Restart your “Zengine” at Pritikin


Have you ever considered traveling to a health and wellness retreat? If so, you’re part of a larger trend. According to the Global Wellness Institute – a leading source for authoritative research in the wellness industry – the GWI predicts that the wellness economy will return to its robust growth rate, with an expected annual growth rate of 9.9% – and this includes wellness tourism — to nearly $7.0 trillion by 2025 People who want a healthy, wellness-filled, mindful lifestyle are now flocking to spas — especially post-Covid. Wellness tourism? I say come on!

I am one of those people who is always looking for more well-being in her life. For me it was time for a tweak. I exercise for about an hour every day and monitor my intake closely — but I wanted to lose a few pounds and also get a medical evaluation. I’m 67 and a size 44, but it’s hard to stay that way. My body would love to be a size 8, but that’s way too big for my tiny 5″3″ frame. (Everything I wear in life is designed to make me look taller — and thinner!) I’ve hit a plateau and losing just two pounds is really hard for me. I also wanted to experience soothing spa treatments, in short, I was looking for a luxurious spa destination that would include some medical testing in addition to a spiritual component. I discovered my Zen, while restarting with the engine – and my combined “Zengine” got a rocking restart.

I did it at the luxurious Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, and I’m here to tell you it was remarkable. By the sixth day (after taking no salt, sugar, or oil, mind you) I’d lost two pounds—I’d dropped to 111—and my stomach was completely flat. And I felt – and still feel – re-energized by life itself. Their motto is that they train people for everyday life – “to live long without pain,” as the lead dietitian told us in a slideshow on opening day. Pritikin’s mission and mantra is to eradicate disease.

I took advantage of the medical program, but you can opt for a simpler Lifestyle plan. Some people do indeed come for the medical assessment (more on that later) while their spouse/partner simply comes for the pampering Lifestyle program in a posh building.

The lifestyle programs include visits to the beach, learning how to eat out, going out with a nutritionist to a restaurant and grocery store, practicing ordering and reading labels, and a movie night with Pritikin-approved popcorn. Of course there is golf, tennis, spa and luxurious poolside lounging. Coming up soon is Adventure Week in March, with trips to the Everglades and kayaking. The estate consists of 800 acres, so there is plenty to do to relax and rejuvenate.

I highly recommend a stay at Pritikin. And I’m not the only one who thinks that way. Time and time again, the people I met there told me how much they loved the experience, and they even come back year after year.

Says Michael Malo – the CEO – “So many people come back to Pritikin – it’s a testament to the program. The second sale is not difficult at all.” And here’s what else he told me – apparently many guests come to Pritikin to work remotely, in a healing environment, they like the program so much – and they just pause for classes, lectures, spa treatments and meals!

Philip Elkus, 96 years young, whose wife Estelle told me he is in “great health,” attributes much of his long life to Pritikin. Mr. Elkus and his wife have visited Pritikin about 10 times over the last 40 years and he told me over the phone, “It has worked really well for us – it’s like going on a cruise ship, only you’re on land. And when you get home, you don’t have to lose the weight you gained on a cruise ship.” In fact, he added: “We actually prefer Pritikin to going on a cruise – it’s a better way to live. I am in the shape I am in thanks to Nathan Pritikin.”

The results speak for themselves. A peer-reviewed study (from Journal of Cardiac Rehabilitation) who looked at the success of Pritikin’s program found that about 83% of Pritikin guests no longer need medication for high blood pressure – by eating right and exercising regularly – after staying faithful for about two or three weeks to the program. According to another peer-reviewed study (The Journal of Applied Physiology) 54% of participants were better able to control their diabetes. These stats are listed on Pritikin’s website. More than 100 studies have been conducted to evaluate the Pritikin program.

I had a lot of testing and blood work, which I really craved, because I reached a plateau of 113 pounds. For example, in the cardio test (Exercise Electrocardiogram) that tracked my heart rate during exercise, I was told that for excellent fitness I should aim to reach 85% of my target heart rate – for me that number is 137 beats per minute (and that’s should only be held for one minute during a HIIT workout). Good information. My tests showed that I need more vitamin D. For example, they also measured my resting metabolism and every day I burn about 1,200 calories with mild activity. Dun-hip-hip-hooray! Since I often feel tired and hungry, I also got a shot of B-12 – and I loved the energy I had the next day and beyond. I will take it orally at home and use the list of “Pritikin approved” foods and brands they recommend. I will also be adding more veggies to my protein-based smoothies, as well as fortified nutritional yeast, which is packed with B-12. I could live forever!

There is an impressive special kosher program, held twice a year, led by a rabbi and all techniques and ingredients are kosher, especially during the Friday evening Shabbat dinner. I heard from a guest that the kosher pizza was great.

The spa treatments were great too. I had a very pampering facial with NaturaBisse products – but most of all I discovered that the resort was a special place that nourished my spirit. My doctor there, Dr. Fruge, a former tennis pro, told me all about how people come to Pritikin to heal – “This is a very spiritual place,” she told me. (She also said she says a special “doctor’s prayer” for all her patients.) “You feel safe here…things that you’ve struggled with are coming true. There is nothing like this anywhere in the world, and people from all over the world come here.”

I definitely felt the vibe. Some of the more spiritual components include a Mind-Body week held twice a year, plus daily Pilates, yoga and meditation, and a licensed psychologist on staff, to take things to the next level.

I only have a few negative comments. At first the service in the restaurant was spotty, but by the end of my stay it had improved and I could tell how genuinely focused the staff were on providing a great experience. I would also recommend that the resort uses monk fruit as a sweetener in addition to Stevia and Splenda – it’s all natural, low glycemic, zero calories and very tasty. Chef Vince also made me a special low-fat carrot cake – made, at my suggestion, with pumpkin puree instead of oil. It was delicious – I ate it all! – but it could use a little more pumpkin to moisten it up a bit. The Pritikin plan is all about not using salt – and I found that a bit hard to get used to. Overall, the food was good – one guest told me, “It’s not Michelin quality, but it’s good and I love the salad dressings.” (They’re fantastic – the secret is fat-free sour cream and apple juice concentrate. I’ll take the recipes with me on my next cruises and have the chef make some for me to enjoy every day – they’re that nice. 😉 While in general most of the food was tasty, some of the starters still tasted a bit bland to me. To counter that, each table includes four special salt-free seasonings that you can use to add more flavor — things like Everything But The Bagel.

So what have I learned to do? Eat more fiber between meals – a roasted sweet potato is highly recommended and eat oatmeal for breakfast. And never go to sleep on a full stomach. Skip the greasy salad dressings and replace them with Pritikin’s. (You can get the recipes to make them at home.) Don’t count calories – it all comes down to calorie density – the amount of calories you can fit in a pound of food – and their method is that you should eat low density foods and a high fiber content. (Nuts, butter, seeds, and avocados are literally off the table.) I also need to do more cardio, increase my weight on machines, and do more jumping rope to jump-start my metabolism. I participate! Is it bikini season yet?

Overall, one of my favorite experiences was the Pilates class with the Reformer. What I loved about it was that my instructor, Elle, was so knowledgeable in all the moves, and I loved that I stretched my body with every move. Maybe I could look taller than 5’3″ after all!

In short, my whole experience at Pritikin was “uplifting” in each sense of the word. Not only that, I also made some great new friends. All in all it was a great visit.

A typical two-week program for two people costs about $4,475 per week, per person, double occupancy in a deluxe room. All programs are customized to your goals and discussed prior to your visit.

Follow me on Instagram at @DebbiKickham to learn more about my Wanderlust and Wellness journeys.