Creating a Spa Time at Home

By on September 1, 2011

By Marjorie Jaffe –

When I turned 35, I wanted a special treat, and decided to go to The Golden Door Spa in California, which I’d heard many wonderful things about. When I called and heard the price, over $3500 for the week, I knew that was too pricey for me. Then I found out that the director, Chris Silkwood had left the Golden Door and was now the director of the Phoenix Spa in Houston, Texas. The price was closer to $2000 and that’s where I decided to go.

From the first night dinner, I knew the meals would not work for me. It was a set menu that didn’t appeal to me because I prefer large portions of healthy foods. They served mock appetizers, small salad and veggies, some sort of fish and then a make believe dessert. I was able to trade my dessert for more salad and veggies with one of my table mates. Then for breakfast, there was no coffee served, but I found out that after a short jog to the nearby golf club, there was coffee. I enjoy 1 cup of coffee in the morning, which presents no health risk.  I could go on about the meals, but what I learned was that it’s important to match a person’s individual preferences and be realistic about food choices so when the spa guest returns home, they are comfortable when deciding what to eat.

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The classes were mediocre because there was a wide range of fitness levels and the teachers had to teach towards the middle. Someone like me, with a high fitness level, was left bored and un-challenged and the teacher didn’t know how to handle this. Once again, no individual attention.

In spite of these issues, I had a good time, because it was a vacation from my kids and life at home. But, as soon as I got home, I looked in the New York Times travel section and found a villa in Montego Bay to rent and try my hand at conducting a week long health. Fitness and beauty spa in my fashion. That was over 25 years ago and many spas in different lands. I just returned from a week long spa in Deauville, France and would like to share my memories of it with you all, so you can create a spa week for yourself.

Decide how many days you want to devote to the spa and how many friends you’d like to invite. It’s better if you can stay in one or two of your homes without family or the usual responsibilities. Even 3 days are fun; just be sure that whatever you choose fits into your life without stressing yourself.

And now for your staff, all of whom, you will pay by the hour. Hire a good exercise teacher who can teach aerobic &strength and stretch classes. If you like, hire a yoga teacher for the last class of the day and end it with meditation. Arrange for massage therapists who will bring their own tables.

Plan healthy meals and if possible, hire someone to prepare them. By the way, list all your expenses and then divide them by how many guests will participate and see what the spa will cost each of you. Then you’ll know how many people you can hire. Staring to sound feasible?

This is the week-long Spa Schedule we used for the group of 7 women in Deauville, France, which I just conducted. It was fabulous for them and for me because what can match living healthy, eating well, exercising with good results, having fun with like-minded women all with the same goals — toning up, losing weight, and ending the spa feeling relaxed, invigorated and rejuvenated.

Spa Schedule:
6:00 Fitness          walk (with hills if possible)
7:00 – 9:00           Breakfast & private time
9:00 – 10:00         Stretching & toning
10:15 – 11:00         Strengthening
11:15 – 12:15           Pool aerobics
12:45-2:00              Lunch & private time
2:30 – 4:30            Daily beauty treatment (massage; facial; mani/pedi)
5:00 – 6:15             Stretching followed by meditation/relaxation
7:00                         Leisure Dinner
8:30                         Evening program: lecture; music; looking at the stars, etc.

This Spa was for 7 days and after the first 3 days we took the afternoon off and went over to Truville, which is a small and lively nearby town for shopping and looking around. On Sunday, we went in a van to Paris, a two and a half hour drive, to see the final to the Tour de France, where people were amazed that the winner was the oldest man to win the race in 88 years – he is 34 – Mon dieu.

Before spa week, each of the guests filled out a questionnaire about their food and fitness preferences; individual needs; and goals. Very helpful information. When you know what you want out the spa it helps you stay on track. If you’re doing this to lose some weight and inches, remember to be realistic. For example, a pound is 3500 calories. So, if for one week, you eliminate 500 calories each day, that results in 1 pound lost. However, when you lose weight, your cells lose water, so this adds to weight loss. The thing to look for is inches lost. Weak muscles are flabby and toned muscles are firm. Taking a tape measure to your waist, hips, and arms, check for inches lost. I’m not in favor of scales. I prefer isolating a pair of jeans you cannot get into at the beginning of the week and see that they slide on comfortably on at the end.

Plan meals that can easily transfer to the way you eat at home. We always serve hot soup before dinner because that raises your appestat – the physical tool that regulates your hunger. Emphasize the veggies and salads, and keep them attractive and appealing. We encourage eating slowly and mindfully; anything you eat mindlessly in under 20 minutes doesn’t even register.

Structure with flexibility is the key. For example, if you’re like Nadine, one French guest, you can enjoy one glass of wine with dinner. Fine, one glass is relaxing and when you’re relaxed, what you eat is metabolized; but, if you eat when your tense, the calories turn into fat because your metabolizing enzymes are going to ease your tension rather than working on our ingested calories. One Italian guest is a shameless shopper so we had our driver take her out several times. This is your time to do what you want, to take time for yourself, and to “let go” of your responsibilities and burdens.

Marjorie Jaffe/owner of Back in Shape exercise studio & The Traveling Spa Vacation.
Web page:

About Marjorie Jaffe

Marjorie Jaffe, owner of Back in Shape exercise studio in NYC & lifelong fitness expert, is the author of a number of books including, The Muscle Memory Method, Get Your Back in Shape and Albert the Running Bear’s Exercise Book, as well as a Reader’s Digest Books contributor. She was trained by Dr. Sonya Weber; founder of Columbia Presbyterian’s Posture and Back Care Clinic, and she served for ten years as head instructor for the YWCA Backcare program. Website:

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Creating a Spa Time at Home