Learning New Ways…One Step at a Time


Saturday, June 5: I'm working my way through the maze at Miami International airport, after a three-and a-half hour (very bumpy) flight from New York, looking for the signs to point me toward the baggage claim, where I can retrieve my suitcase packed with workout gear and sun block.  And somehow all I see – and smell - are coffee shops. Help! I'm besieged by a winding maze of Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Caffe Versailles, Caribou Coffee, Coffee Beanery. It's tempting to stop and grab a cup (especially since I didn't have my usual morning cup), but I force myself to keep on walking. Instead, I inhale deeply, planting the scent in my nostrils, knowing that this is the closest I'll come to a cup of coffee all week.

I can’t wait.

I needed more than a vacation when I planned this one-week trip to Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa; I needed a body detox.

Anyone who is familiar with me knows that I tout moderation, non-deprivation, treating yourself to an occasional piece of chocolate (dark, naturally) and even a glass or two of wine. So why, you might ask, would I be voluntarily enlisting myself in this type of program?

When researching Pritikin for another publication, I was really impressed with what I found. The program, founded in 1978, has a loyal following. It immerses you in nutrition, exercise, health and lifestyle. Its participants not only lose a good deal of weight, but many times get off their blood pressure and diabetic medications and see dramatic improvements in their cholesterol.

And somewhere between ages 40 and 50, my "naturally thin" status had done an abrupt about-face. What had worked for me for years was no longer working. Despite my healthy diet and lifestyle, the pounds were creeping up without provocation and my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were looking a bit threatening. My attempt at optimal health was being sidetracked with each birthday, it seemed.

Maybe I was to blame; maybe I was doing something wrong. Despite being health-conscious and even being a health writer, I was feeling increasingly frustrated and naïve.

It was time to learn a new way.

Are you crazy? (my husband).

No, I really want to go. (me).

And eat nothing but vegetables and fruits? What about your coffee? What about your dessert? (I do have a pretty powerful sweet tooth)

You know that's how I like to eat, anyway. I'm willing to give up the coffee for a week and see how it goes. I can do it! I have willpower! And I know for a fact that they serve dessert. In fact, food is always available. It's just the right kind of food.

Sunday, June 6. I woke up early this morning and had to pee into a cup, then transfer it into a test tube. I was to bring it with me to the lab, where I would have blood drawn. Since I was concentrating so hard at not spilling a drop, I forgot all about the coffee (usually it's the first thing I reach for in the morning). 

So, I got through my first day without the caffeine or salt. The morning yoga was heavenly. The food? It was tasty and satisfying. I even stayed alert and awake enough to conquer a late-afternoon workout in the gym, followed by dinner with some very interesting dining companions. Stories of return "tune ups," pounds lost, health restored. And I never knew I liked pumpkin pie so much. 

I think there's something to this.

The maze of wellness is going to be a lot easier to navigate than Miami International Airport, I'm quite sure of that.

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