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What I Learned at the Spa

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Recently I was lucky enough to spend a week at a very nice destination spa. Though body "treatments" were available, the emphasis was on a wide range of exercise options and healthy eating and cooking rather than lounging in mud or wrapping up like a seaweed burrito. I went for a more active experience, and that's what I got.

My purpose for going there was to have a warm-weather break and to spend quality time with my companion, and I definitely got those, but what I wasn't expecting was a major diet and attitude reset. For a week, menus, shopping, cooking, and cleanup were out of my hands, and all I had to do was choose exercise and leisure activities, and show up at the table 3 times a day. Meals were in the hands of talented experts, and they were fabulous, yet fabulously healthy. After a week, I noticed a few things:

--My taste for sweet stuff got reset. Yes, there were desserts at dinner, but the portions were small, and mainly sweetened with agave. By the end of the week, a piece of chocolate somebody gave me wasn't all that appealing (was this really ME??) and I ended up bringing it home and giving it to someone else.

--My taste for salt got reset. I had thought I lived a pretty low-sodium existence, but was amazed after a Chinese meal back home when the soy sauce seemed unpleasantly salty and my body blew up with water retention.

--You can have vegetables at any meal. Even breakfast. Rice and steamed vegetables were always a breakfast buffet option. You can have them with savory instead of sweet oatmeal. You can pile them on an egg.

--You need adequate protein when you're active, but this can be some beans on your salad or a yoghurt drink, not necessarily a hunk of chicken or steak.

--You can eat flowers (if they're grown organically). Calendula petals are a beautiful garnish.

--Relaxation is an important component of exercise. I discovered the "stretch and relax" class was the perfect ending for an active day.

I was an altered person when I returned to the "real" world. It started at the airport, where all the food offerings were highly processed items full of empty calories, sugar, and salt. Eventually I found a fresh fruit salad, but it took some searching. I now approach meal planning with the phrase, "what would the spa serve?" We have more vegetarian dinners, more vegetable ingredients, and I keep a better supply of fresh fruit for snacks. There's dried fruit (in limited amounts) in the car for when the munchies strike.

And the result so far has been a restart on my weight loss. Slow, steady, sustainable.

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