Have you ever considered traveling to a health-and-wellness retreat? If you have, you’re part of a larger trend. According to the Global Wellness Institute – a leading source for authoritative wellness industry research – the GWI predicts that the wellness economy will return to its robust growth, with projected annual growth of 9.9% – and this includes wellness tourism – reaching nearly $7.0 Trillion in 2025. People who want a healthy, wellness-filled, mindful, lifestyle are now going to spas in droves – especially post-Covid. Wellness tourism? I say Bring It On!
I’m one of those people who is always seeking more wellness in her life. For me, it was time for a tweak. I exercise about an hour every day and carefully monitor my intake – but I wanted to lose a few pounds and also have a medical assessment. I’m 67, and I’m a size four – but it’s a struggle to stay this way. My body would love to be a size 8 but that’s way too big for my tiny 5”3” frame. (Everything I wear in life is designed to make me appear taller – and thinner!) I have plateaued and losing just two pounds is very difficult for me. I also wanted to experience soothing spa treatments – in short, I was looking for a luxury spa destination that would also include some medical testing as well as a spiritual component. I discovered my Zen, while I restarted by engine – and my combined “Zengine” got a rockin’ re-boot.
I did it at the luxurious Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, and I’m here to tell you that it was remarkable. By the sixth day (of ingesting no salt, sugar or oil, mind you) I had lost two pounds – I was down to 111 – and my stomach was completely flat. And I felt — and continue to feel — re-energized by life itself. Their motto is that they are training people for everyday life – “to sustain longevity with no pain,” as the head dietician told us in a slide show on opening day. Pritikin’s mission and mantra is to eradicate disease.
I took advantage of the medical program – but you can opt for a simpler Lifestyle plan. Indeed, some people come for the Medical assessment (more on that in a moment) while their spouse/partner joins them simply for the pampering Lifestyle program at a posh property.
The lifestyle programs include visits to a beach, learning how to dine out, going out with a nutritionist to a restaurant and grocery store, to practice ordering out and label reading, and movie night with Pritikin-approved popcorn. Of course, there’s golf, tennis, spa, and luxury lounging at the pool. Coming soon is adventure week in March, involving trips to the Everglades and kayaking. The property consists of 800 acres, so there’s plenty to do to relax and rejuvenate.
I can highly recommend a stay at Pritikin. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Over and over again, the people that I met there told me how much they loved the experience, and actually return year after year.
Says Michael Malo – the CEO – “So many people come back to Pritikin – it’s a testament to the program. The second sale is not hard at all.” And here’s what else he told me – apparently a lot of guests come to Pritikin to work remotely, in a healing environment, they like the program so much – and they simply break for classes, lectures, spa treatments, and meals!
Philip Elkus, 96 years young, whose wife Estelle told me he is in “terrific health,” attributes much of his long life to Pritikin. Mr. Elkus and his wife have visited Pritikin about 10 times over the past 40 years, and he told me by phone, “For us it has worked very well – it’s like going on a cruise ship only you are on land. And when you get home you don’t have to lose the weight you gained on a cruise ship.” In fact, he added, “We actually prefer Pritikin to going on a cruise – it’s a better way of living. I’m in the shape I’m in because of Nathan Pritikin.”
The results speak for themselves. A peer-reviewed study (from Journal of Cardiac Rehabilitation) that looked at the success of Pritikin’s program found that about 83% of Pritikin guests no longer need high-blood-pressure medication — by eating right and exercising regularly – after about two or three weeks of staying loyal to the program. According to another peer-reviewed study (The Journal of Applied Physiology) 54% of participants were better able to control their diabetes. These statistics are noted on Pritikin’s website. More than 100 studies have been done evaluating the Pritikin program.
I had a lot of tests and blood work, which is what I really craved, because I plateaued at 113 pounds. For example, in the cardio test (Exercise Electrocardiogram) that monitored my heart rate during exercise, I was told that for excellent fitness, I should try to reach 85% of my targeted heart rate – for me that number is 137 beats per minute (and that should be maintained for only a minute in a HIIT workout). Good information. My testing showed I need more Vitamin D. They also, for example, measured my resting metabolic rate, and every day I burn about 1,200 calories with mild activity. Thin-hip-hip-hooray! Because I frequently feel tired, and hungry, I was also given a shot of B-12 – and I loved the energy I had the next day and thereafter. I will take it orally at home, as well as utilize the list of “Pritikin-approved” foods and brands that they recommend. I will also add more vegetables to my protein-based smoothies as well as fortified nutritional yeast, which is loaded with B-12. I just might live forever!
There is an impressive special kosher program, held twice a year, headed by a rabbi and all of the techniques and ingredients adhere to being kosher, especially at the Friday-night Shabbat dinner. I heard from one guest that the kosher pizza was fabulous.
The spa treatments were also wonderful. I had a very pampering hydrafacial with NaturaBisse products – but most of all, I found that the resort was a special place that nurtured my spirit. My doctor there, Dr. Fruge, a former tennis pro, told me all about how people come to Pritikin to heal – “This is a very spiritual place,” she told me. (She also said she says a special “Doctor’s Prayer” for all of her patients.) “You feel safe here…..things that you have struggled with work out. There’s nowhere like this in the world, and people from all over the world come here.”
I certainly felt the vibe. Some of the more spiritual components include a Mind-Body week held twice a year, plus everyday Pilates, yoga and meditation, and a licensed psychologist on staff, to take everything up a level.
I only have a few negative comments. At first, the service in the restaurant was spotty, but by the end of my stay it had improved, and I could see how genuinely focused the staff was on providing a great experience. I would also recommend that in addition to Stevia and Splenda, that the resort include monkfruit as a sweetener – it is all natural, low glycemic, has no calories, and is very tasty. Chef Vince also made me a special lowfat carrot cake – created, at my suggestion, with pumpkin puree instead of oil. It was delicious – I ate the whole thing! – but it could use a tad more pumpkin to make it a bit more moist. The Pritikin plan is all about not using any salt – and I found that a bit difficult to get used to. Overall, the food was good – one guest told me, “It’s not Michelin quality, but it’s good and I’m crazy about the salad dressings.” (They are fabulous – the secret is fat-free sour cream and apple juice concentrate. I’m going to bring the recipes with my on my next cruises, and have the Executive Chef make some for me to enjoy every day — they’re that yummy. ) While overall most of the food was tasty, nevertheless, some of the entrees tasted a bit bland to me. To counteract that, every table features four special salt-free seasonings that you can use to impart more flavor – things like Everything But The Bagel.
So what did I learn to do? Eat more fiber between meals – a roasted sweet potato is highly recommended, and eat oatmeal at breakfast. And never go to sleep on a full stomach. Skip the oily salad dressings and replace them with those from Pritikin. (You can get the recipes in order to make them at home.) Don’t count calories – it all comes down to calorie density – the amount of calories you can fit into a pound of food – and their method is that you should eat low-density foods with a high fiber content. (Nuts, butter, seeds and avocados are, literally, pretty much off the table.) I also need to up the cardio, increase my weights on machines, and do more jump roping to jump-start my metabolism. I’m all in! Is it bikini season yet?
Overall, one of my favorite experiences was the Pilates class using the Reformer. What I loved about it was that my instructor, Elle, was so expert at all of the moves, and I loved the fact that with each movement, I was stretching my body. Perhaps I could look taller than 5’3” after all!
In a word, my entire experience at Pritikin was “uplifting” in every sense of the word. Not only that, I also made some wonderful new friends. All in all, it was a great visit.
A typical two-week program for two people is priced about $4,475 per week, per-person, double occupancy in a deluxe room. All programs are customized to your goals, and are discussed before your visit.
For more about my Wanderlust and Wellness travels, please Follow me on Instagram at @DebbiKickham.