Why You Should Take a Wellness Retreat

One editor recounts her experience at Turnberry Isle Miami's Optimal Wellness Program.

Why You Should Take a Wellness Retreat
(Source: iStock)

Confession: I haven't seen a doctor since I needed a pediatrician. You can imagine, then, how nervous I was to know I'd be visiting not one but an entire team of doctors and health experts on a trip to experience the newly launched Turnberry Isle Miami Optimal Wellness Program. The plan: get a sampling of its four customizable packages tackling weight management, heart health, stress management, plus psychological, fitness and nutrition consultations. The result: a changed diet, glowing skin, a crazy tale to tell about getting my face injected with my own blood (story on that later), an abandonment of exercise for vanity and a newfound confidence in my future 50-year-old-self's health. Whew. Did I mention this took place over just four days? 

Turnberry Isle, a luxe resort in Aventura, Florida, has everything you need for an escape: picture-perfect pools, world class golfing, unbelievable dining and, of course, ideal weather. The cherry on top is the wellness program, which was introduced by Dr. Ellen Lebow and Dr. Michael Brawn. The duo brought on a team of seven on-site physicians and experts to develop integrative programs targeting every major health concern.

Why You Should Take a Wellness Retreat
(Source: Turnberry Isle Miami)

Wellness retreats have been steadily gaining popularity among health-minded folks looking for an alternative way to vacation. From Canyon Ranch in Arizona to Maya Tulum in Mexico, resorts are catching on to the demand for restorative, experiential packages. Turnberry Isle is unique in its marriage of scientific, medical resources with big-picture mental and physical wellness. You're not just doing yoga multiple times a day and having healthy meals provided (although you very well can at the resort), but rather running lab tests to dig deeper into your health history as well as opening your mind to alternative practices. You get clinical expertise with a spa environment.

What's most impressive is how highly individualized the Optimal Wellness Program is—there's no same itinerary for two people. "Everyone here is committed to customization," says Dr. Lebow. "Customization is what preventative medicine is about." It's rare that you'd ever get more than half an hour meeting during a doctor's visit, but these physicians were extremely personable, friendly and—even now a few weeks after visiting—available to talk more if ever I have questions.

You can pick from four main programs that range from four to eight-day stays starting at $6,500 (full resort amenities included): Weight Management, Bio-Identical Hormone Restoration, Stress Management and the Heart Health Executive Plan. Throughout my stay, I tried parts of all four and had takeaways that revealed the benefits of not just Turnberry Isle's program, but any wellness retreat. It's something everyone should try at least once. 

There's a nonchalance toward health you get away with in your early 20s. You can engage in bad habits and still look like you're in tip-top shape. Little did I know I'd discover things about my body that could turn very ugly down the line."

IV Calming Nutrient Cocktail
IV Calming Nutrient Cocktail
(Source: Turnberry Isle)

Open your mind to new and exciting experiences

It helps to come to a wellness retreat with an open mind. I was game for anything. This led me to trying procedures I had never even heard of before: a detoxifying lymphatic drainage therapy, a neurobiofeedback session for training the brain to optimize electrical activity, an IV cocktail session inserting powerful antioxidants and electrical acupuncture. If ever I was confused about anything, the experts all enthusiastically explained processes in an easy-to-understand manner. 

Get unmatched attention from physicians 

The most educational experiences for me, by far, were my hour-long talk with the nutritionist Staci Shacter and separate consultations with both Dr. Lebow and Dr. Braun. Referring to my blood samples, each doctor went through my reports line by line, noting any outstanding issues (for example, I am seriously deficient in Vitamin D, which doesn't come as a surprise—hello, holed-up New York City indoor lifestyle!). Unlike previous experiences I've had with doctors, they didn't just immediately tell me I need to take such and such medicine, instead opting for a holistic approach including talks about nutrition and exercise.

Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy aka Vampire Facial.
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy aka Vampire Facial.
(Source: Kristina Rodulfo)

Gain tools to ensure your future health

"You're 22 years old, what am I going to do with you?" Dr. Ellen Lebow admitted these were her thoughts when she first saw my patient intake form. This sentiment was echoed by all seven experts I consulted during my stay. It's understandable since there's a nonchalance toward health you get away with in your early 20s. You can engage in bad habits and still look like you're in tip-top shape. Little did I know I'd discover things about my body that could turn very ugly down the line. As Dr. Braun discussed with me, healthcare in the US generally focuses on treating diseases as they're already diagnosed. As someone young going through all of these health treatments, the biggest takeaway I had was to have a focus on preventative measures. I shifted my mindset to think about what I can do now to make sure I won't be needing high-stakes treatments when I'm older.

I definitely came away with a new perspective on my future given the tools and data I gained at Turnberry. The most notable change? I exercise at least five times a week now, which isn't different from what I did before, but my approach has changed—instead of focusing on looking like a fitness model, I have made it a goal to gain control of my heart health and body composition (body fat percentage, especially). That alone has become a much more powerful motivator than a six-pack ever was.

Revamp not only your body, but also your mind

During a wellness retreat, you typically have time to really slow down and relax in a calm environment. Such was the case during the Optimal Wellness Program, since I could take advantage of spa treatments like massages and facials. Apart from those rejuvenating beauty treats, however, I had access to a behavioral coach, Joan E. Childs, who addressed broader topics such as stress and guided me through meditation. It's a practice I've since learned the importance of and actively try to implement every day—not enough people prioritize it!

Why You Should Take a Wellness Retreat
(Source: Turnberry Isle Miami)

place yourself in an empowering environment

Along with science-backed feedback from doctors, this wellness retreat provided help in the food and fitness departments, too. I worked with a personal trainer who helped me navigate weight machines, addressed my long-unanswered questions about exercises and provided a new routine I could take home. There were also organic, healthy meals at the ready and educated providers there to chat about everything from why taking a wheatgrass shot does the body good to what to expect when attempting a detox diet. At Turnberry, the experts practiced what they preached. Everyone ate clean, whole food diets, toted water bottles around all day and carried an air of positivity. It's impossible not to transform into your best self in that kind of environment. 

Find out more about Turnberry Isle's Optimal Wellness Program here. 

Former Associate Editor at StyleBistro. Willing to try any workout trend. Green beauty junkie. Fan of overdressing. Proud member of the cult of Beyoncé. Twitter/Insta: @kristinarodulfo Follow me: Google