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I Survived a Weekend at Canyon Ranch

Posted by Dana McMahan on July 8, 2013 at 1:55:19 PM EDT | Post a Comment

Swap cocktails for detoxifying drinks, lounging on the beach for workouts, and shopping for herbal purification treatments? I wasn't sure what to expect from the Detox Mini-Break at Miami's Canyon Ranch, but at the outset, it didn't exactly sound like a vacation. But I dove in after a particularly indulgent trip to Tuscany for the hotel's signature brand of luxurious-meets-dead-serious detoxification. And I survived to tell the tale.

Whipped Air for Breakfast?

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Let's start with the menu. Arriving late afternoon I installed myself at one of the four pools and perused the snack options at the cabana. Each dish was followed by a mysterious string of letters and numbers. Checking the key, I decoded the nutritional details. Dining tables came with pepper—but no salt. And forget your daily Diet Coke—think hibiscus tea, coconut water, and fresh lemonade.

But I quickly learned it wasn't all whipped air for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After a few meals I felt like I was in the non-fat yogurt Seinfeld episode. Presented with a mouthwatering dinner, I wondered how a juicy steak with truffles, kale, and boniato could clock in below 450 calories? I voiced my suspicion to the nutritionist. Turns out I'm not the only one to doubt the numbers. But they're not making this stuff up: dishes go to a lab for analysis. That fact alone made me instantly annoyed at all the non-Canyon Ranch chefs who rely on silly things like salt to pump up their dishes. I was drinking the organic, fresh, spa-healthy Kool-Aid.

I walked away from dinner feeling satisfied and healthy, not weighed down or ultra-full. Or tipsy, for that matter. Though this location serves (organic) alcohol (the Tucson flagship doesn't—though you'll find booming wine sales at the nearest convenient store) I took the detox to heart. It felt strange not skipping cocktails as I chatted with my friends over dinner, but I liked the satisfaction of falling asleep clear-headed.

Culinary Confessions

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I fessed up to my usual ways though, at consultations with the medical director and nutritionist. I expected horror when I described how my work as a food writer leads me to eat. There's just no way to make drinking bourbon from breakfast till bedtime or eating a dozen slices of pizza in one go in Naples sound reasonable. And though I had to flinch now and then at my own past indulgences, I came away with a list of recommendations and pretty sincere intentions to clean up my diet. Happily, I also got affirmation that going off the rails now and then on an assignment won't sabotage my efforts.

The Real Goodies

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Between the eating and talking about eating was the real fun: a lineup of fitness classes to OD on (boxing and rock climbing and spinning, oh my!) as well as spa treatments galore.

A 140-minute Ayurvedic herbal purification found me in a futuristic, hot, steamy pod called a time capsule, wrapped in herbs and seaweed following an Indian style massage. The next-day, a detoxifying body wrap that included a session in the cocoon-like dry flotation bed left my skin so soft I couldn't stop touching it. The aim was to flush toxins out of my system, aided by the twice daily super-food juices I drank. Kale, beets, pomegranate, and ginger starred in the morning drink, with lemongrass, ginger, and yuzu in the pm. It left me feeling more delicious than it sounds.

My friends and I left full of plans to keep our squeaky clean systems fresh (my husband already had a grocery list from me). I know the real world may have other ideas (like bourbon and pizza), but if I stray too far off the path again, I know where to go—on vacation.

Top Tips

Here's what I would have liked to know going in:

Have specific goals to discuss with the doctor and nutritionist.

Write down your typical daily diet – they ask detailed questions.

Bring a family medical history.

Remember to use the bathroom before the 140 minute spa treatment!

Photo credits: Ahi tuna salad courtesy of Dana McMahan; Canyon Ranch Pool courtesy of Canyon Ranch; Yoga by the pool courtesy of Canyon Ranch

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