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Ultimate Guide to Weight Loss Retreats: How to Choose, Where to Go, What to Expect in 2021

Last updated May 26, 2021

A popular complaint about the “typical” vacation is often that we come back feeling, well, worse. In the name of relaxation, we might lay around on that beach lounger all week, eat our way through the buffets or enjoy a few too many all-inclusive cocktails. 

Layer on the stress of any itinerary changes and air travel itself, and we come home feeling like we need a vacation from our vacation. Sound familiar?

What if instead, you could travel somewhere beautiful, eat gourmet fare, indulge in spa treatments and drop some weight along the way? You can, with a vacation focused on you and your health.

Weight loss retreats help guests shape up by cultivating better habits, movement, relaxation and conscious eating, typically in stunning, relaxing locales.

To help you decide if a vacation centered around weight loss might be right for you, and save you from disappointment, we went to the experts for answers. 

Meet Diana Stobo, Founder and Owner of The Retreat Costa Rica, Sue Glasscock, Co-founder of The Ranch Malibu and Jessica Brantley, SVP Programs and Reservations at Hilton Head Health.

Here’s what they had to say on choosing the right weight loss retreat for you, what to expect and how to prepare—followed by our top picks.


Choosing a Weight Loss Retreat: What Are the Top Considerations?

Sue Glasscock, The Ranch Malibu:

As we are hopefully entering a post-Covid world or at the very least turning the corner, people are much more conscious of their overall mental and physical health and that is certainly being reflected in demand for a program like ours, with many guests opting for multi-week stays. When choosing a program that’s right for you, a few things to consider would be:​

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your stay? ​If you are looking to maximize your results or jumpstart a path to better health with visible results, a no-options program like ours is an ideal destination. 

We choreograph every aspect of your stay. Daily activities, including 4 hours of hiking, afternoon fitness and yoga classes, are tailored to your fitness level and our plant-based diet promotes further detoxification and revitalization.

What is your ideal daily schedule? Do you want to be active all day long, opt-in and out of classes or balance your fitness program with pampering treatments?

How much attention do you want/how much interaction would you like with fellow guests? ​With a group size of 19 guests each week, we can offer personal attention and support throughout your stay. Additionally, our intimate environment lends itself to as much or as little group interaction as one desires.

Simply being around a small group of people also devoted to improving their health for the week offers a unique opportunity for bonding and support, with many guests making lifelong friends through our program. 

Jessica Brantley, Hilton Head Health:

Comfort level: Weight loss is a personal journey, and to be successful, you need to find a place that you feel comfortable in your own skin. You’ll be challenged both physically and mentally, and a “safe place” that allows you to confidently take on those challenges will leave you with the strength and self-assurance to continue your program post-retreat.

Realistic: Look for a program that provides a variety of physical activities.A bootcamp can be great for some, but for others could leave you feeling hopeless and defeated or even injured.

All fitness isn’t created equal and the goal is to increase your physical activity in a safe and fun way.Even elite athletes mix hardcore workouts with low-impact conditioning to aid in recovery and support their long-term goals. 

Sustainable: While detox diets have their benefits, finding a middle ground with a meal plan that’s healthy and sustainable is more important to long-term success with weight management.

Look for a retreat that helps you move to a healthy style of eating rather than a strict regimen that may be too challenging to keep up at home. 

Diana Stobo, The Retreat Costa Rica:

Diana Stabo

Any journey is emotional, but this is especially true with weight loss. The first few days can be hard, but stick with it and it will get easier.

In terms of length, longer stays are always better; if you can manage 10 days or more, it drives the changes home.

Is There a Best Diet or Approach to Food?

Diana Stobo, The Retreat Costa Rica:

At The Retreat, we have a base nutritional program that is highly personalized to each guest based on their overall evaluation. Some want to lose weight, while others are wanting to rid themselves of digestive issues, parasites or candida.

We find out your desires and work to that. For example, we would serve fruits and smoothies if you wanted to lose weight, but not to those dealing with candida.

We monitor how you are feeling throughout, and the chef is involved as well. We have an open kitchen—you can watch, ask questions; it’s a cozy environment. This is not about shaming or restriction, as rigidity can actually be a barrier to weight loss.

Our approach is “clean and light.” It’s worth noting that many of our guests do not lose all the weight while here. The anti-inflammatory diet causes cells to shrink, and they will find that their clothes feel loose, but their weight is the same and then lowers after returning home.

Sue Glasscock, The Ranch Malibu:

We are a plant-based program, with many of our ingredients coming directly from our 3-acre on-site CCOF, certified organic garden.

Our daily menu features the finest fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, legumes and seeds while excluding alcohol, caffeine, dairy, soy, processed sugars, diet sweeteners and gluten to aid in the cleansing and revitalization process.

Jessica Brantley, Hilton Head Health:

Hilton Head Health follows a Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, nuts and seeds.We also support vegetarian and vegan eating styles. 

How Important Is Mindset To Weight Loss?

Jessica Brantley, Hilton Head Health:

Mindset is EVERYTHING when it comes to long-term success with weight loss and weight maintenance. It’s more than just being “on” or “off”—it’s acknowledging slips without beating yourself up.

It’s a choice to do something good for your body instead of self-sabotage and reframing your thoughts to point to good food/habits/choices versus quick/mindless/cravings.

Sue Glasscock, The Ranch Malibu:

Like anything, your mindset is incredibly important in how you experience things and in garnering results.

Once you’ve made a commitment to make a change, whether that’s weight loss or something else, I would suggest writing down that goal and being specific about what you want to achieve, why it is important to you and how you want to feel in accomplishing it.

Regardless of the goal, this list will serve as a wonderful reminder of your intention​. This way if you get off track, you can revisit your list to help steer you back on course.

The important thing is to not get stuck dwelling on that one cookie you ate or a workout you missed, but instead rejoicing in all of the healthy things you’ve done on a consistent basis that are leading you towards your goals.

Part of this is watching your internal dialogue and speaking to yourself as you would a loved one or child with supportive and encouraging thoughts.

Diana Stobo, The Retreat Costa Rica:

The emotional part is so huge— mind and body are not separate. Here, we are on a crystal mountain. The energy is palpable, it’s a tangible experience. Combined with Costa Rican mentality, guests find their troubles literally fall by the wayside. You have to be willing to surrender. 

How Should Guests Expect To Prepare For Their Weight Loss Retreat?

Sue Glasscock, The Ranch Malibu:

Upon booking, we provide our guests with a 30-day pre-arrival program to follow, which includes a week-by-week plan of changes they should make to their diet, fitness and mindfulness practices so they are ready for their Ranch week!

Those that follow our recommendations will often see results before their stay and experience more profound results while in our program. 

Jessica Brantley, Hilton Head Health:

My number one suggestion is to clean out your refrigerator and pantry before coming to your retreat. Your positive outlook and new inspiration for healthy eating will compel you to make wise choices on your first trip back to the grocery store. 

And if you’ll be headed straight back to work, make sure you leave a pair of exercise clothes clean and ready for you when you return. Start off on the right foot by being prepared for your activity.

What About After the Weight Loss Retreat / At Home?

Jessica Brantley, Hilton Head Health:

Hilton Head Health offers an On-Demand subscription service that gives guests access to many 30-minute workout routines, video recipes, and short tips from our experts to keep you on your plan to success. 

Sue Glasscock, The Ranch Malibu:

Yes, our Integrative Health Consultant is available during the guest’s stay with any questions they may have, as well as following their visit. She can create at-home programs for those that are interested.

We also send all of our alumni regular newsletters which features recipes and workout advice to encourage healthy habits at home. 

What Makes Your Property Stand Out Among Weight Loss Retreats?

Diana Stobo, The Retreat Costa Rica:

The staff just listen. They don’t fix. They let people voice their troubles, and support the inner work they are doing. Sometimes we just want someone to listen, really listen, to us. Plus, being in nature is so healing. You get this feeling, THIS is what life can be like!

If you feel overwhelmed or hopeless, remember it is baby steps, especially as we age. We all have a set point, so it’s about finding your homeostasis and being patient and consistent. And have fun. Be happy. 

Surrender the frustration – and allow your body to fall into a place where it’s relaxed and comfortable. Love yourself, no matter what. 

Diana Stobo

Jessica Brantley, Hilton Head Health:

The environment at Hilton Head Health is unmatched. The genuine care that’s poured out from the staff, along with the community of guests that support each other from the first meal through the last workout makes the experience so much more than a first-time guest ever imagined.

This support creates the confidence and inspiration needed to create lasting change. 

Sue Glasscock, The Ranch Malibu:

Our results-oriented, no options approach in an incredibly intimate setting with just 19 guests each week. Guests participate in an active daily schedule and enjoy a delicious and detoxifying plant-based cuisine knowing they will earn and depart with results.

This includes noticeable physical and mental changes like loss of pounds and inches and increased mental clarity. Many even make permanent and meaningful shifts in their health following a stay with us, breaking long-ingrained habits like poor nutrition, lack of exercise and even smoking cessation. 


Vacayou’s Top Picks for Weight Loss Retreats

BodyHoliday

Saint Lucia

A classic contender in the weight loss vacation category, The Body Holiday has been doing this for over 20 years, back when a spa in a hotel was uncommon and wellness centers were thought cult-like.

BodyHoliday blasted the notion of a “Fat Farm” out of the water and has gone on to win many industry awards. Here you can expect to be busy with a range of fitness activities and classes, personal training and rejuvenating spa treatments and set realistic goals that can come home with you.

Canyon Ranch Lenox

Lenox, MA

Begin your own path to your healthiest weight with a team of highly skilled professionals. From physician consultations to body composition screenings and personalized workout plans designed by an exercise physiologist, you’re in good hands in this nurturing environment.

At Canyon Ranch, you can transform your relationship with food and gain a better understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection to weight. You’ll dine on innovative, plant-based cuisine and take the know-how to recreate the recipes home with you.

The Live Your Healthy Weight Pathway in Lenox will guide you toward your intentions in the beautiful and idyllic Berkshires, where gracious accommodations welcome you with the luxury and charm you’d expect from this renowned resort. 

Centered Fitness Wellness Retreat

Utah, USA

This all-inclusive, boutique fitness retreat focuses on improving the complete person that you are; honoring where you’ve come from and where you are headed physically, mentally, and emotionally with a paramount goal to create lasting and sustainable change.

In their Transformational Fitness Retreat, you’ll jump into a one-week program and hit the reset button on life. You will establish a baseline, set goals centered on lifelong wellness and be equipped with the resources to start making those changes. 

Your transformation doesn’t end after your stay, as you’ll benefit from one of the best at-home aftercare programs in the nation. Experts teach you how to live out your healthy lifestyle in your home and stay connected with you to make sure those healthy habits stick.

Eupepsia Wellness Center

Virginia, USA

Begin your journey to reclaim your healthy weight and achieve transformation in the Appalachian Mountains to leave not only lighter and revitalized but also empowered with a deeper understanding of your body’s response to weight gain and weight loss triggers. 

Eupepsia focuses on eliminating toxins and building tissue through gentle fitness activities and clean food programs combining advanced health screenings with traditional and progressive therapies, fresh vegetarian farm-to-table food and Ayurveda science and philosophy. 

Using the latest research on bio-individuality and personalized weight management, their Transformative Weight Management Retreat is designed to help people understand how they can achieve the right weight for their body type that they can sustain in the long run.

Grail Springs Health & Wellness Centre

Ontario, Canada

Located on one hundred acres of forested trails, this awe-inspiring sanctuary believes that weight gain, weight loss or any other health ailment occurs when something we are doing is out of balance.

Their holistic program serves as a guideline for living a permanent healthy lifestyle, with quiet time for inner reflection combined with delicious PH (acid/alkaline) balance meals and treatments designed to rid the body of toxins and bring balance to our lives.

Hilton Head Health Wellness Resort

South Carolina, USA

Jumpstart your weight loss with Hilton Head Health’s proven program for creating your ideal weight loss strategy with a focus on fitness, nutrition and goal-oriented transformation. 

Here, you’ll have the opportunity to take on Beach Boot Camp, Broad Creek Kayaking and Pinckney Island Bike Rides, eat an individually tailored meal plan and focus on lowering stress and increasing your sense of life fulfillment.

H3’s all-inclusive Jumpstart Weight Loss Retreat will spoil you with inspiring healthy menus, award-winning spa services at The Indigo Spa and comfortable accommodations plus fitness classes, gourmet cooking demonstrations and wellness lectures.

Rancho La Puerta

Baja California, Mexico

This world-renowned fitness and destination spa retreat in the mountains of Baja California offers guests a rejuvenating week in mind, body and spirit. 

Challenge your body each day in fitness classes and trek majestic mountain trails while enjoying meals procured directly from their own organic farm. Join sessions on the latest in health, psychology, culture and cuisine. Learn how to bring peacefulness to your daily life through meditation. 

Skyterra Wellness Retreat

North Carolina, USA

Discover enriching, health-promoting activities in the peaceful Blue Ridge Mountains. Hike to waterfalls, practice yoga, learn the power of meditation and focus on fitness of all kinds to be the change that gets you back on track.

Whether you choose to spend most of your time on the trails, on the mat or simply in reflection, your time at Skyterra can be whatever you want it to be and your personal needs will always be met.

Their Holistic Wellness: Fitness, Mindfulness & Nutrition Retreat puts you on the path to achieving your goals. Whether you’re enhancing your quality of life through fitness, nutrition, stress management, meditation or all the above, here you can unplug and regroup so your healthy new chapter can begin.

The Ranch Malibu

California, USA

At this award-winning fitness and weight loss retreat and ranch, optimal health and long-lasting results are considered the ultimate luxuries. Their intense fitness and wellness regimens pair with a highly structured, plant-based nutritional diet to put you on the road to balanced and healthy living.

Specialized programs focus on meeting fitness, nutrition, weight loss and detox goals with The Ranch dedicated to creating a safe place for personal awareness and transformation.

Through a guided fitness regime, wellness support and properly calibrated nutrition, the immersive Luxury All-inclusive Fitness Retreat allows guests to detoxify their bodies in a healthy, sustainable way—all while getting back to basics in nature.

The Retreat Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Relaunched 5 years ago, this intimate resort and spa sits atop quartz crystal mountain with a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean. Here, guests can escape the chaos of everyday life to still the mind and inspire the soul, leading to lasting change. 

Featuring farm-to-table cuisine, Ayurvedic consultations, a healing center and garden-to-spa treatments, their detox retreats are highly personalized. Mindfully designed to strengthen, nourish and renew, you leave empowered with the knowledge for long-lasting results.

Their famous Naked Challenge​ Signature Detox Retreat, developed by detox expert and Retreat Owner, Diana Stobo, will teach how to be your best self through four guiding principles: an anti-inflammatory diet; gentle movement; mental and emotional support; and human connection, cultural involvement and empowerment.

YO1 Health Resort

New York, USA

No matter where you are on your weight loss journey, you will find YO1 Health Resort to be a place of renewal and exploration. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Catskill Mountains, you will receive natural therapies and nutritional guidance that will help you safely reduce your weight gradually. 

On their Holistic Weight Loss Retreat, explore how Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Yoga, and Acupuncture can be incorporated into your weight loss journey for longevity and wellness beyond your stay.

With gentle guidance and mentorship from YO1’s world-class wellness counselors, you will follow a customized, holistic pathway that addresses the root causes of your health concerns for vitality and self-healing.


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