A Holistic Approach to Weight Loss

Two Weeks at Green Mountain Spa
Tai Chi on the lawn of Green Mountain at Fox Run. Photo: Green Mountain

Every year I set goals for myself in the different areas of my life. I write down two or three specific accomplishments that I want to achieve for my business, for my family and for myself. It’s a way of preventing myself from just muddling along.

Improving my health and losing weight are always on that list, but while I always make progress on my other goals, for the past ten years I have pretty much just maintained a status quo when it comes to my physical health and my weight. I lose some, gain some, lose some, gain some…you know the drill.

Last year I was determined that it would be different and so decided to get a jump start on weight loss by going to a health and weight loss spa. There were lots of options -- from the very expensive like Canyon Ranch which has gourmet food and lots of pampering beauty services, to the Biggest Loser operations that give you a boot-camp type of experience. But when I came across Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont, I felt it was a perfect fit.

First, it is not too far away from DC. Second, it is for women only and I knew I would be much more comfortable in a single-sex environment. And finally, I really liked the philosophy: “A safe and welcoming place…where, with other like-minded women, you can discover how to transform your thinking, stop overeating, move more confidently, and begin your journey to a healthy weight.”

My colleagues at work rallied round to cover my duties and on April 15, I took the train to Ludlow, Vermont to begin my two week stay.

Intro to Green Mountain

The recommended Green Mountain experience is four weeks. During the first week they immerse you in the philosophy and the next three weeks are given to practicing the concepts and refining your understanding of them. So with a two week stay, I would get the concepts and have a week of practice.

Sunday is entry day. No programming is planned save the introductory information session after dinner. Monday starts the program. But this Sunday evening is great because I get to meet the women who will be with me for the next two weeks. They are from all over: Vancouver, Seattle, Minneapolis, Texas, Boston, Chicago, New York. There is a lawyer, a makeup artist, Mennonite volunteer, art therapist, LA talent agency rep. And we are ages 26-67 in this group, but mostly in the 40-60 age range. Regardless of age or where we come from, as we talk over that first dinner, we bond over our shared goals and past difficulties in losing weight and getting healthy.

We keep saying this to each other in different ways, “We know we can’t keep dieting, but we don’t know what else to do. We need a way of living healthily, but we don’t trust ourselves to do it. We know we got here by over-indulging, so isn’t the answer to starve ourselves, or just find the diet that will work?”

And what’s great about most women in groups is that they talk. In the same way that you can spill your guts to someone in the next airplane seat who you will never see again, we could do the same. In two to three days, we knew about each others’ family issues, husband problems, financial woes, eating disorders, anticipated life trajectories, etc. That sharing built an empathy and a kind and caring environment.

Water aerobics at a nearby resort is just one of 20 or so exercise choices available throughout the week. Photo: Green Mountain

Water aerobics at a nearby resort is just one of 20 or so exercise choices available throughout the week. Photo: Green Mountain

The Plan

Every morning starts with an exercise class at 7 a.m. if you want to participate. There are no mandatory exercise classes, but the behavioral classes are, if not mandatory, strongly encouraged. The exercise classes are scheduled throughout the day: weight training, yoga, Zumba, Nia, aerobics, water aerobics, etc.

Interspersed are the behavioral classes: Making Change Happen which focuses on breaking down big amorphous goals (lose 50 lbs) into small, doable steps; Mindful Eating is being aware of what you eat, what your body needs and really connecting with your level of hunger. Body Positivity is sustaining the change when you go home, not committing to change too soon, so that you don’t fail yet again. There are two psychologists giving the sessions on modifying eating and health behavior, as well as nutritionists and fitness experts. All of these personnel are available for individual consultations for an extra fee.

Meals are at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. every day. The daily calorie count is about 1500, but you can always get more salad, or veggies. There’s no alcohol served or allowed at the facility. The breakfast and lunch are buffet and dinner is served at tables of four. The food was really good. Not gourmet, but well-cooked, full of flavor, substantial portions. I looked forward to the meals and to getting together with the others. That dining connection was big part of what I enjoyed every day.

In the afternoon (weather permitting) there is usually a two-three mile hike along fairly flat trails. You can go at your own pace. There is always a trainer to go with those who are slower. There was one woman in my group who could barely walk when she came, but by the time she left she was hiking with us--slowly but doing it. It was great to see and we all applauded her.

After dinner there is some programming: movies, games or you can just watch TV with others or go to sleep.

What Did I Take Away

On the train going home, I sat down with a split of wine and an Italian sub (so much for lasting change) to go over all I’d learned. I had exercised 11 out of the 14 days, some days four exercise classes, most at least two. That was a terrific discovery--I can still move and I enjoyed it!

he meals are nutritious and delicious for the most part and average 1500 calories a day. Photo: Green Mountain

The meals are nutritious and delicious for the most part and average 1500 calories a day. Photo: Green Mountain

But the four biggest take-aways for me were:

  1. Mindful eating. Actually assessing if I’m hungry and how hungry I am before I eat. This seems simplistic, but it’s really powerful, at least for me. Just stopping to say, “Am I still hungry,” can make me put down my fork.

  2. Something is better than nothing. So you promised yourself you would walk three miles, four days a week, and you do it twice a week. Don’t beat yourself up, or worse, just stop because you can’t sustain what you have committed to.

  3. Most important lesson was a reminder of something my friend Susan Vallon said years ago: Think about what it will take to make you successful. She said, “I don’t have the discipline to walk on my own, so I get walking partners. I’m not going to disappoint my friend waiting for me at 7 a.m. in the morning for me to join her for our walk.” She hired a trainer to come to her house twice a week and split the cost with a friend. You can bet she doesn’t miss a session.

  4. Don’t keep postponing life and things you want to do until you are a certain weight. As one of the behavioral psychologists Darla Breckinridge said, “What if it doesn’t happen? What if you don’t lose weight? Are you just going to give up on the things you want to do?

  5. “Change Your Words, Change Your Mind.” This was a mantra at Green Mountain. So many of us keep saying, “I can’t do this, I just get stuck, I don’t have motivation. I don’t have the discipline” Green Mountain teaches you to reframe this, to say “I moving ahead one step at a time. Every day I’m taking a step toward a healthier me.”

The Result

So did I lose weight? Yes, I did. Not as much as I hoped for (this was not “The Biggest Loser”), but I lost 12 inches in body measurement, and I was really happy with that, as well as increasing flexibility and balance by really impressive amounts. And I’ve kept the weight off and lost five more pounds for the year. It’s not a great triumph if weight loss alone was the goal. But I feel much better about myself and about my ability to change, albeit slowly. And I may go back this year for a “refresher” week just to keep things going.

For information on Green Mountain at Fox Run, go to www.fitwoman.com


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