Hilton Head HealthJust show up and change your life. It really is that easy. We are constantly being told that we are an obese nation. Many of us have an idea of what it means to live a healthy, active lifestyle, but few of us know exactly where to begin. We are constantly bombarded with new studies, new diets, new exercise programs–and few of us know exactly how to get things going, let alone get the to changes stick. If overwhelmed by all the obstacles, what to do? Well, a few of us know exactly what to do. You see this was not my first visit to a wellness spa. Once you’ve made the choice of lasting changes, a fitness vacation could be exactly what you are looking for to revamp your eating habits and reenergize a sluggish or non-existent workout routine. One visit and you will understand how easy what it takes to be successful.

Hilton Head Health is located in a gorgous gated community in South Carolina.

Hilton Head Health is located in a gorgous gated community in South Carolina.

The Hilton Head Health vacation I took did reenergize my sluggish workouts, and did inspire me to not only eat right, but in the right portions. By vacationing in an environment that is completely focused on my well being, surrounded by like-minded guests and staff, one will definitely be successful while at the resort, but also be given the tools to continue on this daily journey of mindful living when returning home.

Enjoying some free time on Hilton Head beach.

Enjoying some free time on Hilton Head beach.

Each aspect of my health was addressed; mind, body and spirit. Let’s start with the confusing diet information. We hear low-carb, no carb, paleo, no dairy, vegan, gluten-free, detox, blood-type, South Beach…I could go on for hours. Hilton Head Health has been mastering this sea of trendy information for forty years, so they have the answer to this question, “Which diet?” I could not have been happier to hear it simplified in a way I could truly understand. It is a combination of calories in and calories out, but everyone wants to know exactly how much? Well the real answer is another question:  What are you willing to give up in order to live the life you would like to be living? Professional athletes train hard at a high level, and if you ask a person that has dedicated themselves to achieving success in athletics, they will tell you training, practice, coaching, and desire. Truth is we know what we need to do, eat less and exercise more, but finding the exact way to make it livable is the key. The actual answer is to stop dieting all together. Finding a way to build healthy habits into my life and my surroundings is setting myself up for success.  It might be small steps at first, but the consistency of pushing on, even thorough setbacks, is what makes people stop yo-yo dieting and maintain a healthy weight for life.

Bob Wright, Director of Education, has been part of the Hilton Head Health team for over 30 years. He holds a Master's Degree in education from the University of South Carolina.

Bob Wright, Director of Education, has been part of the Hilton Head Health team for over 30 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in education from the University of South Carolina.

I received coaching from some of the best thought-leaders in the weight loss industry. The combination of information that is useful along with daily activities that reinforced those new thoughts, were powerful. A perfect example hit me like a bolt of lightning while I was in the Live Well Portion Control class led by Bob Wright. Through his experience, keen insight, and great communication skills, he was able to help me understand how to read nutrition labels and understand what a portion actually looks like. He basically ruined my love for Mike and Ikes.  He spoke to us about how food is super-sized now. The movie theater-size box of candies that I love is basically all sugar (duh!).  He let me know that it would take walking to the movies 4.5 miles to and from, for a total walk of 9 miles, to burn the calories in that candy box! That was a real eye-opener for me. Bob urges you to ask yourself whether it is worth it.  He pointed out ways to win this battle. He did not say I could never eat my favoirite candy again. It really comes down to how much, how often, and what am I willing to do to get to my fitness goals. If going cold turkey on candy (or cocktails, ahem) is not one, then we need to look at the portion, frequency, remaking a recipe lighter and then look at the other side of the equation, exercising more. Can you actually walk to the movies to enjoy this candy? Apparently that box of Mike and Ikes has five days worth of our daily sugar allowance. Can I actually go five days and have a cheat day or is there another way to work with this want. He gave me some excellent strategies.

The exercise that was available was varied enough to please anyone at any fitness level. All classes could be modified to meet your fitness level, and multiple choices of classes were available at each class time. The structured days begin with a walk, led by an staff member, all of whom have advanced degrees along with fitness certifications. Taking a walk though the palm trees and large live oak trees thoughout the extensive pathways at the ShipYard Plantation was beautiful. I also chose to bike while I was there, as the private beach was less than two miles away. I chose to take some classes that I was not familiar with, like pool yoga. I was able to get a deep stretch and I found it much less challenging yoga on land, as I am a beginner. I also took a beach yoga class early one beautiful morning on Hilton Head Beach. Stand up paddleboarding is a new love of mine, and I took a guided trip out into a protected cove and worked on my form. All of these classes had me engaged and excited to be exercising.This comittment to great staff is why I believe Hilton Head Health wins top awards for wellness retreats.

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As a foodie, I was excited to take the cooking classes offered each day. I took a class called “Easy Freezy.” At first the idea of frozen food did not excite me, but I am more pumped about this class and what it can do for me at home than just about anything else. I love to cook, but I don’t love to plan. I would really just rather eat what suits me or my schedule on any given day. Well, apparently, I am not alone in this thinking. Chef Carrie spent time with me hands-on in a gorgeous kitchen practicing exactly the kind of skills I need to be successful. We learned which foods freeze well, how to prepare the proper portion, and label, mark, and store food.  So, if I am too tired to cook or short on time, I can just go to my freezer and pull out something I love and quickly reheat it. No more last-minute pizza calls for me! I learned how to make awesome, healthy pizzas that will be ready to heat and eat quickly.  I sharpened my knife-handling skills and learned shortcuts to save time. We also made pesto encrusted salmon, and chicken cordon blue. It was another light bulb moment for me. I cook anyway, why not just make a batch and freeze future meals? I guess I knew this all along, but actually showing me how to pick successful recipes that freeze well, measure and weigh real portions, and how to store and lable them really just made it easy for me to comprehend. By practicing these recipes in class, I know I can do it at home now, too. Another unexpected bonus:  I will no longer waste a giant bunch of herbs or not know what to do with my CSA, as I will be using them all at once when doing my meal prep day! Delicious food, less waste in my kitchen, and a smaller waist to boot.  I found this class very enlightening!

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With all the educational classes and fitness classes, there was still time to find a balance and enjoyment while on this program. Participants are encouraged to have some rocking chair time, spa treatments (I had three treatments in four days), and even take in some of the local sights. I enjoyed my morning meditation with Lisette Cifaldi. Lisette is a nutritional coach, licensed councilor, and a food addiction specialist. I began one morning with her leading a guided meditation and then attended a class she taught on finding motivation through spirituality. It was very interesting to me because no matter what religion you may practice, or none at all, she pointed out our need to be connected as a society. Her lecture crossed over into why people sometimes overeat to fill a void. I loved her talk about deepening our spiritual practices, and how that plays into our eating habits. Even if one is a hard core atheist, there is still a spiritual need, and she pointed out ways to feed it whether it was time in nature, volunteering, or philanthropy. All of which reminds us that there is something bigger than self and that this positive mindset feeds us spirituality.  As a meditation practitioner, the attention to the mindful aspect of eating was powerful to me.

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Each meal I ate in the True dining room just cemented all of the things I was learning in my classes. The meals were beautifully prepared in the right portions, and delicious. Sharing a meal at a table with others in the same program allowed for interesting conversations and insights into how all these wellness concepts work together in our lives. Creating a sensible environment at home begins with sensible meal planning, a meal prep time, and serving on right-sized dishes. The portioned meals with lots of flavor, but still low in salt, were easy to enjoy. I was never hungry and always satisfied with the selection of choices from the menu. Snacking was also addressed and a self-serve snack station helped me visualize exactly what I should stock at home, but also what a real portion looks like.

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My abbreviated trip to Hilton Head Health, just four days, yielded some impressive results! Sunday, my final morning, I was ready to put on some “real clothes” for my drive home. My roommate and fellow blogger Michelle Rogers @MRHealthyLiving and I wore comfy exercise clothes day and night for the duration of the vacation. I had to sprint to her room to show her what I thought was shocking, my “real shorts.”  You see, Michelle and I had attended all the classes, activities, and meals together through the week as bloggers, and when I showed her how baggy my shorts were we were both stunned! I really did not think I would see such noticeable results in a such a short time. “Wow”, is all I can say. Hilton Head Health reinforces the idea of a no scale (ok, maybe one in the kitchen for portions), no diet, healthy, active lifestyle.  Most guests take this wellness journey in two weeks to a month. Many choose a roommate to reduce costs, so sharing a cottage with Michelle was very much like a regular guest experience. Traveling and taking this journey alone is definitely not a problem, though. Guests were of all ages, marital status, and nationalities that participate in this program.  I was really surprised how many guests were return visitors at first, but again, once you figure out how easy it is to take a fitness vacation and see results, I am sure I will be back as well.  With this new information, I am totally motivated and know exactly what, where, when, and how I will be making better choices for the rest of my life. It was truly a transformational week for me.

Ok, it was really early, so ignore my hair! These shorts fit me perfectly the week before. I was shocked!

Ok, it was really early, so ignore my hair! These shorts fit me perfectly the week before. I was shocked!

No scale, just my regular shorts gave me something tangible to measure. I really was stunned.

No scale, just my regular shorts gave me something tangible to measure. I really was stunned.

This is a sponsored post. My thoughts and opinions are genuinely my own. I was a guest of Hilton Head Health, but received no direction on the writing of this post. I would like to thank Hilton Head Health for this life-changing opportunity and I look forward to sharing more of my wisdom gained over the stay in future wellness posts. Keep an eye on my resort recipes. I am already cooking differently, and I am excited to share these changes with you all. I would also like to thank my fellow blogger, Michelle Rogers Healthy living for all of her support during this fun week.