The Best Weight Loss Spas in America

Woman lifting medicine ball with trainer at Skyterra Retreat

Skyterra Wellness Retreat

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 tissue, which is denser than fat and which helps burn calories. Losing muscle also slows down the body's metabolic rate so that it is more efficient at holding onto the calories you do take in. That causes people to gain all the weight they lost, and then some. American spas learned this the hard way. In the sixties, they started out as "fat farms," where women went to lose weight fast by eating 800 calories a day, exercising for hours, and obsessively measuring. While a few programs still offer this model, it is truly not advisable. The emphasis now for short-term stays at destination spas like Canyon Ranch Lenox and Rancho La Puerta is not so much on losing pounds, but on eating delicious, healthy food, while exercising and attending lectures and classes on healthy living and personal expression. 

Further, not every guest wants or needs to lose weight. In the last few years, most destination spas have started letting you order as much food as you want, and it's often so good that it's easy to gain weight! The people around you might not be focused on losing weight. So where do you go if you are overweight and need to tweak, or even overhaul your approach to food and diet, and be surrounded by other people who feel the same way?

Skyterra Wellness Retreat

One of the best new examples of a weight loss spa is Skyterra Wellness Retreat about an hour from Asheville, North Carolina. It's a small program that encourages longer stays (one to four weeks) where everyone eats the same delicious, healthy meals at communal tables. They exercise together, attend lectures together, even go into Asheville for a bit of chocolate and coffee at French Broad together!

A talented staff on the cutting edge of fitness and healthy living teaches guests the latest in wellness thinking: keep moving; eat real food; cultivate connections. They debunk the "calories in-calories out" myths, i.e., the only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and exercise more. In fact, compulsive over-exercising might just be undermining your health. 

The interesting thing about Skyterra is that no matter what shape you're in, the program is scalable. Someone who is obese or a triathlete can be in the same exercise class because the movements are adapted to make it a challenge, no matter what your level of fitness.

Fitness Director Jeff Ford evaluates guests on the way in, testing your strength, flexibility, and balance. You also get a scan that reveals not just your weight, but how much muscle and fat you have. In the end, maybe you "only" lost two pounds, but you gained one pound of muscle and lost three pounds of fat, which means your body is closer to becoming a fat-burning machine.

Skyterra also talks about the emotional aspects of eating, the importance of stress management, not denying the pleasures of food. Skyterra simply can't be recommended highly enough. You will learn a lot about yourself and have a great experience.

Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont

Green Mountain at Fox Run in beautiful Ludlow, Vermont, is the nation’s oldest retreat exclusively for women who struggle with weight, emotional and binge eating, and feelings of food addiction. Our pioneering non-diet strategies help women end the yo-yo cycle of weight loss and regain by focusing on an integrated health approach that incorporates nutrition, fitness, and behavior/emotional health. Most come for four weeks because it takes that long to change the habits of a lifetime.

The program is highly structured, with an emphasis on three key areas, behavior, nutrition, and physical activity.  This is where you come to let go of the "good food/bad food," diet and deprivation model and learn how to love yourself. The focus is not so much on weight loss, but on health.

There are plenty of exercise classes and time for walking (called "Vermonting") on an old logging trail, which is especially enjoyable in the fall. As you cycle through the program you have fewer lectures and more activity. The facility itself is a sixties-era motel that has been nicely remodeled, simple, comfortable and clean.

Canyon Ranch Life Enhancement Center in Tucson

Canyon Ranch is a big place with people who have lots of different interests. The smaller Life Enhancement Center is where people with a specific interest, including weight loss, can find each other, learn together and support each other. In a small-group setting, you are surrounded by supportive peers and consult with their wellness professionals to plan a customized strategy to attain a healthy weight.

The seven-day weight loss program includes sustainable weight loss strategies; the first-hand experience in nutritious dining and meal preparation; encouragement to become more active; medical advice and support; guidance in establishing healthy habits; supportive setting; and personalized take-home plan for sustainable weight loss. You're also encouraged to take advantage of all the fun and activity that Canyon Ranch in Tucson has to offer, everything from yoga and meditation classes to its exciting High Ropes Challenge Course and much more.

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