Traveling to an exotic destination, lounging on the beach, sipping fruity cocktails and sampling local cuisine sounds like a great vacation, right? It may also be a recipe for weight gain.
Researchers at the University of Georgia found the average American gains one pound on their annual vacations. It might not seem like much, but vacation weight can add up over time, increasing your risk of certain health issues.
“So many of my clients come back from trips stressed out and needing to work on their ‘vacation weight,’” says Rachel Browning, celebrity personal trainer and yoga instructor. “They feel self-conscious and, more than anything, they feel guilty that they over-indulged.”
If you want to lose — not gain — weight on your next vacation and learn healthy habits such as preparing nutritious meals or incorporating exercise into your routine, a weight-loss retreat might be a good option.
The options for weight-loss retreats range from beach boot camps and mountain wellness spas to active travel adventures.
To pick the best weight-loss vacation for your personality and fitness goals, follow these tips:
CONTEMPLATE THE SETTING
Love the beach? Sign up for surf camp. Hate bugs? Skip the wilderness camping retreat.
The destination is a big part of the resort experience and Brooklyn-based personal trainer Annette Lang, owner of Annette Lang Education Systems, believes picking a destination or setting that matches your personality leads to a more enjoyable experience.
EVALUATE THE PROGRAM
No two programs are alike. Look for offerings that reflect what you most want to learn. If your goal is to adopt a healthier diet, look for a retreat that offers cooking classes and nutrition education. Or, if fitness is your focus, choose a retreat with lots of different active activities.
“I’ve seen people come to these resorts, drop a bunch of weight over a week or two period and then gain it all back within a few weeks once they get home,” says Browning. “Most people can’t have a private chef and nutritionist feed them all their meals and work out three times a day so find a program that teaches you meal prep and how to workout a sustainable amount of time.”
READ THE REVIEWS
Search potential retreats on sites like TripAdvisor and Reviews.com to get unbiased reviews from previous guests. You’ll learn about the food, fitness classes, leisure activities and add-on services such as tours and spa treatments before booking.
“A quick internet search can tell you a lot,” Browning says.
A few negative reviews are normal — what one guest calls out as a travel injustice might not phase you at all — but a glut of one- and two-star reviews are a good reason to pick a different resort.
WATCH FOR RED FLAGS
Before booking a retreat, read the website, including bios of the leadership team and staff. Nutritionists and trainers should be certified and have experience in science-backed approaches to weight loss. If there is no mention of the staff or their credentials, call the retreat center and ask.
Look for red flags such as “lose weight quick” promises that seem too good to be true. “If someone claims you can lose 30 pounds in a week and keep it off or have six-pack guaranteed by the end of the vacation, stay away,” says Browning.
CONSIDER A DIY APPROACH
You might not need a formal weight-loss retreat to achieve results.
Many vacations such as hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a pilgrimage to the shrines in Japan and snorkeling around the Great Barrier Reef, incorporate physical activities that will burn calories. A travel partner can help keep you motivated to make healthy food choices, too.
“The self-reflection that it invites could perhaps better inspire you than organized programs,” says Lang.
Even though a weight-loss retreat might involve counting calories and morning hikes, it should also be an amazing opportunity to explore a new destination, try new activities and eat delicious (healthy) meals.
Hopefully, at the end of the trip, the number on the scale will be lower than when you arrived — as long as you did your due diligence to choose the right weight-loss vacation for your needs.
“Knowing yourself, and being honest about what your fears and desires are can help you attain and maintain results,” Lang says.