Source: Web exclusive, July 2010
With many of us so concerned about keeping our weight in check, it seems only fitting that a new trend in vacations is starting to emerge: weight-loss retreats.
Think of it as a boot-camp-meets-spa hybrid. Yes, you’re pampered with gourmet food (albeit calorie-reduced options with no wine or dessert) and massages, but instead of sitting at the beach in between meals, you’re kicking your butt into high gear and losing weight.
Once such retreat, which has been operating near Nelson, B.C. since 1991 is Mountain Trek. Here, there are no phones, no televisions, no newspapers and no processed food’just the pristine wilderness and a regimented daily fitness program.
Who will you find at a weight-loss camp?
Mountain Trek accommodates just sixteen guests at a time, making it a very exclusive boot camp. ‘We not only kickstart metabolism through a boot-camp-style program, but we offer guests detoxification and stress management as well,’ explains general manager Kirkland Shave, of Mountain Trek’s summer FitPath program. In this particular program, the main fitness component is hiking.
The majority of Mountain Trek guests are “urban corporate professionals,” with 67 percent of those being women and 33 percent men. According to Shave, female guests lose an average of four to six pounds in six days, while men lose an average of seven to nine pounds in six days. ‘Most of our guests are working on losing that last 20 pounds,’ he says. ‘The majority are not obese when they come to us because they have to be able to climb four sets of apartment stairs without stopping in order to come here.’
Weight-loss camp 101
Upon arrival, each guest undergoes a body composition analysis, used to establish goals and track their fitness progress throughout their stay. Aside from monitoring guests’ blood pressure, fat, water and muscle mass, the retreat’s registered kinesioligist and dietician also closely monitor everyone’s sleep patterns, mood changes and urine.
A typical day at Mountain Trek begins with a early morning “wakeup tonic” at 6 a.m., followed by a power shake and a yoga class at 6:30. Breakfast, which could consist of a spinach frittata or muesli with organic fruit is eaten at 7:30 a.m. and at 8:30 a.m. you hit the trails. ‘There are no breads, baked potatoes or simple starches served here,’ explains Shave, who has been working at Mountain Trek for nine years. Lunch, which could be a salad with barbecued chicken, is taken picnic-style during the hike and at 3:30 p.m., everyone returns to the main camp for a one-hour lecture, covering topics from nutrition and fitness to setting goals for re-integration at home.
Following the lecture, a dinner of light curried vegetables, organic and wild fish or poultry is served before a one-hour cardio class at 6 p.m. And right before bed, guests can indulge in a massage, which releases toxins stored in fat. At 9 p.m. it’s lights out. Then it all begins again the next morning.
Other fat-camp options
Another weight-loss camp on the other side of the country is Ontario’s Camp California. Geared to women and children who want to shed pounds and reclaim a healthier lifestyle, there are no men allowed at Camp California, but boys can participate with their mothers.
Located near Kingston, the camp offers extreme fitness boot camps as well as diet camps that offer nutritional counselling to participants. This retreat is also less structured than others, with participants given free time to go into town on the weekends or take part in games nights. It’s almost like being away at summer camp, but with a healthy dose of fitness and nutritional counselling thrown in.
Do weight-loss camps really work?
But the question is, are weight-loss camps like Mountain Trek and Camp California just quick fixes, or can guests really keep off the weight and stay in shape long-term? Nanci S. Guest, a Toronto-based registered dietitian and certified personal trainer who was also the supervising dietician for the athlete’s village at the 2010 Winter Olympics, says there are a few things to consider.
‘If someone’s going to take a vacation and the boot camp‘s an option, I think that’s great to do something good for your health,’ she says. ‘It’s better than going somewhere where you’re going to sit on the beach and eat at the all-inclusive. So choosing that in a getaway in itself is a good, healthy, positive choice.’
However, Guest is quick to point out that going on a weight-loss retreat for one week isn’t enough time to make any significant change. ‘One week is not long enough to pick up new habits and to feel any change,’ she says. ‘I would say two weeks would be the minimum and your optimum would be to go for four weeks. I think that’s when you would really start seeing changes in your body and start feeling better and have that extra motivation to sustain it.’
Finding success after fat camp
According to Guest, it’s imperative that a weight-loss camp provide practical tools for guests to stay motivated once they return home. ‘The more nutrition and fitness education offered, the more autonomy clients have, and they’ll be able to sustain a healthy lifestyle on their own,’ she says.
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