Green Mountain at Fox Run is a weight loss retreat in beautiful Ludlow, Vermont. But it's not the place to drop ten pounds in a week. Green Mountain has a long history of helping women develop a healthier relationship to food -- and themselves.
It's where you come when you want to let go of yo-yo dieting and begin to heal your relationship with food. This is where you come to let go of the "good food/bad food," diet and deprivation model.
And in the process, you develop a healthier relationship with food that makes you healthier.
Most women 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.
Talented, Passionate Professionals
An incredibly talented team gives lectures that help you become a skillful eater, or find your fitness soul. You experience healthy, structured eating and exercise that's fun. Personal counseling can help if you have behavioral problems, like binge eating.
There are plenty of exercise classes and time for walking (called "Vermonting") on an old logging trail. As you cycle through the program you have fewer lectures and more activity. The facility itself is a sixties-era motel, nicely remodeled. It's simple, but very comfortable and clean.
A New Way of Eating
I was surprised at good and plentiful the food was.
We had three meals a day where they taught us how to follow "the plate model" -- half of an eight inch plate filled with green vegetables, one-quarter for your starch, and one quarter for your protein. (This is an eating tool that Green Mountain has been using since the early nineties, and which Michelle Obama introduced to the nation.) We could have two healthy snacks.
"Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, and enjoyment is good medicine," said Marsha Hudnall, a registered dietician who is the program director. "Eat what feels good." That doesn't mean down a gallon of ice cream, but to start paying attention to what you really love, and what makes you feel satisfied, and build a diet that accommodates that. We learned to be more mindful in our eating.
My daily diet at home is generally healthy, but I realized that I need more structure, more variety, more flavor and more regular "treats" like dessert a few times a week. Since I don't build that in to my regular routine, then when it's available -- at a restaurant or a party -- I go overboard and feel bad afterwards.
One woman I made friends with said she lost five pounds in a month a year before. That wouldn't make it on "The Biggest Loser". But she came down dramatically in inches because she lost fat, and gained muscle, which weighs more. Better still, she learned how to stop bingeing in secret. A year later she is down four dresses sizes. "It was a life-changing experience," she told me. That's because the changes you make to your eating habits here are sustainable.
They advised me to cut back on my morning weigh-ins, because it makes you focus on a number instead of how you feel.
Green Mountain at Fox Run may be a healthy weight loss program, but it's not just about losing weight. It's about feeling good, eating well, and being active. I've never really been anywhere that targeted these issues about women and food, health and body image, exercise and vitality, so compassionately or effectively. I felt like some huge weight was lifted -- even if it wasn't 10 pounds in a week.