Last Saturday marked the Grand Opening of The Biggest Loser Resort in Amelia Island.
I was kind of intrigued by the concept of this resort. I admit that I don’t watch Biggest Loser on a regular basis (I’m not a big TV watcher in general, so keeping up with competition shows is challenging), so I was curious to see what it was all about.
The first thing I noticed, upon arrival, was that the guests were so friendly. By the time I walked through the parking garage and into the restroom, I had met six women, all of whom were eager to introduce themselves, talk about where they were from and why they were in attendance that day. It made for a very nice and welcoming vibe.
As we waited for the reception hall to open, I took a moment to look around.
The Biggest Loser Resort is actually housed in the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. The program uses some of the Omni’s private villas, and then accesses the world-class gym and spa facilities. It’s a great partnership, taking advantage of a gorgeous, five-star venue and coupling it with Biggest Loser’s unique health and wellness experience.
The entrance hall was full of guests, helping themselves to strawberry-infused water and decaf iced tea,
and checking out the grounds.
There were some fun photo ops.
At noon, a staff member counted down and welcomed everyone into the reception room. I found a table near the front, and joined two other groups of women to listen to the presentation.
The Biggest Loser Resort President, Lesley Carey, introduced herself, and this most recent location of the program. Other venues include Chicago, Malibu and Niagara. Guests may register for stays at the resort, beginning with a seven-day minimum, although most choose to stay longer. Upon the Sunday check-in, Biggest Loser Resort guests embark on a journey of fitness, wellness and nutrition, participating in group exercise classes, sharing healthy meals prepared by Biggest Loser Resort chefs, and sitting in on cooking demos and classes focused on healthy meal-planning and dining. Afterwards, guests are encouraged to enjoy the spa for some relaxation and socialization.
Carey discussed Biggest Loser Resort’s Five Point Philosophy: Fitness, Nutrition, Education, Relaxation and Camaraderie. The ultimate goal is to empower guests to take their own health in hand; to teach them to “sustainable wellness habits, learn to identify your body’s cues, discover your personal triggers, and transform your relationship with food, all in a supportive environment.”
Guests skew toward female (70% female to 30% male), range in age from 30 to 60 years old and span across all fitness levels. The typical female guest weighs between 150-228 pounds, while the typical male is between 235 and 280. While weight loss is a major part of The Biggest Loser Resort, a greater component seems to be overall wellness and lifestyle, which leaves the doors open to a wider variety of guests.
Next, Carey introduced the team at Amelia Island’s Biggest Loser Resort, including trainers, a nutritionist and a chef. She also brought out special guest and new Biggest Loser trainer, Jessie Pavelka. He gave a rather inspiring speech which focused on the idea that “success doesn’t exist without failure.” He seemed to strike nerve with the audience on overcoming vulnerability and not giving up in the face of failure and setbacks, a theme that applies to weight loss and life in general. He then answered some questions from the audience, about eating and exercising.
I was really impressed when a woman asked him about her recent success with weight loss, triggered by her stay at a different Biggest Loser Resort. She was frustrated that she had hit a plateau and that the scale had stopped showing a loss. I loved that Jessie looked her in the eye and advised her to stop chasing the number. “Live in the moment,” he said. It was such reasonable and balanced advice and it resonated deeply with me. I was looking forward to getting to speak with him more in-depth later.
After a little ice breaker, which included the audience doing jumping jacks while Jessie and the Amelia Island head trainer did burpees (yeah, we got the better end of that deal), and modified squats (standing up and down out of our chairs), while the rest of the training staff held a wall squat, we were invited to attend breakout sessions of our choosing. Offerings included a 3o minute yoga class, a core challenge and a nutrition talk. Since I was without proper training shoes, I opted for yoga.
The practice was very gentle and accessible. I had to modify some of the poses for deeper stretches (which my body desperately needed), but the trainers were very friendly and helpful. They seemed to pull in more dynamic movement, by having us come in and out of poses, using our own body weight and resistance to give a little added oomph to the workout. It was nice and peaceful, and fit right in with the serene coastal surroundings
Afterwards, I struck out on my own to explore for a bit before my interview session with Jessie. The grounds were absolutely exquisite, with a breathtaking view and gentle ocean breeze. Definitely a wonderful place for quiet reflection and retreat.
At 2:00, I found my way back to a smaller conference room that had been set aside for a group chat. Jessie came in and we introduced ourselves. He is a very genuine and warm person, with a lot of passion and intensity.
Jessie got his start in high school athletics and then turned his focus to training and sculpting. He said it came easily to him, and as such, he couldn’t really relate to clients who might struggle a bit more than he did. He and a friend began a business, working with a gastric bypass doctor. They helped patients lose weight pre-bypass, and then assisted after the operation to help the patients maintain their lifestyle. This spurred his passion for extreme weight loss, and he worked on several weight loss reality shows before becoming a trainer on Biggest Loser in Season 16.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear Jessie’s entire fitness and wellness philosophy centers on “making one small change.” In fact, he believes that the biggest mistake most people make when embarking on a major fitness or weight loss journey is going out too hard and fast. “It’s exciting to start,” he points out, but people can quickly become overwhelmed or discouraged. Rather than going all out with a plan that will be impossible to maintain, he supports the idea that “it’s the small changes that matter most.” He advises doing small, little things every day and being open to new training as a way to find overall success. Just fifteen minutes of intense exercise can make all the difference.
On staying on track for the upcoming holidays, Jessie encourages enjoying and remembering that one day of substandard diet and exercise isn’t going to have any impact longterm. “Don’t let one day turn into a week, into a day, into a month, into a year, into a lifestyle,” he advises.
As the proud father of a four year old boy, Jessie also has some words of wisdom on parenting: “We are our kids’ heroes…You want to show them things that make them a better person.” He also councils putting down the technology and getting the family outside. “Choose wisely the way you want your kids to see you.”
I absolutely loved the message of moderation and living in the moment. Jessie was gracious and genuine and wholly empathetic. He seems to embrace living in the moment and enjoying the small things, and it’s such a wonderful outlook. I was glad to have had the opportunity to speak with him.
Before the closing words, a lunch buffet was served.
I was in line next to Season 15 contestant Jennifer Messer, who absolutely raved about the food.
I have to say, I was pretty impressed. There was a delicious salad bar, with plenty of greens and veggie toppings, shooters of yellow gazpacho with jalepenos,
a choice of flavorfully seasoned salmon or chicken breasts, and my favorite, grilled baking potatoes with traditional toppings. I will definitely be trying to replicate those at home.
There were also platters of vegan banana bread for something a little sweet.
While simple, the fare was fresh and filling. I would have been quite happy to try more.
As we finished our meals, Lesley Carey and special guest, comedian and 30 Rock regular, Kevin Brown began giving away a ton of Biggest Loser workout DVDs and cookbooks, most of them signed on the spot by Jessie. The grand prize was a week-long stay at newest Biggest Loser Resort, and the winner was overjoyed (although I think there were also a lot of disappointed guests).
The concept of The Biggest Loser resort seems great for people who are looking for a dedicated and guided way of participating in a fitness and wellness regime. I liked the focus on different difficulty levels of activities for individual fitness abilities, and the emphasis on education – a week or two of working out and eating right won’t have any lasting impact if not continued outside of the vacuum of the resort. It seems like a great way for people to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle and lead to better choices and habits.
Weeklong stays at the Amelia Island property start at $2,445 per week for a shared room, which includes classes and meals. Spa treatments and services are an additional cost. For reservations, you may click here or contact the resort at 877-825-8878.
Have you ever been a guest of Biggest Loser Resort? Would you ever give it a try?