February 20, 2015

Weight Loss Retreat: Do it Yourself!

Guest Post by Jan Bono

So lately Crabby has been paying good money to experience and review healthy resorts like Red Mountain, or alternatively, has been freeloading off of her spouse's employer at places like the JW Marriott Camelback in Scottsdale. Yet at least some readers must be muttering: well sure, sounds great, but WTF? Aren't there any cheaper options for sequestering yourself in an environment custom-designed to encourage healthy eating, vigorous activity, and personal growth?

Well leave it to Cranky Fitness contributor Jan Bono to provide a more creative suggestion! As you may recall, Jan has written “Back from Obesity: My 252-pound Weight-Loss Journey”, and you can learn more about her and her writings if you pop over and scroll down a bit on our Info page.)--Crabby

DIY Weight Loss Retreat

I met regularly with a counselor during the first two years of my 252-pound weight loss journey. After the first year, she suggested I attend an inpatient program. I balked.

Why spend money on a treatment center, then come home to the same old mindset, the same old “let’s celebrate with food” friends, the same old job challenges?

How much weight could a person actually lose in 30 days? It wasn’t like I could disappear from my home and responsibilities and come home slim and trim a couple weeks later. If that were the case, I’d have already gone.

But well aware that I was paying to listen to my counselor’s advice, I checked into the logistics of going to an overeating recovery center, just to humor her.

On the Internet, I got a rude awakening. While bulimia and anorexia are considered eating disorders, I could find very little information on treatment centers offering help for the compulsive overeater.

I found only two centers where my specific problem was addressed. On the multi-pages of information, no specific costs were listed, and when a restaurant doesn’t post its prices on the menu, one just knows it’s going to be expensive.

A very cordial woman answered the phone at a center in California, and she spent the next 20 minutes dancing all around my questions about money while she inquired about my insurance, my level of commitment, and my general health.

Finally, after much insistence on my part, she lowered the monetary boom. “Our 30-day program for compulsive overeaters is available for $1400 a day,” she said as matter-of-factly as if she were telling me the price of a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

“I’m sorry, I must not have heard you correctly. Did you say $1400 a day?”

“That is correct,” she replied, still without a trace of embarrassment. “If you’ll check out our website calendar, you’ll see that what we offer is 24-hour support and assistance in every facet of weight loss. If you want to get well and stay well, the money is irrelevant.”

Maybe it was irrelevant to her, but I was stunned. My math skills are very good, and I didn’t need a calculator to multiply $1400 times 30 days and come up with a whopping $42,000 for the treatment package, not including airfare!

“I just checked your insurance,” she continued as if I were still paying attention and had not succumbed to incapacitating shock, “and it pays a lifetime $20,000 for this type of program. You can contact them to make arrangements yourself, or we can do that for you when we officially sign you up. We have openings in two weeks, if that’s convenient to your schedule. We accept both VISA and MasterCard.”

My brain turned to mush; I couldn’t even think of a snappy comeback. “I’ll have to think some more about this,” I mumbled as I hung up.

Then it occurred to me I couldn’t afford any other plan than the one I’d been working on my own for the past year, and I resented not being able to get their professional help. I became angry at the entire health care system, and mad at the world for making my disease nothing more than a “for profit” business opportunity.

And when I get mad, I take action.

How dare they make me feel I couldn’t afford to go to their dumb old retreat center! I’ll show them, I vowed, and went back online to re-examine all the elements of their proposed program.

The sample weekly calendar for the institute listed individual counseling, small group counseling, larger support meetings, nutrition classes, a variety of exercise classes, and required readings, along with subsequent written homework, among their offerings.

My teacher training kicked in; my lesson plan was going to be a virtual low-fat, calorie-free, piece of cake.

But first I needed a safe haven for my self-created hiatus. I called my friend Steve, in Hailey, Idaho. “Can I come hang out at your place for a week or two?” I asked.

“You’re welcome to come and stay as long as you wish,” he instantly replied.

I briefly outlined my idea, and asked him to do a little local research for me, to which he again readily agreed.

On previous trips, I’d become familiar with every type of food available at every freeway exit between my house and Steve’s—every fast-food fix at every drive-thru window. It took a lot of determination for me to drive by all those “comfort stations,” even when I didn’t need any gas or a bathroom break.

When I arrived, Steve handed me a list of support groups in the area, along with their times and days and locations. He also had the schedule for the local swimming pool and information on water aerobics classes and introductory yoga.

We hauled box after box of magazines, books, cassettes and videotapes from my trunk to the house. I was a woman on a mission, and determined to make the most of my do-it-yourself retreat experience.

That first year, I stayed at Steve’s place for 11 days. I read dozens of fitness, nutrition, and cooking light magazines. I listened to inspirational cassette tapes from others who had lost weight, and gleaned important tidbits on how they now maintained a healthier lifestyle. I went to water aerobics class every morning, and exercised while watching a videotape every afternoon. After my evening meetings, Steve and I often went for walks together.

I did all the cooking while I was there—it was the least I could do for my rent-free room—and I tried out many new recipes I found during my afternoon reading time.

I wrote copiously in my journal, and attended every support group meeting within a 20-mile radius, whether I had that particular addiction or not. At 7 a.m., noon, and 7 p.m. I settled my butt in a chair and listened to others share their experience, strength, and hope.

During my 11-days in Hailey, I lost 6 pounds, but the weight loss was almost incidental to the lessons learned. My attitude, my outlook, and my commitment to my program was solidly restored. I came home feeling refreshed, and confident that I could continue with the step-by-step work I’d begun a year previous.

It was well worth the effort it took to coordinate cat-sitters, arrange to have the lawn mowed, the mail picked up, the indoor plants watered, and other day-to-day tasks taken care of by my incredibly supportive local friends.

Fifteen years have passed since that first DIY retreat, and each year I’ve saved $41,250, not accounting for inflation!

So would any of you consider creating your own DIY healthy retreat?


  1. I am so heavily scheduled that I use up all my vacation just getting done all the things people normally get done on their weekends. That sounds bad but actually I have all morning until 11AM every day at the gym and that is a real retreat for me with all the services and the experts right there and I wouldn't trade that in.

    1. I used to think that was my best use of time too, Cindy! I thought I had to use any "vacation" to dig myself out from under everything that had piled up for months. But then I discovered that it's not "SELF-ish" to practice good "SELF-care," and that if I didn't make the effort to refill my emotional/spiritual/physical well, I had little left to give others! My transformation 15 years ago was truly amazing, and every year since I come home totally re-energized! But hey, whatever works for you! Blessings, Jan 2, a.k.a. Windy McBeach

  2. Jan and Cranky,
    A great story! I can see the salesperson's face, either inured to shock, or maybe just in denial so she can tolerate her job. Those fees sound like skilled nursing facility rates!

    I'm solidly on the Do-It-Yourself side, but I can understand high fees to an extent. If you sell anything, you'll likely find out that many people don't take things seriously that seem too low-priced. Also, having spent a lot of money is a motivator for many people! "I spent a killion dollars on this, so I'm really a fool if I don't use it".

    There was that ROM machine from years ago that's the most expensive exercise machine available (maybe not true anymore!). I just looked at their website for laughs. It's laughable cheap (I'm in the web development business)! I would link to it, but there's an annoying pop-up, and I don't want to give them any extra help. I did think about what they had, and reasoned that I can exercise the same bodyparts in the same amount of time with zero gear in my own house. :)

    In any case, one can design one's own program for sure. One must be self-reliant, though, and not everyone is. As someone said, as long as we all get to the ocean, it doesn't matter what we did to get there.

    Thanks! Dave/Tabby

    1. Thank YOU, Dave/Tabby! Always appreciate the feedback, especially your reference to the saleswoman's face. I pictured her doing her nails while she talked to me on a headset. :-)

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, helenko! Much nicer to think of myself as frugal rather than cheap!

  4. My hermit tendencies would prevent me from paying a dollar to do the thing surrounded by strangers. Your way sounds much better.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. I had as much, or as little companionship as I chose, Solarity. Sometimes I walked along, sometimes I took my friend's dog, sometimes the neighbor accompanied me.

  5. Love this! So here are some haikus to complete the picture...

    High tech comfort spa
    chef's meals personal training
    year's worth of wages

    DYI Weight Loss
    head down, meal planning, no fun
    rewards? priceless!

    1. Fabulous, MissKimothy! Your poetry would be a great asset to anyone's picture! LOL

  6. Oh I love love love this idea! Makes SO MUCH SENSE. Thanks for sharing it :)

    Now I really want to try this...

    1. Go for it, Sagan! Add your own special touches and share! ... You could post ideas on my Facebook page, "Back from Onesity."

  7. What a great idea and probably you lost more than you would have paying a whopping fee!!

    1. What I did was something I could, and dud, maintain at home, Carol!

  8. This isn't a bad idea at all, there must be a better way for those of us with a lot less to spend. If health insurance will help cover it, that's great but nobody should be trying to make a killing off someone who is merely trying to make a better life for themselves.

    1. Even 50% of $42,000 was way, way, waaaay out of my comfort zone! And they do say necessity is the mother of invention!

    2. I completely agree. It is ridiculous that someone could sleep at night taking advantage of people that are looking to make their lives better! If I paid that kind of money I better be getting a new car with my fitness program!

  9. Posted here very nice and useful blog on weight loss to stay fit forever, you have shared such a nice and useful things to stay health and fit.Keep updating your blog.

  10. The fact that you could plan it and do it on your own is probably related to your long term success. When I see people making resolutions for the future, or searching for the solution outside of themselves, I have a feeling they are looking for someone else to solve their problems. Never works. You looked to yourself for your solution, and you found it. I think that's the most important message you are offering here. So yes, your DIY idea sounds great, and I bet others who follow in your footsteps will also be amazed and delighted by their results!

    1. This is a really great point! The determination to plan this whole thing out also speaks volumes I think.

    2. Thanks, Death Ride and Outsmart... Determination, and being cheap, a.k.a. "Resourceful," were big factors, indeed, but here's another little tip: I git a cat sitter to take care of my pets FOR FREE if I stuck to my plan... Being accountable to someone motivates me to stay the course, and she offered her services to further my success. :-)

  11. I offer more daily tips and tools on my "Back from Obesity" Facebook page, if you'd like to check it out... And the links for my book by that name are up under the Info page here. Thanks!

  12. I think this sounds fabulous! Friends are much better than overpriced strangers. I may just do this myself. Hmm. . . Wonder if my best friend is up for a "retreat"?
    Congratulations on everything you've accomplished and thanks for all the inspiration!

    1. I have found in my experience as a personal trainer that having a friend always keeps you accountable and more likely to actually LOSE THE WEIGHT! There are tons of hurdles in the way keeping people from reaching their goals. Good luck in your future weight loss! Check out my website for more info.


  13. In order to reap the benefits from the intense exercise I recommend to my Fat Burning Furnace students, you must get adequate rest. I can’t stress this fact enough. In fact, rest is just as important, if not more important that the actual exercise.

    During the high intensity resistance exercise that my students perform, the muscles experience tiny injuries or tears. The body’s response is to adapt and repair, getting stronger and larger muscles, which of course leads to burning more fat and a leaner body.
    But this growth and repair process won’t take place if the body is not allowed the time to do its job. Too often, people rush back into the gym, as many have been inundated with the “more is better” axiom when it comes to exercise. But if we don’t get out of the body’s way and let it do its magic, we will experience poor results. We won't burn fat like we want to, and we will just end up demotivated or possibly give up our efforts altogether.

    If you don’t get enough rest or sleep, you’ll have a very difficult time building the fat-burning muscle that will transform your body. And you’ll also have a tough time burning fat off too! That’s why we can’t work out too long or too often when using a sufficient intensity level. When giving the body an intense stimulus, such as proper weight training, you can’t keep hammering it into the ground.

    If you did this, you’d quickly over train your muscles and negate your body’s ability to recover from exercise. Your immune system could become so worn down in fact, that you might even get sick…this happened to me a few times in the past when I wasn’t paying attention to getting adequate rest and sleep.
    Rest, Sleep, And Burn More Fat Fast


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