Cleansing and raw foods may seem like a strange thing to take on during the holidays, but I've just signed up for local classes taught by Hillary Thing, licensed acupuncturist and detox guide, and Holly Shelowitz, a culinary nutrition counselor.
Why now? It will be a good antidote to the lure of traditional holiday bingeing, a path I do not want to take. I am also in need of some serious healing. Ever since a trauma 17 months ago I have been low energy and easily fatigued. I've gained weight. I am just now getting the strength back to do something like this class, which I hope will inspire me to make changes to restore my health.
Being a spa person is more than just running off to exotic locales and getting regular massages. It means committing to your own health and looking for the people, practices and tools that support it. Spas are one place to learn and improve your health, but I keep a lookout for other ways. "In The Raw: The Holiday Edition" is just $150 for two three-hour teaching sessions.
"We're going to look at how to cleanse as part of a lifestyle as opposed to doing something like a liver flush, which is scary for most people." Hillary told me. "Short-term cleanses don't really do much if you don't change your lifestyle." Read More...
Starting today through Dec. 6, 2013, guests can book an all-inclusive 3-night Miraval stay for two and receive an extra $500 dollars in resort credits ($250 extra per person per stay).
This means instead of receiving the usual $450 per person credits towards spa treatments, consultations and other services, you receive $700 per person. Activities like Quantum Leap (photo) and Equine Experience, are included in this famous all-inclusive destination spa. (It's Oprah's favorite.) This offer is based on availability and for stay dates through April 30, 2014. Call 800-815-3949 to book your stay.
I received a lot of warm and loving comments from my story, A Spa Writer Cleans Up Her Act. Marion wrote, "Keep exercising and try to make healthy food choices but do not 'crucify' yourself. You need the comfort right now. And you are entitled to it."
I can report that I am taking better care of myself. I stopped drinking altogether some months ago (even two glasses was too much). I'm exercising a little every day, even if I'm not back up to my old routine. And I'm making headway with healthy eating, even if plateful of chocolate chip cookies turned my head recently.
Losing weight will be a challenge over the holidays, but I didn't gain five pounds on Thanksgiving Day. There was one slip. After a week of not smoking I bought another pack of American Spirit cigarettes. So I have a way to go until I'm back into my spa lifestyle.
But I was so touched by the understanding I found from my readers. Susie Ellis, CEO of Global Spa and Wellness Summit, wrote, "Thank you so much for sharing your personal struggle...it resonated with me. The loss of your brother is so horrendous and unique that I am sure few of us can relate to that tragedy specifically, however I am sure most of us can relate to emotional eating, drinking, cigarettes or any number of other habits that help us cope with challenges.
"Those of us in the spa world deal with people who struggle with temptations all the time. I have often thought how refreshing and perhaps healing it would be for us to share where we are vulnerable as it seems like admitting a problem is a step in the right direction. Don't they say 'a burden shared is half a burden'? So thank you for getting the conversation started.
"My Achilles heel is things that are sweet. In particular vanilla Haagen Daz ice cream which I love so much, I can actually eat an entire pint by myself. I have banned it
Ready to shop for the holidays? About.com readers can get 15%-off a Spa & Wellness gift card. A $100 card costs you just $85, a $50 card just $42.50. These are valid year-round at more than 7,500 spas and never expire, so buy as many as you want -- four $50 cards are just $170. You can also have them emailed to you, so there's no shipping charge and you have them instantly. Read more about buying spa gift certificates.
I have heard about the benefits of gratitude journals for years, and even tried to keep them. But somehow my gratitude journals lacked freshness and conviction. I would say the same things over and over, and my efforts would quickly fizzle out.
But I just received a beautiful email from Hillary Thing, a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist who practices in Accord, New York, near where I live in the Hudson Valley. She has a fresh take on gratitude that I find appealing. First, there's no mention of a journal. "Gratitude is an expression of love," she writes, "and gratitude that is not tied to conditions or expectations is most powerful," she writes.
Nothing is too small to be thankful for -- what you have, the beauty around you, the food you eat, and restorative sleep. There are many, many ways we can cultivate gratitude in our lives and become happier people.
But Hillary addresses the reality that our lives are often filled with pain. "Gratitude and forgiveness are two of the most powerful ways to respond to almost anything seemingly negative that might come up Read More...
Why do so many comedies about dysfunctional family take place at Thanksgiving and Christmas? I think it's because we have high expectations of the people we love -- and the reality of their shortcomings (and perhaps our own) makes us crazy.
Too many of us think the point of Thanksgiving is to overindulge. We end up feeling overstuffed, then ready to eat more. All the sugar and refined flour makes your insulin spike, and when it drops again, you're hungry again. And there are the leftovers, just waiting for you.
For many of us this sets off the beginning of an unhealthy eating and drinking cycle that lasts through the holiday parties, Read More...
Okay, so I'm trying to lose weight -- not the easiest thing to do as the holidays approach. I'm doing it using Weight Watchers, which emphasizes behavioral techniques, including tracking what you eat, examining your attitudes about food, and having a plan.
This is especially important at Thanksgiving -- our traditional kickoff date for six weeks of sanctioned excess, parties and gluttony that lasts through January 1. At that point we make resolutions, like losing weight and exercising more in the new year. It all seems a bit futile.
My hand shot up when the Weight Watchers leader asked, "Is Thanksgiving about the food?" Yes, I said. "It's the one day a year when we are sanctioned to eat everything we want -- the turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, hot rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie AND pecan pie." Of course, the leftovers might last three more days. And it gets you into a holiday mindset that says, "These are special treats! It's only once a year!" For six weeks.
We all have things we believe about ourselves, a self-image that more or less corresponds to who we are. "I'm at a healthy weight. I'm an exerciser. I take care of myself." Those of us who love spas are especially inclined to think of ourselves that way. And then suddenly we realize we're not that person anymore. Or I should say, I'm not that person anymore. At least not right now.
It can be for any number of reasons. In my case, the unthinkably tragic shooting death of my brother on July 14, 2012, lead to a rapid weight gain as I ate for comfort. I would have the french fries AND the hot fudge sundae. After the initial shock wore off and I returned home, my energy levels plummeted. My longtime exercise program of walking, yoga and strength training disappeared. I drank wine in the evening and zoned out on TV.
I realized I had fallen far from my ideals of living a healthy spa lifestyle, and that I needed to make some changes. It's not exactly starting from scratch, because I once had those healthy habits in place. But it's not easy, either. Read the full story.
What's a spa vacation without spa treatments? For one thing, it's more affordable. Red Mountain Essential Retreat, the most popular package at Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, starts at $185 per night (per person, double occupancy, midweek, through December 31, 2013. This is a great deal.
It includes everything you expect from a destination spa except the spa treatments. That means lovely accommodations, three healthy meals every day, morning guided hikes that range from leisurely strolls to fast uphill climbs, unlimited fitness classes, lectures and healthy living events, cooking demonstrations, and use of indoor & seasonal outdoor pools, bicycles, walking trails, strength & cardio studios. Spa treatments are still affordable -- $115 for a 50-minute massage, for instance.
I was lucky enough to spend almost a week in Stowe, Vermont, last May and found it to be a superb year-round spa destination. Centered on the idyllic New England village of Stowe, the mountainous region offers beautiful hikes in the summer, gorgeous fall foliage, and lots of fine dining and shopping. But ski season is coming up, and that's when Stowe hits its stride.
Mt Mansfield is Vermont's highest peak, and people have been going there to ski since the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cut the first trails on Mount Mansfield in 1933. Several resorts serve the area with excellent spas. They're all quite different in personality and style, and have something special to offer. Here are my picks for the best spas in Stowe, Vermont.