I’ve been fortunate to visit spas for rest, relaxation, excitement and experience – but never just to lose weight. But I have wanted to shed 10 pounds for, like, forever, so I jumped at the chance to visit Movara Fitness Resort in idyllic southwest Utah.
Launched in 2002 as Fitness Ridge and later as a Biggest Loser Resort, Movara is only a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, but a galaxy apart as far as health and wellness are concerned.
Each Sunday, this resort welcomes 54 guests for an extraordinary experience of hiking, fitness and exercise, nutrition, and education. Some guests are here for one week, while others are here for longer stays. Many come on their own, but at orientation I learned my fellow guests also included friends, couples, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons. All of us shared the common desire to change our lives.
“When I take care of me, I increase my ability to take care of others”
My visit to Movara began on a Sunday afternoon. After arriving, I had time to get settled in the clean and comfortable accommodations, explore the resort and receive the fitness test that became the baseline for my stay. The test is a brief, but comprehensive inquiry of your body including weight, measurements and body fat analysis, delivered with a polite conclusion of how much weight loss I could “benefit from.” The test also provides your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body burns at rest during a 24-hour period. It was created for people in a coma so they wouldn’t be under- or overfed. BMR increases as you add muscle mass and decreases when muscle is lost. So weight training will help your body burn more calories.
Movara drives home the fact that weight loss is not rocket science. It’s math. Calories in and calories out. If your goal is to lose one pound of fat, you have to break it down into calories. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. To lose one pound a week, you need to reduce your calories, or increase your calorie burn by 500 calories a day. Over the course of seven days you should achieve your goal.
My BMR was 2,073 calories, and learning that Movara’s meal plan was only 1,500 calories a day, I quickly learned that if I did nothing I would lose one pound. But I would not be doing nothing.
Morning comes early at Movara with a 6 am daily stretch class, followed by breakfast and the ceremonial gathering of water, sunscreen and hats before departing for our 8 am hike. (Visitors in the summer go hiking before breakfast to avoid the heat.) Guests are assessed on their hiking ability the first day, and then placed in a group which best matches their ability. Safety is very important, and each group is equipped with two guides.
If you’re not a hiking enthusiast before visiting southwest Utah, you will be when you leave. This region has some of the most dramatic and beautiful hiking trails anywhere, and for all levels. Some of the most popular hikes included Camelback, Saddle, Stop Sign and Snow Canyon.
Returning to the resort, I had a few moments to catch my breath as the first cardio class began at 11 am, followed by lunch, another three cardio classes in the afternoon, another stretch class and dinner. There were also evening lectures covering such topics as nutrition, emotional eating, menu planning and food knowledge.
Classes included everything: boot camp, kickboxing, bar method, circuit training, Spartan workout, aquacize and trending, which is interval training on stationary bikes, treadmills, etc. If it sounds exhausting, it’s because it is. All classes are 45 minutes and you have 15 minutes before the next one begins. Everyone goes at their own pace, and no matter what your fitness level is, only you can answer when the trainer yells out, “WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH TWO MINUTES?”
Evenings were time to relax with a swim in the pool, soak in the hot tub or sweat in the steam room. The spa at Movara also provides guests with a variety of massage, aesthetics and body treatments to help your body recover, and prepare itself for the next day.
The food at Movara was delicious, and surprising filling. Chicken Parmesan, Mediterranean Chicken Pizza, Red Pepper Bisque, Greek Yogurt Parfait – is this really spa food? Chef Sam Baker has created some delicious nutrient-dense recipes to help fuel and satisfy guests. Chef also conducts cooking demonstrations and shares Movara’s recipes with guests.
I chose to keep to a plan of 1,500 calories spread over three meals and two snacks. Was I hungry? Not really! I usually opted for the highest protein option at lunch and dinner, always made use of the salad bar, drank lots of water and was strategic about eating my snacks of fruit, peanut butter or string cheese throughout the day. Eating less also translated into eating slower and tasting more. There was no alcohol at Movara, but I was surprised to learn there was no coffee. Didn’t they know I was from the Pacific Northwest, where coffee is an integral part of our lives? In reality, I didn’t miss it too much.
“It’s not about what you lose, but what you gain”.
When I arrived at Movara, I was 223.6 lbs and had 22.2% body fat. After a week of six hours of daily exercise and 1,500 calorie meals per day, and no alcohol or caffeine, I weighed in at 217.6 lbs – down 5.7 lbs and reduced my body fat to 18.9%. On paper, I lost 5.7 lbs, but actually I lost 8.6 lbs of fat, and gained 2.9 lbs of muscle. My health and wellness goals are a work in progress, but I’m committed to seeing them through.
How do I sum up my week at Movara? Fun! After one of the most intense weeks of physical fitness of my life, enjoying healthy cuisine and breathing in Utah’s gorgeous scenery while in supportive company of new friends and helpful staff, who knew losing weight could be so enjoyable?
(Week long packages at Movara Fitness Resort begin at $2,595 single occupancy, $1,795 if you bring a friend.)
~ Craig Oliver, Editor-in-chief, Healthy Living + Travel