There is one New Year’s resolution I make every year but rarely manage to keep – to eat better, lose weight and get healthier. But this year, it seems that I found a way to kick-start the change to a better diet for life when I joined the Mediterranean Diet Workshop at the Carmel Forest Spa Resort.
The concepts of the Mediterranean Diet are not new, but the regimen has become very popular worldwide over the last few years, and what better place to implement it than here, on the shores of the Mediterranean? The diet, which is based on the cuisine of the inhabitants of southern Italy and Greece, was proven to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, is efficient in weight control and is an altogether healthy way of living.
The workshop is organized at the Carmel Forest Spa Resort a few times a year and is held for four days and three nights.
The workshop Upon arriving at the Carmel Forest Spa Resort, one is immediately greeted by the unique smell – an aromatherapy mixture created for the hotel, which has become its trademark. The appealing scent of pine puts you in a relaxed mood before you even start to unpack.
In the reception area, I met the two women who would lead me through the next few days – Shira Solo, the spa’s in house clinical dietician; and the workshop professional adviser, nutritionist Michal Amir, who has been holding juice cleansing workshops in the spa for years and believes this workshop is a great way to adopt good habits for life.
From the moment I arrived until the fond farewell, Solo and Amir were always around, constantly watching over our group with big smiles and infinite patience and making sure we got everything we needed.
At the check-in desk, I was given a timetable for the workshop. Great, I thought, when I saw that there were a lot of exercise classes. This was a chance to do something about another resolution – to start exercising regularly. Who knows? I might finally start to like it.
The next step was going to my room and stepping out of my attire and into the spa’s uniform – a white terrycloth robe. Not everybody wears the robe all the time, but almost. The dress code seems to be the robe or a sweat suit for most of the day.
For the workshop participants, the hotel’s delicious meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – are prepared and served in a separate dining room from the rest of the guests.
Adjacent to the spa’s restaurant, it overlooks the magnificent view. Being served our own menu of beautifully presented measured portions, prepared according to the nutritionist’s strict instructions and the chef’s uncompromising standards, is a fantastic arrangement. That way, you get pampered with gourmet food, but there is no need to exercise one’s willpower in face of the tempting bounty served at the hotel buffet. Although the entire menu of the hotel is created by chef Amir Khalfon, together with and under Solo’s supervision, as a guest of the resort faced with so much choice, it is still easy to eat too much.
Our group’s first meeting was an orientation with Solo and Amir, who described the principles of the Mediterranean diet, its origin, benefits and general recommendations.
This was accompanied by refreshments, and we later had personal consultations with the dietician. The following days were filled with activities, such as spa treatments, various classes, wine tasting, a cooking class and much more.
In the cooking class with the one of the spa’s talented chefs, we learned how to prepare some of the flavorful dishes that were served to us during our stay.
At the spa, I was offered the Mediterranean Wrap, invented by the staff for the workshop guests. The clay and herb wrap, which warms the body, cleanses toxins and clears airways, made me feel as if I were walking through an enchanted forest. The 45-minute treatment includes scrubbing, wrapping and a scalp, face, hand and foot massage. There is, of course, an extensive range of treatments to choose from for an extra fee.
There is also a very well-equipped gym and many yoga and meditation classes to choose from. I took advantage of what was on offer, and for four days and three nights I walked on air.
The diet The concept of the Mediterranean diet is very simple. Although it has been around for years, many people ignore its sensible rules of thumb: eat a lot of fresh vegetables, fish and some chicken; choose whole grains instead of processed white flour; enjoy beans of all kinds; use olive oil rather than other fats, eat plenty of fruit and nuts; and occasionally enjoy a glass of red wine. Don’t eat a lot of red meat – no more than twice a month; no added sugar, white flour or processed foods; consume less salt; and cook wisely – steam, bake, boil or broil instead of frying; and stay away from junk. In Israel, it is not difficult to keep to these principles, but many opt for ready-made, chemical-ridden foods, white flour and lots of sugar.
After a few days of Khalfon’s quietly pumping these ideas into one’s head with a big smile, I am sure it would be much easier for anyone to embark on a healthier way of eating. Either that or you may just keep returning to the workshops as some of the guests who were in my group do.
“This is the best vacation for me,” said Rachel, a beautiful grandmother who confessed that she liked to return to the workshop whenever it is held. “I love it. I am addicted. For me, it’s a vacation in which I lose weight instead of gaining. I relax and have a great time. My husband eats from the regular buffet, but I love the food served at the workshop, and I need this reminder every so often.”
To wrap things up, we had a final consultation with Solo, who gave us menus to take home, answered questions, offered to continue her support over the phone and weighed us.
Success! I lost weight, and my body fat went down a little. We all had positive results, and we all thought it was unbelievable.
But it was not only losing the weight that made me so happy, nor the atmosphere or the nature or the tranquility and fresh air. It was feeling that someone was looking out for me and was helping me to be good to myself.
Despite the fact that I was on a diet, the feeling was one of plenty. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I had a great vacation, ate fantastic gourmet food and managed to lose a few pounds. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The writer was a guest of the Carmel Forest Spa Resort.
The next workshop will take place on February 17. For more details, call 1-800- 800-808 or visit www.isrotel.co.il.