- The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu gives a one-week full immersion bootcamp in the heart of nature
- At Ti Sana in Italy, guests receive individualized exercise and nutrition plans
- At Absolute Sanctuary in Thailand, guests choose from seven to 14-day programs, and lose up to 22 lbs
As the New Year begins and resolutions are proclaimed, it's usually time to bring out the fad books, hop on a one-week juice fast, and fail after two days.
But when it comes to serious weight loss, many people are swapping their regular holiday for a weight loss vacation.
By cutting off distractions to everyday life and work, these trips offer individualized fitness and diet plans intended to last well beyond a week or two.
Today's best weight loss vacations offer fitness adventure, spa detoxing, or medical programs to help people reach their weight loss goals through good food, engaged activities and proven medical advice.
1. The Ranch, Live Oak Malibu, United States
The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu gives a one-week full immersion bootcamp in the heart of nature. The 120-acre Ranch is a fitness retreat set three miles above the Pacific Ocean in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The program is designed to help participants gain physical endurance, lose weight, detoxify, and learn how to keep the weight off once they get back on the grid.
Some 2,000 participants on the program have lost an average of 8.82 lbs. a week and women lose an average of 5.09 lbs. a week.
The program focuses on sustainable exercise such as daily hikes, yoga, and core work with weights. The intense day is jam-packed from 5.30 a.m. to 7 p.m., with 8-10 hours of exercise in-between, but there's always time for a daily nap and massage.
Austin Ligon, a former CEO, went to the Ranch three times this past year, maintaining a loss of 15 pounds of body fat. "It makes weight loss easy," he says, "because you don't have to work out your own program and stick to it. You just join the group, do the week, and see how it comes out."
The menu of organic vegetarian cuisine is limited to 1,400 calories a day using ingredients picked daily from the Ranch's own gardens. Example meals include Zucchini Fettuccini with Cauliflower Bolognese, Sunflower Seed Risotto and Hearts of Palm Crab Cakes
The seven-day Ranch program, which includes full room and board, daily activities and massages, is held weekly (Sun-Sat) and costs $6,200; +1 310 457 8700; theranchmalibu.com
2. Lefay Resort & Spa, Lake Garda, Italy
Set at the top of Lake Garda, Italy's largest and most scenic lake, Lefay Resort & Spa is an eco resort covering 3,000 square meters and featuring indoor and outdoor heated salt-water pools, a 10% indoor salt lake, five types of saunas and a crushed ice fountain.
At the heart of Lefay Spa is Dr. Maurizio Corradin, a Western-trained, Eastern-practicing doctor. His philosophy is simple: "You must enjoy life," and he believes any diet that puts heavy restrictions on a person is bound to fail.
Rather than focus on food restrictions, they focus on what guests can eat, using only ingredients the guest chooses.
His treatment program follows Chinese Medicine in order to to restore optimal flows of Qi (energy) in order to set the body and mind on the right path toward achieving its optimal weight.
Corradin designed a series of Tui Na massages in order to solve specific problems such as draining excess fluid, improving sleep or curing sugar cravings. His foot reflexology stimulates meridians or energetic lines to detox and regulate the body.
Corradin uses aromatic hydrotherapy to treat stress and tension. He may also prescribe acupuncture, and moxibustion heat treatments, as well as phytotheraphy, or medicinal teas.
Daily exercise classes are encouraged, including the Meridian stretches, Tai Qi and Qi-Gong for stress relief, as well as water gym classes and Pilates to increase energy.
The Slimming and Weight Loss Program is available exclusively through Wellbeing Escapes at Lefay Spa and costs from £1,815 ($2,982)/per person for a min five night's stay inclusive of doctor consultation, all massage and energy treatments, accommodation, full board and activities; +44 207 644 6111; www.wellbeingescapes.com
3. Fitness Travel, Senegal
Fitness Travel Company designs itineraries for guests to explore a new country and get in top physical shape at the same time.
Upcoming trips include a Senegal adventure where guests will embark on an action-packed week full of beach runs, an 18-mile cycle to a lion cub game reserve, kayaking to a private beach and learning African dance to the sound of local drums.
To maximize weight loss, guests will eat a high-protein/low-carb Paleolithic-inspired diet, starting the day with a fresh juice and continuing with alkalizing raw fruit and vegetables and fresh seafood.
The trip fee includes an in-depth personal training course in the guest's home country, three weeks in advance in order to prepare for the trip, and one week on return.
Spandana Gopal, a business owner in London, recently went on the Senegal trip and lost 5.5 lbs. with the pre-month training, and her husband lost 9 lbs. "The experience was fantastic," she says. "I think the fact that I can see a different country and stay fit at the same time made me love the trip."
A Thailand trip Involves deep jungle running in Chiang Mai, Muay Thai training, mountain biking through remote villages and Thai cooking lessons.
A Masai Wild Warrior fitness trip in Nairobi lets guests train like warriors through tree climbing, game walks, spear throwing, hill sprints and bush crawling.
And a ladies-only slimming retreat in Bodrum lets women learn flyboarding, wind surfing and water skiing in Turkey's most beautiful, blue peninsula.
A seven-day all-inclusive package including accommodation, all activities, meals, transfers in Senegal, tours and sightseeing is £2,450 ($4.034) based on two people sharing; Single supplement £350; +44 800 001 6409; www.fitnesstravelcompany.com
4. Ti Sana, Lombardy, Italy
Ti Sana is a small 22-suite, family-owned retreat in Lecco a 50-kilometer drive north of Milan. The resort is a former 18th century home with stone country walls and a state-of-the-art spa.
Upon arrival, guests of the Healtheatarian, Active Life Program, undergo a series of tests to measure the body's current level of health and stress. The spa's staff then develops an individualized exercise and nutrition plan in order to make guests aware of how to optimize energy.
Ti Sana's weight loss program is somewhat extreme for diet novices, but guarantees fat loss over muscle and water weight loss as well as reducing other issues such as poor digestion.
Participants can choose between a juice cleanse or a raw food diet, consisting of small portions of vegetable-heavy foods.
Caffeine, flour, sugar and other staples are not allowed on the program. Ti Sana claims that after one week, cravings for sugar and processed foods disappear, and energy levels go through the roof.
Daily fitness includes a walk around the nearby lake as well as several exercise classes, from trampoline rebounding to muscle hypertrophy.
To counteract the intense programming guests have access to a beautiful underground spa that combines a wide range of healing hydrotherapy from saline pools to rainforest and mint showers with a great selection of hot saunas including infrared and steam rooms.
Guests leave with a personalized diet as well as the Ti Sana "Manual for an Active Life," which provides a step-by-step approach to how to maintain the results gained from the detox, living the Mediterrean diet, advice on natural beauty routines and a guide to physical activity.
The Healtheatarian Program includes suite accommodation, beauty and medical spa treatments, full board physical activities and lectures, starting from €3,710 ($5,045) for a 10-night stay; +39 9920979; www.1711.it
5. Canyon Ranch, Tucson, United States
A former cattle ranch located on 150 acres in the Sonoran Desert, Tucson's Canyon Ranch is a mainstay in health and wellness and celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
"It's a program for people tired of fad diets who are ready to embrace a lifestyle approach. We moved away from the bootcamp fat farm approach of weigh loss vacations to more of a lifestyle management course," says Jim Eastburn, life enhancement director at Canyon Ranch.
What sets Canyon Ranch apart is its large medical faculty. It employs over 60 wellness professionals, including integrative medicine physicians, clinical grade nutritionists, exercise physiologists, spirituality practitioners and licensed behavioral therapists.
Guests undergo a series of medical assessments. Their program director then designs an individualized nutrition and fitness course.
Therapists work with guests to address lifestyle variables and emotional issues that may be affecting their results, aiming to teach them how to reprioritize behaviors to put their health first.
There are daily lectures that address topics like one's relationship with food, brain fitness, healthy eating on the go and maximizing your metabolism.
Susan Earl, a retired special education director, says of the experience, "I not only lost 42 pounds, but I reversed my recent diagnosis of Diabetes as well as lowered all of my previously high cholesterol and triglyceride numbers into the healthy range. I honestly believe I could not have done this if I had not participated in their program."
A seven-day single-stay all-inclusive package starts at $8,650; +1 520 749 9000; www.canyonranch.com
6. Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeriah, Dubai, U.A.E.
Talise Spa at Madinat Jumeriah has a reputation for not only being one of the best spas in the world, but for having the most integrated medical weight loss solution offered in the Middle East.
Guests who arrive at the spa meet with doctors to determine first why they're carrying excess pounds. An initial consultation includes a full body scan as well as in-depth blood tests that may lead to further testing.
If the extra weight comes from a careless diet and bad eating habits, doctors will do a blood analysis to check cholesterol levels and triglycerides. If metabolism is low, guests will undergo a series of food intolerance tests.
Common diagnoses are hormonal imbalances, metobolical dysfunctions, sugar imbalances, lack of exercise and food cravings from emotional imbalance.
A typical program may begin with a liver and intensive detox, and then followed up with a variety of treatments such as sessions in the infrared sauna, relaxing yoga and tai chi or strength-building kung fu classes, and a course of homeopathic medications, supplements and vitamins.
The resort wellness chef designs a meal plan for the guest's length of stay, which depending on the guest's diagnosis, may be a low GI diet, a high protein diet or a diuretic diet.
Internal medicine specialist Dr. Elisabeth Makk at Talise Spa says, "A holistic weight loss program is designed for those that are ready to make a change, not just to their diet, but also in their lifestyle. It's about understanding your strengths and limitations, and concentrating on prevention, focus and renewal."
An initital consultation costs AED 1700 ($462), and the individualized plan is developed from there; a one-week stay at Madinet Jumeirah starts at AED 16,380 ($4,600); +971 4 366 6818; www.jumeirah.com
7. Thermia Palace, Slovakia
The Art Nouveau Thermia Palace in Piešťany, Slovakia, has for over 100 years welcomed anyone from kings, sheiks and czars, all wanting to experience the sulfur-rich thermal mineral waters and healing mud sources on the spa island.
The 20-strong medical staff in Piešťany focus on wellness and weight loss, aiming to become once again Europe's top medical spa.
Its one-week slimming spa stay program includes a doctor consultation and health examinations including metabolic functioning, nutrition planning, fitness training and a wide assortment of doctor-prescribed therapies (up to 30 a week), such as hydromassages and medical massages to increase blood circulation.
Guests can have a sulfur mud bath under the stained-glass windows to target specific problem areas.
The slimming program focuses not only on diet and fitness, but also on preventing damage to joints and to the body. Natural springs have been proven to aid in diseases such as rheumatism, and also give incredible energy and strength to anyone coming to kickoff a fitness lifestyle.
"With the pharmaceutical industry, it's not well-known if the treatments will last, or what kind of long-term damage is being done," says CEO Klaus Pilz, who says their programs are so effective that over 50% of repeat guests visit at least once a year. "As a medical spa, the only side effects of our treatments are sore muscles after a massage."
Weight Loss at Thermia Palace is a unique program designed by Wellbeing Escapes and costs from £902 ($1,482)/per person for a seven-night stay inclusive of all spa treatments, fitness classes, luxury accommodation and meals; +44 207 644 6111; www.wellbeingescapes.com
8. Absolute Sanctuary, Koh Samui, Thailand
Absolute Sanctuary is a boutique resort overlooking the Cheong Mon Peninsula.
"Familiarity breeds contempt," says Claire Bostock, executive director of Absolute Sanctuary. "Take that away and things get easier. Plus, in an island such as Koh Samui, known as the island of healing, just the atmosphere itself makes one motivated to keep to their goals."
Guests can choose between a seven, 10, or 14-day program, and lose an average of 6.5-22 lbs., according to Bostock. The most she saw was a CEO of a multinational firm who lost 20 lbs. in 10 days, down from 375 lbs., by following the resort's diet menu and program activities.
Light meals are chosen with organic handpicked local produce, cold-pressed oils and whole-food seasonings and superfoods like flaxseeds, spirulina and coconut oil. A sample menu could be an apple and guava omega fruit salad for breakfast, cashew brown rice stir-fry for lunch, and raw Pad Thai for dinner.
Absolute Sanctuary's two-fold fitness approach offers tailored physical exercises from Pilates to fit ball to endurance and resistance training. It combines exercise with cleansing mental therapies such as hypnotherapy and Reiki designed to break down any emotional barriers to weight loss.
The standard one-week course includes multiple spa sessions, full room and board and fitness classes, from THB 96,900 ($2,937); +66 77 601 205; www.absolutesanctuary.com
9. Rancho La Puerta, Mexico
Just across the border in Tecate, Mexico, at the juncture of the Laguna and Sierra Juarez mountain ranges, is Rancho La Puerta, a 3,000-acre resort full of gardens, mountains and meadows.
A week at the ranch teaches sustainable nutritional eating and muscle building. "If guests exercise in moderation during their stay and eat the servings we provide, they can expect to lost 2-5 lbs. in the week," says Yvonne Nienstadt, director of nutrition at Rancho La Puerta.
Dubbing their weight-loss diet the "Mexo-Mediterrenean Diet," the Ranch's menu is largely based on plants and whole foods, banning all processed food. Calories are reduced moderately, not radically in order to lose fat and not muscle.
Nienstadt recalls one guest, Suzanne, who lost 24 pounds over three weeks by eating huge salads, drinking fresh green juices and cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar.
"People then feel better, and feel like eating right rather than self medicating with 'comfort foods' and they feel like getting up off the couch and exercising," says Nienstadt.
"Within four days Suzanne told me her knees were no longer hurting and she could exercise more freely and by the end of three weeks, she stated that not only did she feel lighter physically, but mentally she felt 'high.'"
Rancho La Puerto has over 40 daily activities, from high intensity interval training, bird walk, cardio drumming, hula hooping, African dance, Feldenkrais, tennis clinic, and meditation workshops.
A seven-night stay, single occupancy, begin at $3,650, which covers accommodations, meals, fitness classes and presentations; +1 858 764 5500; www.rancholapuerta.com