Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge Malibu (they’ve got to do something about shortening the name, unless maybe you burn more calories saying it all?) can best be described as a compassionate, caring, kick-butt boot camp where crying is allowed—hell, it’s even encouraged. At our welcome orientation, given by Essara, the resort’s exuberant Life Coach (and a Psychology grad from Stanford) who previously lost 60 pounds at the B.L.R, we learned that there are even crying rules:

1.Don’t ask “the Cryer” if she (or he) is ok and don’t run over to give them a hug.
2.The Cryer is responsible (taking accountability is a biggie here) for asking for what they need, be it space, a non-judgmental ear, or just a soothing pat.

We also learned that we’d be working out for 6-7 hours a day while consuming only 1200 calories. At this point I started tearing up a bit! Basically the core of the program is the tried and true-ism: move more and eat less. Since there’s still no magic pill available you have to put in the work (and it’s really HARD work) but you’ll do it surrounded by an amazing staff that offers a tremendous amount of knowledge, support, guidance, and motivation to ensure your success. So nice to hear our instructor in stretch class shout out during a particularly difficult move, “Who needs help with that stretch? Come on people, don’t be afraid to ask- that’s what I’m here for.”

Essara went on to explain that accountability is a huge part of the program so don’t think you’re going to be able to skip class and sneak back to bed for a well deserved nap. Ain’t Gonna Happen. They check attendance at every class and hike and if you’re a no- show, they will hunt you down!

Another carved in stone rule is to “keep drinking water”. It almost is the magic pill, aiding in everything from preventing headaches, to giving you enough energy to make it up the mountain, to ensuring that all those whole grains you’re eating will keep on moving.

* Trainer Tip: How much water do you need? Divide your weight by two and that’s how many oz. of H2O you should be drinking daily.

General Overview:
The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge Malibu is located in Southern California on 160 acres in the beautiful rolling hills of Malibu, part of the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area and alongside the Pacific Coast. Offering one of the most affordable, comprehensive, award-winning programs in the weight loss resort industry, it is the exclusive weight loss destination to NBC’s reality television show, “The Biggest Loser.”

Tami Clark, resort co-owner, told me that Fitness Ridge is the sole licensee of The Biggest Loser Resorts in the USA, Canada, and Mexico—which I’d say is quite a vote of confidence from the shows producers.

Insider Tip: Tami let it slip that they are getting ready to open their third resort (the first one is in Ivins, Utah) early this summer in Virginia, which thrilled the large group of guests visiting from Washington, D.C.


Food:

Everyone, regardless of sex, size, or bribery attempts, is on the same 1200 calorie meal plan. You are allowed an additional piece of fruit and a trip to the salad bar. Actually, I was seldom hungry due to the high fiber diet. Very little salt or sugar is added to the food which encourages detoxing. Assorted herbal teas are always available since caffeine is a no-no.

Loved:

-The oatmeal topped apple cobbler was so scrumptious that I didn’t miss the whipped cream.
-Any of the Mexican-inspired entrees were crowd pleasers.
-The cranberry sorbet was almost as good as Ben and Jerry’s.
-The house-made granola provided enough crunchy energy to hike the highest hills.
-The darling wait-staff who were always happy and smiling

Not a fan of:
-A couple of nights the entrée was a measly 3.5 oz. piece of broiled chicken with some veggies which did not begin to fill me up. I would have preferred they used the chicken in a casserole or stir fry to fluff it up.

Insider Tips:

-The Almond Milk makes a very tasty cereal topping at only 40 calories per cup.
-Just to be on the safe side, ask for a serving of almonds to take with you on the hike.
-Ask for the Green Tabasco to add some calorie-free kick to your food.


Fitness:

Your daily workout begins with an optional (and believe me when I say that’s about the only optional thing here) 6:00 am stretch or core training class.

Then it’s off to the races… where we break into groups for the required 2+ hour hike, and even at the beginner’s level it’s no stroll in the park. Each group has three hiking guides to urge you on, stationed at the beginning, middle and end of the line. There are about 5-7 different hikes available each morning, ranging from a gorgeous beach hike (lugging through that soft sand pulling at your shoes really burns calories) to rocky scrambles through the woods with a variety of flora and fauna and even the occasional waterfall to ooh and aah over, to hiking straight up the hill which offers some pretty awesome views as your reward.

Just like the postal workers, hikes go on thru rain, sleet, or snow…. I heard they did call off a hike once due to lightening, but I bet that’s just an urban myth! They do offer you plastic ponchos during torrential downpours.

Following your hike you have four different exercise classes. Not “choose from four” but four consecutive classes. After your first week there, guests are required to add yet another exercise class to their schedule!

Classes run the gamut from cardio intervals, circuit training, ball workouts, various water aerobics and strengthening classes.

Loved:

-My absolute fave was a rousing game of kick-ball in the mud. The competition was fierce and even though my team lost, I thought we had the cutest cheerleaders!

– The kickboxing class (perfect for punching and kicking out all your pent-up frustrations) and the heart- pumping Cardio Disco Jam, where one of my fave instructors, John (no relation to Travolta) got his groove on by teaching the class dressed head to toe in tasteless, disco bling were also a blast.
-At the end of the day it was sheer bliss to soak our tired muscles in the outdoor hot tub and chitchat with the others–kind of like cocktail hour without the cocktails.

-It was incredibly inspiring to have Sam Poueu, one of the Biggest Loser contestants from Season 9, help train us. Not only is he a super-sweet guy but he’s also in great shape, having gone from about 34% body fat to 13%.
He shared a quote with me that kept him going when things got really tough on the show,
“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
— Carl Bard

Not a fan of:

-Although all the trainers were really top-notch (particularly the fore mentioned John Yohman, Fitness Manager and the lovely kick-boxing pro, Megan Roberts) when the classes are at full capacity, they could really use additional instructors to make sure people were doing the exercises correctly.
– They certainly have the aerobic component down, but if you’re a fan of weight training, you’ll probably have to do that on your own or else hire one of the personal trainers to work you out, at a very affordable $45 per session.

Insider tip:

-Very important: be sure you have a good pair of hiking shoes that are thoroughly broken in. I thought mine were a little rundown but would be o.k. The outcome was that I lost two toenails, which results in a very funky pedicure.
-If you’re not in the mood for a meditative hike, be sure and bring your I-Pod. I could never have made it up some of those mountains without my fave tunes blasting.


Education:

Two lectures a day (after lunch and dinner) provide a wealth of cutting edge info plus lots of practical advice. One major theme was that just like budgeting our finances, we were also accountable for our caloric income and expenses (calories in vs. calories out). We were taught smarter ways to “spend” our calories by making healthier food choices.

Loved:

– Led by various staff members, the lectures were never boring – particularly when we played “Guess the calorie count of various meals from fast food restaurants” with prizes for the winning team.

-Learning real-life health tips from both the teachers and other guests. Example: An easy way to ensure you’re eating a balanced meal is to visually separate your plate into quarters. One fourth should hold lean protein, one forth should be a whole grain and the rest should be made up of fruits and veggies. Easy-peasy, but no pie.

Trainer Tip:
It’s important to know what your R.M.R. (resting metabolic rate) is in order to calculate your calorie needs. To find yours, go to Shapeup.org and do the calculations.

Special shout –out for:
Chef Rodolfo Reyes’ cooking classes. A graduate from San Francisco’s Culinary Institute of America, Chef Reyes spent 15 years cooking at exclusive gourmet kitchens before forsaking foie gras for tofu (and shedding many unwanted pounds in the process). He’s perfected many techniques for maxing out flavor while minimizing fat. For example, he uses a veggie stock reduction for the base of his soups and then purees in a different veggie of choice to change the flavor. Who knew that a parsnip soup could be that tasty with zero fat and just a dash of salt–actually who knew that parsnip soup could be tasty in any guise?

Chef Tip: One of Chef Reyes’ secret tricks was when preparing low-fat vinaigrettes for salad dressing; he adds a pinch of xanthan gum at the end to thicken it up without oil.


Accomodations:

The cabins are no-frills basic but comfy enough and kept immaculately clean. Plenty of room for one, but I think two would be a tight fit.

Loved:
-The wall mounted big screen TV even though I was so tired most nights I fell asleep before I could watch “The Biggest Loser”.
– The generous supply of fresh towels
-The coin-operated laundry facilities
-The Retail Shop, with its handy selection of apparel, shoes, fitness gear, books and sundry items.
-The full service Spa that offered a variety of facials, massages, acupuncture and other misc. beauty treatments. Sign up early for the best times. Everyone raved about Jonathon but alas, he was already booked up by the time I made my appointments.

Not a fan of:
-The porch light of the neighboring cabin would shine right over my pillow making it difficult to fall asleep. Suggest bringing a sleep-mask.
-The walls are thin so could often hear noise from next door- might want to bring some ear plugs, too.
Insider tip:
– Ask at the front desk for one of their warm cozy bathrobes to cuddle up in. There wasn’t enough for everyone so be sure and dibs one early.

The Guests:

Over the holidays, the resort was filled to capacity –about 80. We were quite a mish-mash group: There was about 1 man to 8 women. There were solos, girlfriends, mothers and daughters, sisters and one super fun father/ son team from Ohio who were going to be joined the following week by the mom and sister. The farthest guest had come from Dubai, the youngest guest was 15. There were quite a few guests who wanted to lose major pounds that were staying for a couple of months and one very fit Canadian who was there for a week to help train for his upcoming Mt. Everest trek.

Although we all came from different walks of life, you bond fast and hard here. If you’re “too cool for school” this would not be a good fit for you because when you’re here it’s about getting real with people who are giving it their all. In this safe, non-judgmental setting, guests share their hopes, dreams and struggles, while gaining strength from learning that they are not alone.

Some thoughts from one of the guests on our “graduation” night sums it up best,
“I’m going home after eight weeks.” (She then bursts into tears which, of course, made the trainers very happy.) “I’ve made many wonderful friends who I’ll have for the rest of my life. I’ve lost many pounds which I will never see again. We are all champions just for walking through these doors, because, let’s face it—we all know overweight people who simply don’t have the balls to do it.”

The End:
I cannot tell a lie. If I was Midas-rich, my first health resort choice would still be The Golden Door– who doesn’t love a gorgeous zen getaway that includes a massage and facial or similar beauty treatment every day? But if I didn’t win the lottery recently and had some serious weight to lose, then The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge, Malibu, would be my go-to place….because IT REALLY WORKS!

17 thoughts on “Losers Win Big: The Biggest Loser Resort–Fitness Ridge Malibu

  1. Oh Lordy- you are a brave diva you are! Thanks for all the wonderful insights and the January PUSH!
    Did you vsiti the resort in Ivins as well- a few years back?

  2. Thanks for this…just what I needed as I make up my mind about which ‘resort’ to go to. My mind is now made up!! Very informative posting. Thanks for being so thorough.

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