© Le Sport
With a name like LeSport, you know this is a place dedicated to fitness. LeSport in St. Lucia offers an array of physical acitivites, including scuba diving, “funky” dance lessons, archery and rainforest hikes.
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updated 3/9/2007 6:56:42 PM ET 2007-03-09T23:56:42

The grim specter of weight-loss camp has haunted generations of the metabolism-challenged. For years, the threat of a “fat farm” brought to mind images of pre-dawn calisthenics, camp counselors akin to drill sergeants and strict rations of incredibly bland food. Even the adult equivalents didn’t promise much in the way of comfort or style.

Fortunately, today's health-conscious traveler has a much more appealing range of potential destinations. At Thailand’s Chiva-Som Resort, for instance, the rooms have private Jacuzzis, balconies overlooking the gulf, and walls covered in traditional silk. And the private plunge pools of Italy’s Capri Palace are staffed with butlers at the ready because, let’s face it, losing weight is tough work.

Or is it? Rather than orienting their fitness programs around standard aerobic workouts, the majority of today’s health resorts take a more qualitative approach, focusing on a holistic trinity of mind, body and spirit. This translates into an array of Eastern-based fitness options like yoga, mediation and deep-breathing exercises offered in addition to traditional exercise regimens like running and biking. An emphasis on personal enjoyment (the spiritual side of the triangle, perhaps) has also produced a dizzying array of improvisational experiences.

Dancers can perfect their cabaret or South African healing dance skills at New York City’s New Age Health Spa, for example, or learn the principles of “funky” dance moves while staying at St. Lucia’s LeSport Resort. And if none of that works, you can always get liposuction at Geneva’s Clinique La Prairie, a five-star facility overlooking the mountain range made famous by Julie Andrews.

And since several of these resorts began as luxury destination spas, the range of treatments offered runs the gamut from thalassotherapy (marine-inspired treatments) and mud baths to Merlot wraps and electro-stimulation. In sum, there won’t be in any doubt in your mind that this is a full-out vacation

What are the benefits of visiting a health resort, as opposed to just signing up with your local gym? According to Maureen “Mo” Smith, a leisure travel specialist and founder of Well on the Way: Healthy, Active Adventure Travel, “the retreat part is significant as it signals that you’re giving yourself the time, the space and the permission to put yourself first. When you’re in a supportive environment 24 hours a day, amazing transformations can happen.”

© Capri Palace Hotel and Spa
The lavish Capri Palace Hotel and Spa in Italy, just off the Bay of Naples, offers a “Leg School” dedicated solely to beautifying your gams.
Naturally, it also helps to be surrounded by every weight-loss resource imaginable. Take veteran health resort Canyon Ranch, with locations both in Tucson and the Berkshires. Depending upon your needs and inclinations, you have the opportunity to meet with nutritionists, M.D.'s, physical therapists, reiki therapists, life counselors, emotional counselors, acupuncturists or fitness experts. With all of these experts literally at your door, the typical hassles in weight management cease to exist.

In fact, 79 percent of the participants in a recent SpaFinder poll stated that a retreat, or the experience of taking time off from a hectic everyday schedule, is key for ultimately winning the losing game.

In compiling our list of luxury weight-loss getaways, we consulted a slew of travel agents and spa specialists. Some of these establishments were originally destination spas that have recently added weight-loss programs, while others on our list — specifically Clinique La Prairie and the Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas — are slightly more clinical in that they are established medical research centers. The common theme, though, is a serious commitment towards weight loss, coupled with an equally focused effort at luxury.

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