By Arvin Steinberg
Most of us go on vacation, have a good time, overindulge a little, probably put on a few pounds, and when we return home, it's back to the old routine. So, just for a moment, imagine a vacation in a luxurious setting, where you have a good time, eat good food, exercise and lose weight. And when you return home, you feel energized, have a new lifestyle, and you're no longer back to the old grind. That's how I felt after just one week at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida.
Pritikin moved to new surroundings two years ago. The former facility, a hotel in Miami Beach has been torn down and now Pritikin is situated in a lush tropical setting at the luxurious Turnberry Isle Yacht Club. The building is magnificent. You enter into a regal marble lobby. The main lounge and dining areas are constructed of dark, rich woods, with parquet wood flooring and elegant carpeting. Floor-to-ceiling windows afford views of the intra-coastal waterway, where expensive yachts are docked, and an inviting pool area, with a bridge across and a waterfall. Tennis and golf facilities are nearby.
My large room in the Marina Hotel had a separate dressing area and walk-in closet. The bath was immense and included a huge whirlpool bathtub, with enough room for two large people, and a separate shower. My room also had a balcony where I could sit and overlook the intra-coastal waterway.
Since Pritikin is committed to improving your health and lifestyle, one of the first things I did was to meet with a Pritikin doctor. As everyone knows, a main rap on doctors is that they are inadequately trained, if at all, in the areas of nutrition and exercise. But at Pritikin, that is what they specialize in. I had a friendly discussion with my Pritikin doctor about my health and medical history. I was given several tests so that the doctor would know such things as my heart rate, blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels. The doctor used this information to set up my exercise program and to advise me about specific nutritional information that would benefit me. He told me he would monitor my progress during the week and would meet with me again at the end of the week.
The entire week was filled with healthy activities and was a real learning experience. I attended lectures which gave me life saving information on heart disease, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, cancer, stress and general wellness. My wife enjoyed the lectures on women's health issues.
And the food was wonderful. It was carefully prepared by chefs with the oversight of the professional nutritionists on the Pritikin staff. The low fat, low salt, no sugar diet was delicious, and I am still following it at home.
I loved the sumptuous lunch buffet with the dozens of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from. There were also creative hot entrees made with heart healthy ingredients.
Pritikin recommends eating five or six small meals during the day, so at mid-morning and mid-afternoon, it was snack time. There were always two delicious soups and specially prepared fruit and vegetable offerings to choose from. I never felt like I was on a diet. In fact, I felt as if I was eating considerably more than I do at home.
Before dinner we enjoyed a cocktail hour with live music provided by a talented pianist. Everyone gathered around the huge bar. No alcohol was served. Instead, I along with the other guests enjoyed complimentary Pritikin Mimosas made with tangerine tea, fresh squeezed orange juice, and peach water. The Pritikin Berry Frappe made with berry tea, assorted berries pureed, and berry flavored water was another delicious cocktail enjoyed by many of the guests.
There was no assigned seating at dinner. You could select a table for two or join a table of eight. After the first day you started to know almost everyone. The atmosphere throughout the Pritikin program was super-friendly and almost camp-like, with everyone discussing how things went that day. The staff was not only friendly but always went out of their way to please you.
The morning exercise sessions began with cardiovascular exercises. You had the choice of working out on the aerobic equipment of your choice. The state-of-the-art exercise room had many different types of exercise machines. Among them were treadmills, cross-trainers and bicycles. I chose the treadmill. The sessions were spirited with energetic aerobic type music. TV's tuned to different channels were on all sides of the large exercise room with headsets attached to every machine if you wanted to listen to a particular station. The staff was always present to assist you and give instructions as to when to increase or lower your speed and when to slow down to check your pulse rate, which was promptly recorded in your file.
On alternate days the aerobic workout was followed by either resistance training (weights) or by stretching and abdominal exercise sessions. I particularly enjoyed the resistance training. Using free weights we were instructed on how to properly do eight different exercises. After each exercise we recorded in our files the number of sets and repetitions we completed and the weight used. I kept this record and took it home with me and I am still doing these exercises two to three times a week.There were also sessions in Yoga and aquatics in the lavish Pritikin pool.
Some of my afternoons were spent at the new Pritikin Longevity Center Spa with its vast area of treatments from Swedish Massages to Craniosacral Therapy and Reflexology. Oh, how good it felt to get a massage after my morning workout. The spa also has some other treatments that aren't readily available at typical spas. The spa has bone density testing with a DEXA machine. The test takes just a few minutes and measures your exact bone mineral content and detects as little as one percent of bone loss, revealing your risk for developing osteoporosis and serious fractures. They also have a body composition test which tells you the location of your body fat. With this test you will be able to see just how much lean tissue is available to help you burn calories. The body composition test also tells you how much weight you need to lose to achieve a healthier metabolic profile.
Personal training services are also available to help you tailor your exercise program to your specific needs when you return home. Pritikin also gives you a complete loose-leaf notebook of information about nutrition, health, recipes, and exercise including illustrations on how to correctly do each exercise, so you can refer to it after you leave Pritikin.
Afternoons and evenings after dinner were filled with outstanding seminars presented by highly trained health professionals. The seminars covered a variety of subjects such as: nutrition; what foods you should be eating and what foods you should be avoiding; weight loss and weight control; how to handle stress; cooking instructions and demonstrations; how to read labels on foods you buy at the grocery; vitamin and mineral supplements; and how to deal with specific illnesses you might have.
One of the health professionals who lectures at Pritikin is Jay Kenney. He has a PhD degree from Rutgers University and is a Nutrition Research Specialist. I attended several of his interesting, informative, and often humorous seminars. He explained that many years ago he suffered from serious health problems with his heart and high blood pressure, and that he was able to reverse these problems by basically following the Pritikin program.
Pritikin has added a family program that teaches kids how fun and rewarding exercise and a healthy diet can be. The family program is available July 5 through August 2.
Proper nutrition and exercise lead to a happy, healthy lifestyle, according to the health professionals at the Pritikin Longevity Center. Many people who come to Pritikin return year after year, sometimes for two or three weeks or more, to learn more about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
For more information about the Pritikin Longevity Center, call 800-327-4914 or visit the website at www.pritikin.com
Photos by Phyllis Steinberg