I still remember when Oprah took 60 women to Miraval near Tucson. It was a getaway for women who had given so much of themselves to others, and it was funny, educational and inspiring. But Dr. Oz's show went in another direction, and I didn't like it.
Dr. Oz's show started in the studio, where a group of 50 women identified the "emotional baggage" that was keeping them from leading healthy lives. One woman feared change because her high school sweetheart was killed in a car accident when she moved to another town. In her mind, change means loss and tragedy. Another woman drank wine as a stress reliever, and feared becoming a failure like her alcoholic mother. Another woman with a "food addiction" was so out of shape and overweight she couldn't play with her son. These are serious issues, with deep, deep roots.
But Valorie Burton, a "Certified Personal and Executive Coach" (i.e., no psychological training whatsoever) gave them her quick RX for overcoming emotional baggage:
- Picture the destination -- where you want to be
- Recognize that fear is not a stop sign
- Validate your emotions
- Repack your baggage
Dr. Oz talked about the physical stresses of having emotional baggage. Then everyone was off to Miraval for two days to get rid of it by learning how to "get comfortable with being uncomfortable."
The show did offer a taste for what the destination spa experience can offer: a yoga class, an individual Pilates session, an individual Chi Gong session, hiking through beautiful scenery, or bonding with people you just met. And I did like that Dr. Oz took on his own, obviously very genuine, fear of heights. But there, nothing seemed to draw the cameras so much as someone who was about to cry.
If the woman had sunglasses on, Dr. Oz reached in gently, almost like a lover, and took them off. The first time he at least gave the woman a hug, but the second time, it was obvious that it was just to give the camera a better look. Her eyes darted back and forth, like she'd been stripped of her protection and was looking for a way out.
With its Challenge Course, Miraval is a great place to confront your fears and experience team-building. But I didn't like the emphasis on some sort of easy fix for these serious issues. The woman with the "food addiction" was too heavy and weak to make it over a wall on the Low Ropes course, where other people help you from below and above to make it over. On day one, she couldn't make it up even with a pulley system and was hospitalized for dehydration. The next day, with greatly enhanced equipment that did most of the work, she made it over. I'm impressed that she was brave enough to try it again after her trip to the hospital. It's something to hold onto, and be proud of. But she said, "If I can get over that wall, I can do anything." And I'm not sure it's really the same thing as dealing with a food addiction.
I wish the show had highlighted the incredible staff that Miraval has that really CAN help you with different emotional and behavioral issues -- a therapist, a nutritionist, a trauma specialist. But the easy-peasy, four-step approach this show featured sets up unrealistic expectations. Will these women feel like failures when they get home and keeping overeating, smoking, drinking too much wine? You can't really change these old patterns in two days, or even "get the tools" to take home. Destination spas really can help people get healthier, physically and emotionally. But with issues as serious as these you need more than two days, and ongoing support at home.