Canyon Ranch Lenox Resort: Girl Gone Mild

Luxury Resorts: Canyon Ranch is THE spa destination when you want to relax, refresh, rejuvenate, and maybe even make a miracle happen.

It was 7:30 in the evening and there I was, at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, attending a one-hour seminar about “Making Miracles Happen.” The lecture was given by author Jerry Posner, and he had come equipped with a slew of business-size cards with titles like “Daily Miracle-Making Reminders” and messages such as “What’s Really Important To Me…Now?” A gifted and entertaining speaker, Posner gave a thoroughly enjoyable presentation which, among other things, pointed out that the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” with its key message of having Brains, Heart, and Courage (yet another business-size card), is what Making Miracles is all about.

I can tell you this – the fact that I was at Canyon Ranch, on assignment for this online publication, and enjoying an all-expenses-paid experience thanks to my pen – that is a miracle that I planted the seeds for long, long ago. (I believe it’s partly due to Shakti Gawain’s books on visualization – but that’s another story.) My life – including my husband Bill, my happy marriage, and our press trips to Hawaii, Paris, Bora Bora, New York, and spas and cruises along the way – is one huge miracle, and what I did to make it all happen is everything that Posner says we should do. Here is his advice for making the magic happen.

1). Visualize the outcome – and the path to it.
2). Desire it.
3). Anticipate it. Expect it. Believe in it.
4). Ask for assistance. Accept when offered.
5). Put it on your to-do list. Review daily.
6). Choose optimism. Remember motivation.
7). Give yourself permission.
8). Make a plan, adjust as necessary, enjoy!

I’m here to tell you – if you’re dreaming about getting away to an awesome destination with tremendously delicious low-calorie cuisine, great fitness facilities, terrific exercise classes, and an entire “the power of possibility” atmosphere (indeed, for that is in fact Canyon Ranch’s motto), Canyon Ranch is it.

Food, Very Glorious Food
This was my fifth trip to the Ranch, and the one thing that always stands out in my mind is the cuisine. I can never get enough of it. I dream about eating it. Here, I ate 85-calorie chocolate-chip cookies every day (and mind you, I try to never eat carbs), and I even lost weight. (Their secret is Neuchatel cheese, Chef Billy Boudreau told me.)

Breakfast was usually fresh berries (20 calories in a quarter-cup), hot steel-cut oatmeal (155 calories), and banana bread (125 calories per slice). One of my favorite lunches was the half-portion of falafel (175 calories) and the half-portion of chicken-and-avocado quesadilla (160 calories), with a chocolate cupcake or the aforementioned chocolate-chip cookies (160 calories). Lunch could also be a tuna melt on whole-wheat English muffin (285 calories), lobster macaroni and cheese (430 calories) and even a meatball sub (500 calories). Dinner always started with a salad: I heartily recommend the marinated mushrooms (5 calories in a quarter-cup) and the carrot/currant/pineapple salad (40 calories in a quarter-cup). There is an assortment of salad dressings, ranging around 50 calories per Tablespoon, in flavors such as Honey-Tarragon, Caesar, Ranch, and Thousand Island, all made with the ranch’s homemade yogurt cheese. I was still extremely conscientious, and would much rather have a cookie than salad dressing – but it was good to know there were still some lower-calorie options. (If you really want to kill the calories, just use straight balsamic vinegar.).

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For dinner, one night, I had the delicious mustard-crusted chicken (440 calories) that the waitress recommended to me one day, although I must say just the plain grilled salmon (175 calories) was divine. Sides of the day might include steamed quinoa (105 calories), grilled bok choy (20 calories) or a baked sweet potato (140 calories). There were also, for dessert, homemade ice creams (95 calories), even served with Wax Orchards’ nonfat fudge sauce (90 calories for two Tablespoons), so you never feel deprived. According to Executive chef Steve Betti, “We start everything with the cleanest, most wholesome, seasonal and fresh ingredients we can find, and produce a product that has excellent nutritional value with different textures while being visually appealing.”

Deprived? Never. Everything about Canyon Ranch encourages abundance, and that in itself is a luxury. (The only thing I missed was the amazingly delicious and ultra low-calorie Jet Fuel salad dressing, which, apparently, Canyon Ranch has discontinued. Note to marketing: You should definitely bring it back. That was the consensus of everyone I spoke to and interviewed.) If you’re still hungry between meals (I always need a snack at 5 p.m.), there were options galore, available at the restaurant reservations desk: almond butter and lavash (135 calories), tahini and Ak-Mak crackers (130 calories), nut mix (165 calories) and the devastatingly delicious Trail Bars (140 calories each). You can even buy these Trail Bars to take home with you, at the adorable French-inspired Café Tasse. A dozen will set you back $36.

In essence, you can visit Canyon Ranch and enjoy a delightful array of goodies, none of which you need to ever feel guilty about. That in itself is a miracle these days, right?

I also heartily recommend that everyone take the wonderful “Superfoods” dinner in the Demonstration Kitchen, which Chef Boudreau offers once a week. His definition of a superfood is one that gives you above-average nutrients. This meal consisted of a spinach-pear salad with a fabulous rosemary vinaigrette (its secret is sweet miso, 70 calories), vegetarian chili (180 calories), and orange-glazed salmon served with “screaming ginger salsa.” (Chef Boudreau said you could put this salsa on everything, even a fried telephone book. He was right. It was scrumptious.) Sides includes pomegranate couscous (125 calories) and steamed broccoli (25 calories). Dessert was a divine chai chocolate cupcake (180 calories). He also revealed his secrets for faux bacon: roasted shitake mushrooms coated in olive oil, salt and pepper and baked on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes.

The Perfect Stay
A stay at Canyon Ranch is chock-full of wonderful experiences like the Superfoods dinner, along with fitness classes, daily talks, workshops and evening programs galore. At check-in you are given your weekly guide, so you can make your way through the maze of activities, which are all too numerous to mention. A typical day might include outdoor morning Tai chi, low-impact aerobics, Kettlebell strength, a Shamanic journey (a spiritual practice using guided imagery, music and breath to transport you to a higher state of consciousness), kayaking, Pilates, hand-on cooking classes, aerobic circuit weights, with a lecture on Chinese herbs, a “friends of Bill” meeting if you need one, and that’s just the tip of the interesting iceberg.

I even got a Body Composition test that showed that my 54-year-old body has 20% body fat, which the exercise physiologist, James McDougall told me was “ideal” for my age and weight. Wow, success! I must be doing something right.

The other fascinating lecture I attended was given by Dr. Mark Liponis, the corporate medical director of Canyon Ranch. This talk was titled “Ultralongevity,” and the hour devoted to a title like that was way too short. Dr. Liponis spoke at length about inflammation, which has been linked to cancer, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease, among other things. He explained that the older you get, you actually want to suppress (not boost) your immune system. “You want the army reserve – not the army,” he cautioned. Among other things, he highly recommends that everyone get a C-reactive protein blood test (CRP), which, he says, “is the great marker of the activity of a disease. It tells you the activity of your immune system…it can predict stroke and dementia and high blood pressure, and let you know that you’re going to have a problem.” Your target for this test? It should read below .7. Dr. Liponis also sang the praises of breathing correctly (and getting checked for sleep apnea); grazing all day long instead of eating big meals, which raises your CRP; taking vitamins one-half hour before your biggest meal, so they have time to act as an inflammatory; and eating more omega-rich fish, fiber (including beans) and berries. It was a pleasure to hear this lecture, and then immediately go to the Superfoods dinner, which was rich in – you guessed it – omega-rich fish, fiber and beans. Canyon Ranch practices what it preaches!

Ah, Spa!
Of course no visit to Canyon Ranch would be complete without spa treatments, and there’s a wealth of them to take advantage of. The most talked-about is the Euphoria, an indulgence that involves having your face enveloped in sage-oil-dipped towels; aromatherapy scalp massage; botanical body mask; revitalizing bath; and massage. (I’m relaxed just writing about it! ($270 for 100 minutes). I had the “Your Transformation” facial ($130 for 50 minutes), which included a skin analysis, cleanse, exfoliation, steam, extraction, toning, mask and final application of serum, eye cream and moisturizer. This was a wonderful, decadent treatment, using Canyon Ranch’s signature and proprietary products – ProNad, which contains bioactive vitamin B3, and offers a continuous-release, patented form of niacin. ProNad was developed in conjunction with the University of Arizona scientists, and also contains goji berry (to protect against collagen destruction), bearberry (to even skin tone) and blueberry (to stabilize the collagen structure). Don’t leave without purchasing the signature Protect UVA/UVB SPF 30 Facial Moisturizer – you’ll want it in the sun! I also had the pleasure of a Canyon Ranch aromatherapy massage ($160 for 50 minutes) and the Mountain Maple Pedicure ($90 for 50 minutes), which used Bidwell’s luscious maple products.

Canyon Ranch, just so you know, is an 11-time winner of the Conde Nast Traveler “Best Destination Spa” award, and has won other awards too numerous to mention, including a Crystal Award from SpaFinder as the favorite spa in North America in their Reader’s Choice awards. You can enjoy Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass., (where I did) but there are other locations in Tucson, as well as Canyon Ranch SpaClub facilities in Las Vegas at The Venetian and The Palazzo. And at sea, you can enjoy Canyon Ranch aboard Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, as well as on Cunard’s luxury ocean liner, Queen Mary 2. Don’t miss the boat!

In all, you could easily say that on my visit I, once and for all, finally came up with the mantra to help me change my life. It’s “Canyon Ranch…Canyon Ranch…Canyon Ranch.”

Canyon Ranch rates start at $3,000 for a deluxe double room, with a service allowance of $390 for a three-day program. Rates include accommodations, three gourmet meals per day, more than 40 complimentary fitness classes and activities, seasonal guided hikes, biking excursions, daily selections of wellness presentations and much more including transportation to and from the airport, health-and-fitness assessment, local phone calls, Internet access – and no tipping!

William & Debbi Kickham

Debbi K. Kickham is a professional travel journalist and veteran member of the Society of American Travel Writers, She is also former Editor of Robb Report Magazine ' 'The Millionaire's Magazine,' Debbi is also former Contributing Editor to Bridal Guide Magazine, for the Travel Section. She is currently at work on her third book, a diet/beaut...(Read More)

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