some examples of the various approaches:

    • Highly focused weight-management programs with medical and behavioral support are found at Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont, Hilton Head Health Institute, Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, Cooper Wellness Program and Duke Diet & Fitness Center. 
    • Affordable weight-loss spas include The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge in Utah, New Life Hiking Spa in Vermont and California's The Oaks at Ojai, which puts everyone on a strict 1200-calorie a day diet with exercise. (Though some people have been known to head down the street for supplemental ice cream.)
    • The Ashram in California is a no-frills throwback to the "fat farm" days, with 800 calories and all-day hiking for a week, with the goal of losing 8 to 10 pounds.
    •  The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa, offers special fasting programs. You will lose weight, but the primary focus is detoxification.
    • Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona and Lenox, Mass., has medical staff and can help you focus your stay on weight-loss or executive health.
    • Luxury spas Cal-a-Vie and Golden Door near San Diego customize the calorie counts for every guest, including those who want to maintain or even gain.
    • At destination spas like Rancho La Puerta and Lake Austin Spa Resort, you can have as much food as you want -- and it's EXCELLENT. But if you want to lose weight, you have to be the enforcer.
    • Red Mountain Spa has special 7-day Weight-loss and Living Well Retreats  with a small group all focused on the same goal.  

    Prices at weight-loss spas generally range from $1200 a week to $8,000 a week, depending on the luxury factor, the degree of customization, and the depth of staff and programming.