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I Survived a Weekend at Canyon Ranch

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?


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.

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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


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


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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