While “fat camps” are nothing new, programs like The Biggest Loser and Celebrity Fit Club have brought residential weight-loss programs into the spotlight. From no-nonsense health clinics to luxurious resort and spa experiences, the science and experience of weight loss has come a long way in the past few decades. Whether you want to lose weight, learn about nutrition or make big lifestyle changes, there is a location-based program for you.
Which came first, The Biggest Loser Resort or NBC’s hit TV show, The Biggest Loser? The TV program’s namesake was the top-rated “Fitness Ridge Resort and Spa” until 2009 when, after several contestant- prize giveaways and appearances on the program, the connection became official. The resort’s focus is on fitness, nutrition and education. Guests are also drawn to the program’s contestants, who visit and work at the original destination in Utah and the new facility in Malibu, CA, which opened in 2010.
Visitors can expect a boot camp-style experience (similar to what contestants experience on the program) that includes fitness training and nutritional counseling, as well as personal counseling and life coaching to help bring the lessons and health habits learned at the resort back to daily life.
For those with cash to burn, San Diego’s Cal-a-Vie offers a luxurious cocoon in which to slim down and firm up. Only 24 guests at a time are housed in the resort’s Spanish-style villas on a 200-acre expanse, which includes an 18-hole golf course and a 400-year-old chapel from Dijon, France, for meditation.
Programs include morning hikes, spinning and aerobics classes, as well as the latest fitness crazes like nia, which blends yoga and dance. Luxurious touches include a 5-to-1 guest-to-staff ratio, workout clothes delivered to your room and cooking classes.
Canyon Ranch has been offering a high-end fitness and nutrition resort program since 1979, promoting better health through good living before it became trendy. The desert and mountain locations are perfect for hiking, relaxation and focus.
The original resort in Tucson offers more than 40 classes, an 8,000-square-foot spa, 4 pools and more than 60 wellness consultants. In addition to a physician visit and blood work-up, guests get consultations with behavioral therapists, nutritionists and exercise physiologists. Workouts include guided outdoor walks, boxercise and Pilates.
The Cooper Wellness program offers “long-term strategic planning” for healthy living. Clients who choose this no-nonsense approach tend to be goal-oriented and interested in a scientific approach to weight loss. Founder Kenneth Cooper is considered the father of aerobics.
The center features a spa and wellness program, as well as a special obesity program. A stay begins with a comprehensive physical exam and a full nutritional and lifestyle assessment. Guests attend fitness classes and lectures, and visit local restaurants to learn how to order healthier food.
Duke University is the grandmommy of no-frills weight-loss programs, producing scientifically-backed results for 31 years. This is a place for folks who are serious about blazing a path to better health. A team of physicians, psychologists, nutritionists and fitness experts work with clients to come up with a plan for personal lifestyle changes. The results speak for themselves: After 2 years, 55% of participants maintained their weight loss and after 3 years, 47% continued to keep the pounds off.
But the Spartan program is not for everyone and doesn’t come cheap. While services such as massage therapy are available, the center does not promote itself as a spa and is clear in its literature that clients are required to invest a significant amount of energy, personal commitment and time (1- to 4-weeks, with an option of up to 3 months extended stay).
A seaside location makes this serious weight loss center, founded as a 4-week “fat farm” in 1974, feel like a spa. With a focus on transforming habits and lifestyle, guests come here not only to lose weight, but to learn to make smart nutrition and health decisions.
A variety of 1-week programs blending activities with hands-on learning and seminars aim to reeducate guests about nutrition and exercise. Lifestyle coaches evaluate the health and weight-loss goals of each guest and help them choose from more than 30 fitness classes, including Pilates, beach walking and kickboxing. The spa also includes a full range of massage and body treatments.